The pattern of journeys.

When we were younger and only very new Christians, my other half and I used to go to Youth With A Mission meetings with a whole bunch of our friends. We liked them. The music was great, and there were always different people telling interesting stories about interesting things. After a while though a lot of the stories started sounding the same. Patterns started forming.

Youth With A Mission are a…you guessed it…Missions organization. They take…you guessed it…youth…out on…oh yes…Missions trips to various places around the world. The first pattern I noticed was this: that the trip was going to cost the speaker so-and-so thousand dollars, and all the speaker had was $13.70, two McDonald’s vouchers and a sleeping bag, and he needed the money by last Tuesday midnight. The speaker and his family had all prayed and believed and trusted in God, and lo and behold, at 11.58pm there was a knock on the door and a complete stranger with so-and-so thousand, or a sudden car sale, or a spontaneous idea for a cupcake competition, or something. There was always the Something.

The next pattern I noticed was this: the speaker had always had a lifelong aversion to one particular place. Hated Canadians with a passion (allergic to ice hockey?), or had a crazy distrust of Russians, or Japanese fisherman, or something. And that, Canada, Russia, Japan…wherever…was always the place that God had called the speaker to go to.

There was a third pattern too. Now that the speaker had the money (miraculously) and had amazingly dealt with all his previous misgivings about said destination and was now in love with the place and its people, Something Happened when he was over there.

Something big and life-changing. Something that, because he was away from all the trappings of familiarity and routine and all the things he took for granted, God was suddenly able to deal with. So not only is there the financial miracle and the complete change-of-heart, but there’s this lovely heart-warming ending where he’s suddenly reconciled to his father, or understands for the first time some deep place inside him, or has made peace with a deep and awful trauma from years before.

Well there’s the patterns.

Well. And here I am. We’ve had our financial “miracle” already. And I really shouldn’t mention the fact that for many years I was very negative about America…particularly California (ouch. I’m sorry. I said I wouldn’t mention it!). So here we are, right on track for #3.

I know it’s going to happen. I knew two years ago, when I first felt…whatever you’d like to refer to it as…the call of God, perhaps…the nudge to go to the US. I knew it was going to come down to this. I’ve been trying to avoid it…or at least make sure I deal with it ahead of time. But here we are.

Does that suck, I hear you ask? Why, yes it does. Sucks like a Dyson with a dog-vacuuming attachment. My other friend who vacuums her dog (This is my friend Bernie and her husband Steve. She’s the one who vacuumed her dog until the dog ate the attachment. It has no particular relevance to this story, but…she knows why this pic is there. Cheers Bern! Love you babe xxx)

Yes, I’m laughing at myself. And I’m serious, all at the same time. I’m laughing at myself for being so serious. I’m sure it will happen. Although, knowing me, I’m stressing about nothing, and it’ll be more like a splinter removal than giving birth. I’ll still stress about it though. I’m weird like that. And I know that if I was ten years’ younger I’d be even-more-convinced of my rightness, and stressing enormously. I get the feeling from my extremely-wisest friend, too, that if I was ten years older I wouldn’t be worried about it at all. But I’m me. And…I wrote this last night, and when I got up this morning there was an email from the wonderful Wanderer’s blog (I love this woman’s writing), and SHE had a link to this, which kind of confirms both a) I’m right and b) it’s going to be okay. It really is.

So tell me what you think. Have you gone to the other side of the world and come back changed? Or have you gone to the other side of the world and come back UNchanged? What was it like for you?

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20 thoughts on “The pattern of journeys.

  1. Ummm … I went on a, you guessed it, missions trip to the Philippines when I was about nineteen/twenty. Came back with totally different perspectives on poverty, generosity and selfishness. And, I would recommend one of those trips to everybody. Doesn’t hurt to think outside of yourself for a minute. 🙂

    • So true. I’m amazed at myself, I who have worked for overseas aid organizations and heard horror stories from around the world, I’m amazed at myself about how I STILL presume the rest of the world is *really* just like Tasmania. Definitely time to go.

  2. I traveled to the Philippines several years ago. It was straight off a 2 month stint in the Dominican Republic, so I thought I knew what I was in for. Um. The different food was fine, the climate was great, the language wasn’t an issue. What I learned was the disdain for Americans I felt. I hadn’t really been prepared for that. But, after learning the history, I understand. And, yes, it did change me. It made me question some of the harsh history that America has with other countries. Among other things. 🙂

    • You’re the third person who’s commented (not only here) that their first big life-changing OS trip was to the Philippines. It’s so close to me, yet so many worlds away. I (still) have an old t-shirt printed as a fundraiser for the Smoky Mountain project, sponsoring children who live on the garbage dump. I’ll never get rid of it. Every time I wear it (usually to bed) I’m reminded of the incredible privileges of my lifestyle. Hot and cold running water. Electricity. Roof. Rooms. TV. Choice. Education.
      Wow.

  3. Oh my goodness! I’m reading along, marveling at the coincidence of this journey stuff, thinking I should make sure you read Jeff’s article, and then I find you marveling at the coincidence. And maybe even Jeff Goins would marvel, if he knew.

    Thanks for the shout-out for my blog, Megan. I wish you’d move in next door and I could borrow cocoa and an egg from you and then just sort of hang around for tea.

    As to your question- I’ve gone, I’ve changed, but actually, I’m still here on the other side of the world. And now I’m a tiny bit scared to go home. Maybe that means I’ve changed too much but I don’t regret any of it and I hope I never stop wandering.

    • Wanderer I feel the same way! You are welcome to borrow eggs and cocoa any time you like 🙂
      That’s interesting about the haven’t-gone-home-yet, too. I get that. One of the funny things about my anticipation of journey is the strange feeling of coming home afterwards. Knowing I’ll be changed, and not wanting to “unchange”. Ah, it’s all growth. It’s all part of the journey!

