To all those stranded…

Thomas Cook.

It was a household name in travel for well over a century, but yesterday one of the first ever travel companies, shut its doors all over the world for the final time.

Thomas Cook was an English Baptist missionary, intent on freeing people from spending their money on the short-lived pleasures of alcohol and other things which dull the senses, and instead helping people invest in an experience outside of their everyday world – in something that would open their minds and senses – in travel. First only using trains and short trips to other parts of England, but then finally, along with his son, in creating journeys which would take travelers on full voyages of the world! And from it, grew the world’s largest travel company (taking on various names and brands inbetween). You can read more here.

All that’s left of Thomas Cook online: a help page and this Twitter image.

Despite this, I, as a symptom of the way my generation travels, have never used them once in my life (prefering like most millennials and GenZ, to book my travels independently for cheaper), but there’s still something nostalgic that wells up inside me at the thought of them going, never to return.

Like when many companies go under, there’s infuriation from employees at the lack of communication from the top. Over 21,000 losing jobs worldwide, with families affected and very real circumstances to face tomorrow morning for many, waking up without this month’s pay and no work forseeably to go to. So often companies rely on last minute takeovers to save them, and can’t publicise their doom to employees without further risking the company’s last-minute deal making. Watching the shutters come down on our local Thomas Cook office here in Belfast, was harder because there were real people pulling those shutters down, with nothing to go back to.

But there’s also deep frustration and regret from travellers. If any are like me, we (foolishly or otherwise) don’t often spend money on travel insurance often. In fact, many these days save huge amounts or take our loans in order to afford travel. For them, although they’ll get back home eventually, the dream has turned into nightmare. And even for the many that have insurance, some have their honeymoon ruined; their family reunion shattered; their once-in-a-lifetime adventure, gone. It’s not as easy as pointing fingers at individual responsibility,

The travel brochure image that was once tangibly real and in our grasp, now lies on its way to our recycling boxes, tear stained and no longer trusted. What seemed to jump our from our Instagram feeds on our screens and be ours to enjoy in full 3D colour, has gone back to being imprisoned behind cracked screens, still as distant as ever – perhaps moreso, for the fact that our appetite to dream, to save, to book another holiday will indeed seem far less mouth-watering a second time round.

Surely many smaller travel companies, who were already be feeling the weight of major political upheavals in Brexit, or fears of terrorism in parts of the world; the closing down of travel visas; or uncertainties of environmental policies impacting travel; will sense the weakening of this type of market will indeed be upon far more than the giant corporate brand too.

However it will be only a minor hiccup and a small dent in the overall travel industry, that was already bypassing such big corporations for other ways of globe-trotting that are less prone to the direct stare of environmental campaigners like Greta Thunberg. But leaving aside such large questions as will continue to loom over the travel industry and against human nature, may I finish by doing as I do in each chapter of my book, and asking for God’s guidance, wisdom and help in all of this, as we seek to respond well as Christians? None of us can predict the ins and outs of what will happen in the future, and although hindsight is a wonderful thing, my analysis of the past (or future) will not help many, compared with the very real promises of the One who made Travel, and the panorama He gives us over all time.

For the Thomas Cook employee:

Loving, Heavenly Father,
We find ourselves facing sudden times of unexpected great loss,
Without job;
Without livelihood;
Without means of providing for others;
And even in the bitterness of how it all happened,
We turn to you.

We turn to you as the author of travel;
We turn to you as the provider of all good things;
We turn to you acknowledging that no matter how insightful we are,
We cannot predict what will come to any of us.

And so we rest on you and you alone this evening.

You are the unchanging rock.

Would you use the hard events of the last 24 hours to help us trust you?
Would you warm our hearts again with your goodness,
And forgive us when we trusted more in our own provision?

And for these moments when things are taken away,
We pray we would know your presence and leading in very real ways,
As we are united to the One who lost everything,
To provide for us.

In His name,
Amen

For the stranded traveller:

Loving, Heavenly Father,
We praise you, the great creator God,
Who made all of this earth.
We’re excited to explore it, and plumb the depths of the good things you have given us.
But even more, we’re excited to know you,
Because you will be infinitely better than your creation.

For you were the one who came to rescue a stranded creation, that rebelled far from you.
We’d love to know your heart for this world – how you see it.

And so we pray you’d do just that.
That in our disappointment, you would show us greater joys.
That in our frustration, you would create in us thankful hearts.
That in the unfulfilled longings of this world, that you would cast our minds and hearts to the new heavens and earth to come.

By the power of the Spirit,
In your Son’s name,
Amen

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