Travel and Worldview
It’s not an exaggeration to say that my family never went anywhere. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration. When my father joined the Air Force in the 1950s and was stationed in New York and Texas, it was the farthest anyone in his line of Virginia farmers had traveled since his ancestors marched on Gettysburg with the Confederate Army. Travel just wasn’t in my family’s DNA. Nor did the incessant demands and isolation of farm life provide many opportunities for getting away. But there was something inside of me that made me want to travel. To me, much of the world was terra incognita, and I was determined to change that; so when I got a chance, I went as far as I could go.
I first crossed the Atlantic at sixteen. That first passage on board a Navy ship took nine days—and I would gladly trade today’s nine-hour flights for nine days at sea. For me, there was nothing like being unmoored. Back then, my small world suddenly became as vast as the ocean. And everything I saw I wrote about—the boundlessness of an ever-receding horizon, being at sea at night when the Milky Way spills across the face of the waters, being caught in a storm in the north Atlantic and feeling fear and wonder all at once.
The more I grasped the gospel, the more I loved Christ—and the more I loved him, the more I loved his people.
More than forty years have passed since that maiden voyage, but I still feel as restless as ever. However, what drives me now more than ever are the glimpses of glory I get as I follow my King in the power of his rising. It took years to realize that the world I wanted to explore was just a window to my King’s saving work. I agree with the traveler Paul Theroux who wrote, “You go away for a long time and return a different person—you never come all the way back.” A lifetime of journeys and journaling has changed me, especially in the ways it shaped my view of the church and the Builder of the church, of the gospel, and of our great God.
I’ve seen the darkness-breaking, gates-of-hell-shaking gospel cross every kind of barrier to save souls—from pre-literate animists to post-Christian sophisticates, from Muslim imams to committed Communists, from angry addicts to the contentedly self-righteous. They all fall before the power of the cross. Across the world, in thousands of languages, these ransomed ones now say, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3). The kingdom of Christ is diverse yet unified, boundless yet bound; for our lives are forever bound up in his life—and thus bound up with all other believers. We are like family, his body. The more I grasped the gospel, the more I loved Christ—and the more I loved him, the more I loved his people. I found a certain likeness in them.
Travel and God-View
However, the most important way all these journeys have changed me is in how my view of God has changed—or, better said, how he has been magnified before my eyes and in my heart. He is so much bigger than I ever imagined!
When I was growing up, the race to send astronauts to the moon was in full swing. I would watch on television or listen by radio to get all the latest news about a rocket launch or lunar landing, even in the middle of the night. I read everything I could find on astronomy and rocketry and even built an experimental rocket that was a fiery failure! Above all, I dreamed of having a real telescope, but I didn’t have the least hope of owning one. The price in the Sears Roebuck catalog made that clear. I knew there weren’t enough lawns to cut for enough summers ahead to ever buy it. Then one Christmas morning, there it was. To this day, I get choked up thinking of how much my father and mother sacrificed in order to buy it for me. Christmases will always be crowned with memories of their extravagant love. It was a gift that would open up the heavens to me like my father’s binoculars never could.
This book, written by a missions journalist as he traveled throughout 20 different countries, highlights the lives of Christians past and present whose examples of endurance, courage, sacrifice, and humility will connect readers with God’s unstoppable work across the world.
My journeys (and the journals that have followed) have magnified God in much the same way to me. Every time I go to another corner of the world and see the church growing and the gospel changing lives, my view of God gets bigger. The men and women I write about are my heroes for the ways they magnify the grace and power of our risen Christ. Like stars in the heavens, they shine with glory that has been given to them by their Savior.
But there are many more stars out there, for we have a great King who is mighty to save. I want to get a closer look at as many as I can for as long as I can until I see the Maker of those stars for myself. I just read a report from a friend serving in Central Asia, where an Al-Qaeda affiliate is trying in vain to keep control. He wrote:
Some Muslim radicals started putting pressure on our brothers. A mullah visited our brothers in Berezovka and demanded that they deny Christ, and gave them three days to make that decision. Our brothers said they did not have to wait three days because they had already made a firm decision to follow Christ and weren’t going to deny him. They answered in love and meekness but very firmly.
Reading that makes me want to cross the Atlantic yet again to meet the brothers of Berezovka. It sounds like they bear a strong likeness to our King—and they have stories to tell.
After telling his followers about his forthcoming death and resurrection, Jesus told them that they were to follow him by taking up their cross.
This is the first post ([part 2]http://www.crossway.org/blog/?p=35254), part 3) in a 3-part series by Tim Keesee on the role of American missionaries in the 21st century.