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.