Monday, October 19, 2009

The ends of the earth: Closer than you think!

One of Chile's claims to fame is that it is, literally, the "Ends of the Earth." The southern tip of this narrow strip of land between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean reaches almost into Antarctica. It's the southernmost country on the planet.
I've been privileged to travel to the nation of Chile three times in the last eight years to teach in a minister's training school. For the first trip - my first trip to South America and my first mission trip - I traveled with my husband. Together, we learned all about passports and customs inspections and toilets whose water swirls counter-clockwise. Since we live in a town with exactly ONE chain restaurant - a Pizza Hut - enjoying a daily run to Starbucks, dinner at T.G.I.F., a three-story shopping mall, and a trip to a huge movie theater to see A Beautiful Mind (with Spanish subtitles) was a huge treat. When a movie in English says the name of the Lord in vain, the Spanish subtitles say, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph." I'm sure we looked like the backwoods cousins from Podunk, U.S.A.! Oh, right, we were the backwoods cousins!
For the second trip, I went with my best friend. We left our combined seven children at home with their daddies and had a fantastic week. We also encountered a scorpion. They aren't indigenous to Chile, so we determined this one was specially transferred to our 14th floor apart-hotel so we could have a "real" mission trip experience. (Chile is NOT the third-world country you might think it is.)
For the third trip, I put on my big girl panties and traveled alone. A 24-hour adventure each way for a woman who dislikes flying. On my return trip, our flight to Dallas was met by armed FBI agents. Someone had broken into the duty-free money bag during the overnight flight and stolen cash and credit cards. Nearly missed my next flight to Denver, but I felt so grown-up!
The highlight of that trip was the "Princess Party" we had for all the ladies in the church and Bible school. Walt Disney's famous heroines translate all the way across the equator! Every little (and not so little) girl wants to be Cinderella, regardless of her nationality.
It's easy to get stuck in your own little rut. To believe the sky is only blue over your postage stamp-sized plot of ground. To think your mountains, your valleys, your community, your nation, are somehow different - and better - than anywhere else. Guess what? It's not true.
God created beauty all over the world, and He loves the people of the whole world as much as He loves Americans. I know, such a shocker in our current ethnocentric climate.
Standing in a small church in a suburb of Santiago, I held my breath when the music began and voices and hands around me lifted in praise and worship to God. The same Spirit was present among us there Who was present in my church at home. One spirit, one body, one church. We are more alike than we are different, and although it's become popular to magnify the differences between people groups, even within our own country, perhaps it would do us well to magnify our similarities a little bit more.
Ministering to the people in the school and the churches during each visit, I came to the same conclusion again and again. People are people, and they have the same wants and needs, the same hurts and the same challenges, no matter where you go, even to the ends of the earth!
This week, as we travel the globe together, I challenge you to travel outside your mental and emotional comfort zone. You might not be headed to the ends of the earth, but look around your town or church or ladies' group and reach out to that person who seems so foreign and different to you. You may be on opposite ends of the spectrum in age, marital status, denomination, background, or social network, but you have one thing - the most important thing - in common: Jesus the Christ. As our Lord told Mary and Martha, "only one thing is needed," and that's all that's required to form a bond that cancels out every difference.

Serious question of the day: Can you relate a similar experience when you realized, "We're not so different after all?"

Humorous question of the day: Please share your funniest travel tale! I ran out of room to share all of mine.

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  1. Ooo, I would love to go to Chile some day--and to Easter Island! How cool would that be? We blog about our travels at The site hasn't been updated lately tho, because we're about to relaunch it as in Nov. So I always have travel on my mind--just back from Italy on Saturday! Nice to meet you, fellow travel lover. :-)


  2. Niki, how amazing. Thank you for sharing this. I felt this adventurous spirit well up inside me as I read your post.

    I love to travel and see new places. I have this terrible fear of flying, but I no longer let it hold me back. I'm doing it anyway! I just pray a lot as we get airborne and descend. The funny thing is, no matter how much I want to go on the trip and how hard I pray, the tears still leak out of my eyes as the plane gets airborne. After we're in the air I'm okay, and I love looking out the window.

