I don’t travel well. Whether it is old age, lack of experience, or just being naïve I am aware that I do not possess the gift of travel
sense. This became evident while flying to Durbin, South Africa for a series of meetings involving religious leaders from all over the world.
Great opportunity? Certainly. But first, I have to get there. Sometimes, getting there involves more adventure than the final destination.
Lesson One: Traveling is not the time to wing it as you go. Be prepared. Passports, money exchange, international calling and boarding passes are all areas that leave no room to “figure it out as you go along.” I have a cell phone but since my provider does not offer international calling, I was no longer able to call anyone. I have money and foreign currency but if I can’t remember how many South African Rands make up a dollar, I’m a walking victim waiting to be conned.
Example: Our first stop on the way to South Africa was London. I was asked to fill out a residence card before leaving the airport. This was to be handed to the customs agent. Simple enough. “I’m only in London for nine hours,” so I put most of the information on the card. The officer at customs through a fit. He marked every line I left blank and started giving me a lecture. When I apologized and claimed inexperience, he had no sympathy. “Don’t they teach yanks how to read?” he smugly replied.
Lesson Two: Be polite, ask questions and smile. There are lines and confusion. At the first airport there were lines before getting to the lines. Flights were missed and tempers were flaring. It was tempting to express my frustration at the long wait but I complimented the agents’ patience in the midst of so much confusion. He smiled, looked at my ticket and corrected an error that could cause problems later.
Lesson Three: Be open to God providing opportunities. The first flight lasted eleven hours in seats jammed together. So, it seems only natural to talk to the person packed in beside you. The lady beside me was traveling to London to attend a funeral for her thirteen year old niece. I expressed my sorrow and introduced myself. She was obviously startled and said, “your name is the same as mine, Davies.”
We talked about death and the emotional difficulties of losing a young member of their family. The more we talked, the more I learned. I asked about the history of her name and heard an amazing story about slave families in Africa forced to take the name of their owner. Now her family was Africa, England, America and even the Caribbean. We began the flight as strangers and departed friends.
There is a beautiful old song that reminds me of what it means to be a Christian in everyday life whether you in an airplane or witnessing to your neighbor across the street.
I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.
I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.
I’ve got faith like a mountain in my soul.
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.
I’ve got Christ as my Savior in my soul.
The opportunity to be a witness of our Christian faith are all around us and the lessons I learned while travelling can be applied anywhere.
Be polite, ask questions and smile.
Be open for God-given opportunities.
While it’s true that I have a lot to learn about travelling I am constantly amazed at how God uses these times to teach valuable lessons and provide interesting opportunities to witness my faith. In the end, it’s comforting to know that God provides “peace like a river in my soul.”
One more lesson: I travelled more than 36 hours without an opportunity to shower, brush my teeth or shave. Next time, I’ll remember to bring a shaver and tooth brush in my carry-on bag… for the sake of my fellow passengers. It’s the least I can do.
Next: Durbin, South Africa