Travel with a Purpose: Thoughts from Pastor Skip Heitzig
At Disneyland, you may be familiar with the “It’s a Small World” ride. It features children from countries all over the world and delivers a simple, yet powerful message: despite our differences in culture, customs and language, we are more alike than not. We are all human and made in God’s image. And if you unpack that message, it tells a story about travel and its purpose.
I’ve been blessed to spend a good portion of my ministry traveling around the world. I pastor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but I’ve traveled the world to teach, preach, and communicate God’s love. And geographically speaking, the world just isn’t that small!
In the days of Jesus, seeing as much of the world as I have would take several lifetimes. Some speculate that Jesus walked over 3,000 miles in his life and many Biblical scholars estimate the Apostle Paul traveled over 10,000 miles—mostly by foot and ship. With modern technology such as planes, trains, and automobiles, people today can travel hundreds of thousands of miles.
So why do we travel? Is it for the adventure, the excitement of getting out of our daily lives? Perhaps it’s for a change of scenery, and a chance to reflect on new and different ways of life. The word travel comes from the old English word travailen, which means to “make a journey” or “to toil.” For those who travel for work, that definition probably hits home.
But for the rest of us, travel can offer joy and fulfillment. I have found that travel is an opportunity to experience the unexpected. Traveling across the globe has allowed me to reflect on my life, my ministry, my priorities and to adopt a broader perspective on people, places, and ultimately, on my purpose. Every journey gives us fresh eyes.
It also introduces you to unique stories, and opportunities to meet a host of people. My mind wanders to the many fascinating people I’ve met along my journeys—from small towns in India to large cities in Europe and Asia. I’m awed by the variety of people I’ve been privileged to encounter. In this COVID world, we need community. We need to break bread with other people, to hear their stories. Community is not meant to be optional; it’s commanded (see Hebrews 10:25).
When you think of travel, what pops into your mind? A secluded, natural beach? A notable city? A national park? That one place on your bucket list? Travel affords the opportunity to enjoy new vistas, encounter new patterns, and experience new and exotic aromas. In short, travel provides amazing awareness of the diversity of God’s creation and various cultures. Often the mundane becomes the most meaningful, learning about daily life in each place and seeing what makes the people and culture pulse.
I always travel with a purpose whether it be to teach God’s Word, rest, see family or spend time with friends. When we know our reason for travel, we are better poised to accomplish its purpose. Whether it’s teaching or resting, purpose provides a crucial perspective when you travel. I’d venture to say the best kind of travel has a spiritual impact—purpose with eternal consequences.
The “It’s a Small World” concept clearly refers to the fact that although people from all over the world are unique and different, we are all connected. As you prepare for your next journey, be intentional about the broader perspective that the new people, places, and purpose afford you.
But most importantly, be open to what God may have for you: opportunities to learn from Him, to love others along the way, and to find the commonality in us all. If one thing is certain, travel offers a time to tell others about our timeless God.
There is nothing small about that, after all!
Where will you travel next, and what’s the purpose you are pursuing?