  4. How can you not change? I didn’t go around the world but me and my wife did travel to a small island some 2500 miles from home called St. Lucia in the Carribbean off the coast of South America…It was at one time a French Colony, that was later taken over by the British and is part of their commonwealth now to this day but it is mostly an automonous nation…On the trip we made friends with two particular individuals, a son and his father,Troy and Simon. We had already planned trip out for awhile prior to going and coincidenently prior to leaving we had dinner with an Aunt who I hadn’seen in years who lived in Florida. I told my aunt of our impending trip to St. Lucia and she began to tell me of tales of her now deceased husband and her sailing there from Florida some thousand miles or more to that small island on many occasions in there younger days. She told me of there meeting with Simon an electrical engineer at the time and how they became very close friends with their entire family on all their visits and that to this day some forty years lated still kept in t touch through postcards and letters. She told me to look for them and gave me their number to call. I kind of shook my head like “sure”. I mean this was an island but it wasn’t so small that I could possible arrange a meeting. We were staying at a pretty isolated resort from the rest of the island in the Capital city of Castries and not had not transportation outside of the immediate area arranged. All in all it was an amazing coincidence when we found out that Simon’s own son Troy worked at the exact same resort we were staying at! Long story short I met Troy and we amazingly got along very well…we talked and he told me of his father’s failing health..and that he would love to see a family member of one of his dearest friends from long ago. When we arrived at his home he broke down and cried at seeing us….I hugged him. His son had said he was upset because of his failing health because he had wanted to pick us up personally but could not and was overjoyed that we came to him. At that moment I fellt awful inside at how flippant I had been to my aunt about seeing him and not really caring. It meant everything for him to see us and talk to me of my families life and his life. He seemed transported momentarily back to his youth. There was vigor in speech, gone was the man who broke down in front me in frustation and pain. He regaled me with stories of being a pivotal person in St Lucia in its early development as a nation. He showed me a medal he had received when had retired by the British Government for his tireless work to make St. Lucia a better place to live. I took many pictures while there with him and his son. (his wife was away at the time in South America). I learned of their culture and rich history and came to know him and St Lucias’s people better amd came away richer for knowing him and his family. Sad to say soon after about a month later Simon died of heart failure. I called and talked to Troy his son. I sent him a copy of all the photos I had take of his father while there. Me and my wife also flowers for his grave which Simon said his mother greatly appreciated. Troy said his mother really appreciated the pictures because those were the very last pictures of him ever taken. So yep I was very changed,…thanks for the blog Megan.

    • Wow Philip, that’s amazing! Oh wow, I’m so glad it worked out that way, for all of you.
      There’s something very interesting in the idea of small developing nations and the people there…my mother-in-law was born in Vanuatu and has such a deep connection with the place, even though she’s only been back once. Her parents were missionaries there, and were very connected with the local community. My mil dreams of the place, but she doesn’t want to go back as a tourist, she really wants to connect with that sense of place and people, and she’s scared she won’t find it. I’ll have to pass your story on for her to read. She’d love it, especially as it was an almost-didn’t-happen, not like you were searching it out or anything. Wow. Thanks for sharing Philip.

  5. Well, I’ve never been on a mission trip, or been on the other side of the world. I’ve barely been out of my country. But, then, I’ve never felt the call, either. I would think that it would be almost impossible to do such a thing and not come back changed in some way. My experience is that, anytime we obey God, especially when it takes us out of our “comfort zone,” we are changed.

    I pray for blessings on your life. Especially if you have to go to California. 🙂

    • Thanks Jeff 🙂 Yeah, California’s the scary one. Michigan will be a piece of cake if I can survive California!! 🙂
      And it’s comforting to hear your thought that “anytime we obey God, especially when it takes us out of our “comfort zone,” we are changed.” I’m definitely out of my comfort zone. I’ll be disappointed (I think) if I’m NOT changed. But I think you’re right…I really do.

  6. The US isn’t always entirely terrible, but I’m not going to stick up for it without knowing why it’s not your favorite place. There are certainly plenty of reasons I’ve wanted to leave. 😉

    I’m glad to hear you’re following your heart and getting a fresh perspective. 🙂 Good luck on your journey!

    • A lot – oh okay, ALL – my misgivings about the US have been based in lack of knowledge, too much bad TV and the opinions of prejudiced people (usually defined by outdated experiences and bad TV. SOOOO much of the Australian experience of the US comes from the TV). I’ve only got to know any Americans personally over the last couple of years, and they have been absolutely the loveliest people I’ve ever met, and some of the wisest.
      Funny thing: my 8yo daughter, when she and her friends are playing make-believe games, use American accents. “Because America is TV”. She wonders whether kids in the US use Australian accents when they’re playing make-believe games. I told her probably not 🙂

        • Mine can do a passable (to my ears) American one. But oh you should hear some of her friends! I feel like correcting them sometimes, and explaining how the inflections go…but that’s just weird, so I try not to listen.
          I’m looking forward to hearing your daughter’s Aussie accent Suze! 🙂

      • I don’t watch much television, so I can’t really confirm/refute bad TV portrayals. I do like the show “Once Upon a Time”. 😀

        You’ll probably find that there are awesome people and not-so-awesome people. I hope you meet more of the former! 🙂

        As far as playing make-believe with accents: we pretended to be British or Spanish, but our accents were so horribly inaccurate that it’s probably better we didn’t try any others.

        • Hehe…last night I told my daughter what you said about the British and Spanish accents. She still doesn’t get it. For her Tasmania IS the hub of the world, the place around which all things revolve. She says “but why not Australian ones?”
          I was interested to hear it though 🙂

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