International Travel is Profoundly Wearing
I was sitting in a quiet room of an organization’s offices in Phnom Penh several years ago. By simply being present, people wandered in to “chat.” Those chats frequently turned into very deep conversations as people entrusted me with teammate conflicts, sexual struggles, fears, spiritual dryness, doubts, hurts, and frustrations. When a shepherd shows up, the sheep who need tending to will find them.
Busy Istanbul Street
In my early days of this work I did not know any better (which means I had not run myself into the ground yet), I was pretty hard driving. Not wanting to be away from family too much, most of my trips were in the 12-14 day range, max. I had spent the money, the time and traveled all that way, I might as well pack my schedule to the brim. Right?
Well, I now take a more long range view. And a more relational view: The Father desires for us to be responsive to him rather need-driven.
The Gift of Modeling For Others
There are too few healthy models of life-ministry done in a sustainable manner. The prevailing pattern is to go and go hard for a long time. One gift shepherds can extend to others is modeling a more rhythmic way of going about work. Each of the following tips which I have learned from others and from personal experience can be a means of giving permission to others to live within their limits.
The 2/3rd’s Principle
Please consider the idea of splitting your day up into thirds – morning, afternoon and evening. Try to make appointments during two of those three blocks each day. Of course, there are exceptions. Making this a pattern allows one to have some personal down time for play, rest and renewal. I know I will be fresh early in the trip, but I want to have something to give people at the end of my trip too.
Keep Your Sabbath
Even on shorter trips, it is wise to keep a Sabbath. Their is the biblical reason: we do our work out of a delight in the Lord. Sabbath is a day to delight ourselves in him. That single day informs the other six days. There is also the modeling reason: too many workers do not take Sabbath seriously and the consequences are dire. You might not find a church to worship in, but you can find a tree or park bench or someplace to be still, rest and be attentive to God.
After years of international travel I still show up pretty wiped out. So I like to take a day or two at the front end of the trip to go easy, rest, and do fun stuff. I love wandering local markets or taking in any wild scenic areas. This is restorative for me, allows me to work the fogginess out of my head, and settles my heart to be with people.
These are but a few “tricks of the trade” I have gleaned as an itinerant shepherd. How about you? What lessons have you learned along the way that both tends to your long term health as well as models for others? I’d love to learn from you. Thanks!