No, as a matter of fact I don’t like to travel.
These are the words I say inside my head at least, when a well-meaning person observes that ‘You must really like to travel …’ because my work requires so much of it. More than two million miles of air miles, in fact. I wear them more as a slight limp than as a badge of honor.
Truth be told, I could live a full and satisfied life if I never again climbed onto a plane, awoke to the enervating smell of cigarette smoke curling in from my neighbor’s room in a ‘smoke-free’ hotel, transited from one side of Germany’s Frankfurt International Airport at 7:00 a.m. with an overnight transatlantic flight behind me and a four-hour flight to Lebanon ahead, missed my connection by 45 seconds and so become consigned to a long check-in line in the airport hotel.
But is it worth it?
Absolutely it is. At least I think so in my most centered moments when I realize anew how short life is and what a privilege it is to invest mine in some of the finest people on this planet.
Like the folks at London’s Pars Theological Centre, for example, the hosts last week of a periodic Middle East project meeting I chair. The interwoven grace and competence of these Iranian brothers and sisters draws a guy in like honey draws bees.
At the drop of a hat over a delicious Persian lunch, they treat us to knowledgeable, in-depth consideration of the recent Iranian deal with the Western powers. They let drop tales of their lives as involuntary expats. They speak with stunning perceptiveness about the beguiling layers of spiritual life in today’s Middle East.
As members of the Iranian diaspora—a sizable community in cities like London and Los Angeles—a winsomeness for the old country lingers about them. Most cannot go home, so home—as insider-outsiders everywhere will understand—has become London. More or less, depending on how strongly the pull of Teheran and undying love for those left behind pulls the heart with its tidal strength.
Yet these are the kind of folk—you find them in Johannesburg and Mexico City and Kiev and Frankfurt—who live their lives leaning into the future rather than pining for the past.
A deeply biblical worldview nourishes this rooting in hope. Where others might write off this country or that as a lost cause, followers of Jesus like my London-based Iranian friends sense in their bones that good things are just getting underway. Though deadly serious about the perils of Christian calling in a place like the Islamic Republic of Iran, they are profoundly committed to what they understand to be God’s purpose for their people.
So they labor on, with all that winsome grace and competence that I find so very appealing.
Is it worth the miles to blow a bit of wind into the sails of such folk?
Ask me again when I hit three million miles of air time. But at two million, I can say as I limp: Absolutely.