    This year I was blessed to be able to travel to New Orleans and then to Indianapolis and Cincinnati. All places I've never been.

    I really love to travel by train, and one of my goals is to go on every Amtrak route in the US. Then I want to see Canada by rail. France and Italy, too. Trains are always such an adventure, and I've met the most interesting people.

  3. I"m so excited to read the posts this week. I love to travel, even if it is just through others' experiences. Yours sounds like a great one, Niki, (or rather, a great three!)

    I can't think of a funny travel story this early in the morning. I know I have some, but the am fog in my head has stolen them away. I guess I need a few more cups of coffee!

  4. I'll try to think of a story today, and it may well center on traveling with a gnome.

    I try not to covet, ladies, but I'm way jealous of travel to S. America and Italy.
    Lisa, Italy is my#1 dream trip. One of these days, God willing, I'll get there.

    Niki, thanks for sharing your trip with us. Now I know where to go for help with my 'muy mal' Espanol.

  5. Shoot, now I have to completely rework my post for Wednesday. You said everything I wanted to say Nikki! (And probably better than I could have!)

    Hmm, funny travel stories? When we went to the Seychelles for a 6 month term, I wanted to take my scrapbooking stuff. I ended up mailing it because I knew I wouldn't need it right away. It didn't arrive for 4 months! Aagh!! So when it was time to leave I packed it all. Including my paper punches. But since they were heavy and would have put my checked luggage over the limit on weight, I put them in my carry-on. Every security line was hilarious as the x-ray machines went wild, and bewildered customs officials pulled out these strange implements. Turning them over. Punching out various shapes from palm trees to swirls. Some of them really got into it and were making all kinds of designs on little bits of visa forms.

    Do you know how to say scrapbooking in French? Me, neither. We finally settled on artist, and we went on our merry way. At least until the next security check.

  6. When traveling to the end of the earth, I remember losing my balance on the airline's tram and falling over my suitcase, having the employees at the airport speak clearer English in Chile than in Colorado's airport(where I was yelled at for having too big a bag), running through Dallas's airport to catch the flight, and then having my carry on suspect because of my metal round brush looking odd in the x-ray machine. But I think those things make each trip stand out individually. And it was a terrific experience overall with great people to share it with!

  7. All my travel woes are a bit to fresh to be funny. Maybe someday.

    Niki, you sound amazingly brave. Good for you.

  8. Niki,
    Wonderful post! Can you believe my brother is in Chile NOW? I love God's little surprises! Thank you.

  9. Beautiful post, Niki! Again I am awe at the gift for writing my fellow Inkies have.

    Mary, I'm sure your travel woes are hilarious. Even if they're not, well, you'd make um so.

    Lisa Tawn, thanks for stopping by. Suzie's review of your books this past weekend whacked me upside the head. Why haven't I read any of them? I've been too cheap lately with my book-buying budget. :-)

  10. What an awesome post, Niki! Thank you so much! Great food for thought.

    Suzie, I'm like you and want to take the train somewhere far away. It sounds so relaxing to me.

    Lisa, I'm still laughing at your scrapbooking story. That's hilarious. Too bad you couldn't take a bunch of pictures and scrapbook the event.

    Ok, I love our Inkwell of Wisdom today. Practical and funny. I never would have thought of dabbing antibacterial ointment (does that mean neosporin?) on my nose. Not sure which of the tips is my favorite. Maybe #5? Did this come from personal experience, anybody?

  11. Niki, I'm a late poster, but your story of Chile and your mission training is beatuiful. Thanks for sharing.


  12. Funny tales, I was in England on a mission trip and our British friends wanted to try playing American-style spin the bottle in the middle of the town square late one night.

    But we didn't have a bottle.

    So we played with a shoe.

    Also, the time in Lebanon when I jumped out of the car to have my picture taken in a red mini-dress beside two Syrian soldiers holding oozie's in front of a giant picture of a suicide bomber.

    I tend to think people from other countries won't be so different, and then they surprise me by how much they are.


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