My wife will tell you I’m not very good at taking vacations. I understand the concept, a time of resting and making memories with your family, but I have a hard time putting it into practice. For most of my life, I have traveled internationally for my job. When I get off the plane, I automatically start thinking about how to capture the place for God’s kingdom. Some people might call it an occupational hazard, but I like to think of it as kingdom-mindedness.
For us to take a real vacation, my wife asks that we go someplace where I don’t know a single person. This can be difficult, because I know many people in many parts of the world. She also asks that when we leave the place, I still not know anyone there. That is even more difficult. I love engaging people and building relationships with them. To me, people are life. The real joy of traveling is not the sites (although I enjoy them), but the people.
We used to vacation in a little town in Mexico called Tulum, but we can’t do that anymore because our good friends, Jack and Janet, live there. Still, I think Jesus would be pleased if more of us used our vacation for building up His kingdom. May I give you some suggestion on how to do that?
- Before you go on vacation, have your children research what kind of ministry is taking place at your destination. For example, did you know there is even a ministry to Disney World? Have your children answer questions like: What are the religious beliefs of that area? How do these beliefs differ from those of evangelicals? Is there a new church plant? Is there an orphanage trying to point children to Jesus? Is there a church with a feeding program for the hungry or a clothes closet sharing garments with people in need?
- Dedicate one day of your vacation to doing something for Jesus – thinking of it as tithing a part of your vacation time. I have some good friends who just came back from the Dominican Republic, and they gave one day of their stay to help a local missionary. This makes a great way to teach your children about helping others.
- Worship with a local congregation, where you will encourage and bless the local believers. One of the best services I ever attended was in Jurbise, Belgium. I think there were a total of seven of us who gathered in a home for a church service, but we sang as though we were standing before God’s throne. The time of teaching and discussion was so meaningful and real that I didn’t realize three hours had flown by. (I know many of you think your pastor’s sermons last for three hours.)
- Find out if there’s a mission organization near the place you are traveling. Stop by their offices (call to arrange this ahead of time) and take a tour. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn here about what God is doing throughout the world.
- Just because we’re on vacation doesn’t mean we walk away from our responsibility to be salt and light. We are the gospel in the flesh. Sometimes when we leave our homes, we leave our churches and our faith behind. But a believer never has a day off. Everywhere we go is an opportunity to see God at work, and we are Christ’s ambassadors wherever we are. God wants to use you on your vacation.
- As you travel, play the alphabet game, but make each word count for Christ. For example, A can stand for Abraham, Adam or Andy. No, the word Andy doesn’t appear in the Bible, but you can find it in the hymnal: “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me.” Be creative and use your travel time to deepen and enlarge your children’s faith.
Vacation season is almost here and it’s never too early to start planning. As you read this, I am lying on the beach in Mexico with my newest friend, Mario. He and his church are getting ready to go to Panama to do mission work. Since I have spent many years working in that country, he has been asking me lots of questions about the culture and ministry there.
What are the odds that a man who lives in Tulsa runs into a young man in Mexico who needs help preparing to serve in Panama? When you’re on vacation with God, the answer is always 100 percent!