Traveling reveals, not changes

I always imagined that going overseas would change you.

In a way, maybe, but I would argue going overseas reveals you, not changes you. It reveals the person you are, the person you want to be, challenges your prejudices and reveals ones you didn’t think were there.

I think that is important.

I went into my two-and-a-half-week trip to Zambia, Africa with some of those misplaced expectations. I honestly did assume the trip would change me, but a more accurate word for what happened is that it challenged me.

I was surprised how little it felt like I was in this faraway place. I had to constantly remind myself I was in Africa: a continent across the Atlantic Ocean and an almost two-day travel from home.

I didn’t feel like I was in this foreign land with strange people, not that I necessarily thought I would feel that way, but I definitely thought it would feel different.

But it felt like I was just doing the same thing I would be doing here—talking with people, serving, teaching and meeting new faces.

It didn’t feel glorious and that I was doing something romantic: I still got sunburnt, I still felt exhausted after running around with kids all day, I still miscommunicated with people and I still carried with me the same things I was dealing with before I left.

Those issues didn’t simply go away because I was in a place more beautiful than home doing a good work 24 hours a day.  

It didn’t feel strange or out of the ordinary. It just felt normal, and I was disappointed at first how normal it felt.

Let me be clear. I don’t mean that it was easy, but I try to challenge myself daily,  and so the act of being stretched and made uncomfortable wasn’t something I exclusively connected to being overseas.   

Yes, I hated the giant spiders that were everywhere you turned, but I learned to not even be bothered by them.

Yes, I hated the long flights and the inability for me to fall asleep, but I learned to enjoy the quiet plane where I could read and write uninterrupted for hours.

Yes, I was nervous at first to do something socially unacceptable and offensive to those around me, but I learned to be observant and ask questions.

Of all the things I learned, I think I learned how ordinary I am.

You see, sometimes when we go on trips to faraway places, or we serve, or we try to be helpful to other groups of people, we can get this elevated view of ourselves that we must be pretty special.

As someone who wants to be a full-time missionary after I graduate, I kind of thought I was going to be a natural at traveling, picking up languages and understanding cultures.

After all, God had confirmed this route for my life, so wouldn’t he have created me to be that kind of person?

I realized that telling people about Jesus across the ocean isn’t any more glorious than telling people about Jesus in the United States. Both places desperately need Jesus.

Yes, there is a greater need across the ocean in places that have never been told, but a person who goes overseas is not any more special than someone who stays here. Both are simply following where the Lord leads them.

And God calls and equips whoever he chooses for every purpose.

I realized that I didn’t have to be a natural for this to be what the Lord has called me to do with my life. God doesn’t call the perfectly equipped, but he calls the perfectly willing.

And in my willingness, I will do everything I can to equip myself for that in my future.

So, when you ask me how my trip was, I will tell you it was amazing and difficult, and humbling. And maybe if you’re still interested, I will tell you I realized how unimportant I am in comparison to the infinite importance of Christ working through me.