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What to Know about Christian Travel

MARCH 2021

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by D.J. Morgan D.J. currently serves as EM's Creative & Marketing Director, helping connect volunteers to life-changing opportunities to serve and grow together on mission trips.

There are plenty of ways to approach traveling across the country or around the world, but for many followers of Jesus, the idea of “Christian travel” has gained recent popularity. So, what exactly is Christian travel? To some it may mean traveling with the express purpose of seeing specific sites written about in the Bible, or connecting with local missionaries, or volunteering while touring. But here’s our take: “Christian travel” starts and ends with our desire to love and serve others like Jesus. As you decide whether or not to embark on a mission trip or a different Christian travel experience, here are a few ideas to consider.

christian travel

1. All travel as a follower of Jesus is “Christian Travel”

Whether you’re on a family vacation across the ocean, a solo backpacking excursion through distant mountains, or driving across the country—what we do and how we act matters. Will we view all people we meet as our “neighbors” and love them “as we love ourselves”? Will we dignify people by looking them in the eye, recognizing them as fellow image-bearers of God, and treat them with respect? Will we seek to be a light, bringing life to people we cross paths with away from home?

This sort of “Christian travel” is less about a specific purpose or cause and more about taking our everyday discipleship to Jesus on the road.

When we’re in the privileged position to be able to travel and see places outside of our hometown, we have the opportunity and responsibility to learn from people who are different from us. We get to see how the radical way of living Jesus talked about actually makes a difference in the day-to-day—whether we’re speed-walking through the airport, filling up at the gas station, or waiting in line for hours at a tourist trap. As “living sacrifices”, any travel experience is a chance to enter situations with humility and grow in our love and understanding for all people and cultures, all created and dearly loved by the God we serve.

2. It’s not about you and your bucket list

While it’s true all travel experiences can be an extension of our daily calling to follow Christ, traveling with the distinct purpose of serving others is different than a vacation or sight-seeing trip. In fact, we believe it is incredibly difficult to effectively serve others if your goal is to have both kinds of trips at the same time. As you seek out an opportunity to serve others in a specific “Christian travel” context, start by asking yourself a few questions about your motivation to go.

Is "I've always wanted to go to _______ " about your desire to see new and exciting things or your desire to be vulnerable and learn from and uplift the people of a certain community?

Are you more excited about the landmarks you’ll see and photos you’ll get or the people you’ll meet and the things you’ll learn along the way?

In short, is this trip about your calling or a passport stamp?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going on a vacation to see and experience new places and landmarks, photos and all (see point #1!), but when we set out to serve others or “make a difference” with our travels, it’s important to be honest about why we want to go in the first place. Then, when we’re truly ready to make our travel about serving others (and not about our bucket list), we can jump in with both feet. With open hands and open hearts, we can acknowledge our trip is not about us and let go of our desires and expectations about how it will go.

This leads to our final point...

christian travel

3. Traveling with the purpose of serving others is a sacrificial act (that can also change your life)

The last temptation of “Christian travel” is serving with the sole goal of changing our own lives. Maybe you’ve seen firsthand how people’s lives are radically changed by serving on a mission trip. They see and experience new things that alter their perspective and open themselves up to God’s wider world and His love for all people in it. It is almost impossible to be the same person after coming home from an experience like this. That’s why it can be tempting to sign up for a kind of “mission trip shock therapy”—approaching this experience as the cure for what ails you.

But we have to remember: it’s not about us. Traveling with the sole purpose of changing your own life will turn the focus on you, making your experience, comfort, and growth the main goal of your trip. This way of thinking typically ends in frustration and disappointment. We don’t change in the ways we thought we would or as much as we hoped. Or maybe the people we met challenged us in ways we didn’t expect and we shut down and didn’t engage.

Alternatively, focusing on the people you meet, what you might learn from them about life and faith, and how you can give of yourself to love your neighbors around the world could ultimately change your perspective on life and faith forever. In doing so, the message of Jesus becomes more than just words on a page—it comes alive.

So, yes, loving and serving others around the world will change your life, but only if you let go of your desire for that very thing.

Or as Jesus said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

There are many ways to take part in “Christian Travel”, but mission trips are by far our favorite for how they challenge us to sacrificially love and serve others and open us up to what God is already doing in communities around the world.

If you’re ready to embark on a service and learning experience in a different part of the world, bring your group of 6 or more people on a Group Mission Trip or join a 1-9 month IMMERSION missions program for young adults (for ages 18-30).

Find your trip today!

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