Marie-Louise Disant writes her penultimate post in her series on female travel. You can find the rest here. Thanks for reading!
“Will you remember me?”
Those four words hit me like a freight train.
No language barrier could confuse it; her eyes overflowed with hope in a brighter future, love for the One who would give her it and peace in the assurance of it all. “P” and I had met only a few minutes earlier. She was sowing together a beautiful formal top, to go with a matching skirt. Here we were, in her native country, hours from her hometown, yet hidden away. She was studying sowing in a fish-farm/sowing-school moonlighting as an educational facility for Christians who, in this country, were widely persecuted.
With her basic English and my even more basic knowledge of her mother tongue, we had managed to communicate to one another that I worked as a nurse and couldn’t sow half as well as she could, and that after her education here, she would go back to her village and hopefully earn a living to support herself and her family. She told me she was progressing well and nearing the end of her first and final trimester of training. “Will you remember me?” she asked, as our conversation neared it’s end. I looked back at her quizzically. She repeated her question, “will you remember me?”
In reality, it’s not just travel that changes us, but life, and the people we encounter throughout.
Rocking the boat
When we let the Lord into our lives, we see life and all that it encompasses, in a whole new light. In the eloquent, wise words of C.S. Lewis,
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
If we allow those we meet on our travels to broaden our views, question our opinions and observe our traditions through a fresh lens of inquiry, we might just learn a thing or two. When we allow God to rock the boat, He makes the ordinary Extraordinary.
Those whom I’ve met on my travels, like “P”, or travelled with, like “M”, have shown me this in a very practical sense; sharing a beautiful meal with me when they had little to share themselves, or opening their home to me at a very unpractical time for them.
Travelling beyond tourism
Travel isn’t just about tourism. Travel, I believe, is more than just ticking the boxes on our bucket list or fulfilling our lifelong dreams and desires. It’s more than seeing the sights, tasting the local cuisine and wandering the walks.
Travelling beyond tourism, to the people, has taught me much about life, and most importantly, about my God. It has taught me about who He is (His identity), and where He is (everywhere, from the top of Ilha Grande in Brazil to the depths of the Shehy Mountain valley in Ireland) and what He is (His character). The Lord has taught me these things through His word, but also through His people, and those I meet that are not of Him.
In the beauty of His Creation, I see Him.
In the restoration of His fallen, broken people, I see Him.
In His unending grace, travelling mercies and offer of relationship with us, I see Him.
We will all experience travel to some degree, though some more than others. How we experience travel however, may well differ greatly from one person to the next. We will travel for different reasons and in different seasons, but at some point, especially in today’s world, either we will become travellers, or the travellers will come to us.
As others travel more and more, most of us will encounter different cultures and worldviews at some point, even on our very own doorstep.
Are we willing to look past the veneer of obvious but lacklustre tourist attractions, to the people, their worldview, their culture?
“P”, with only four words, had managed to turn me upside down and inside out. Suddenly filled with emotion, I found my entire view of travel challenged. Was I mostly going to remember the fish-farm, the cities and towns, the night markets; or “P”, those I had met in the underground churches and the missionaries that worked with them?
What will you remember from your travels?
Who will you remember?
How will you remember them?