Friday, January 7, 2011

The most dangerous places on earth

by Steve Brock on January 7, 2011

Last time we looked at  traveling more adventurously, perhaps even more dangerously, recognizing that how you do that will be different for each of us.

Some of you have commented that traveling – or living – dangerously may not be the most appropriate goal. The concern is that seeking danger for its own sake isn’t beneficial unless you’re a thrill seeker.

Here I am in Bosnia after the war there naively smiling before a burned out Serbian tank and an active minefield. But that wasn't the real danger of such places...

I agree. The meaning here, however, isn’t to travel dangerously just for the adrenaline rush or to make adventure itself another idol to serve but instead to break the idols of comfort and so-called security that most of us unwittingly bow down to. And few things are as iconoclastic in freeing us from our grip on comfort as travel.

Still, even with travel, we can play it safe. So let me share some comments that a friend of mine, Tom Getman, made a few years ago. I worked with Tom at World Vision and among his many other roles there, he headed up World Vision’s office in Jerusalem near the end of the first Intifada (the Palestinian uprisings). He’s also spent time in other places of conflict, in particular South Africa during and after apartheid.

When I asked Tom about meaningful travel, particularly to difficult locations, he noted that war-torn countries and places of great suffering are the most dangerous places on earth.

I naturally assumed he meant because of the risk of getting killed or injured but he went on to explain: Places of conflict are dangerous not because of the physical harm you’re likely to sustain unless you do something stupid. Most of us are wise enough to avoid active battle situations unless we’re there for that reason.

The danger, particularly to Christians but really to anyone who is sensitive to the plight of others, is that you will experience suffering in ways you’ve never seen before. And once you experience that, it gets to you, gets inside of you. It can even haunt you. The danger isn’t to your body or health. The danger is to your status quo and your comfort. Traveling to such places will disrupt your life and change how you engage the world, if you let it.

If we’re open, God can use what we experience on a trip, particularly one to places of great suffering, to change us so that we, in turn, become agents of change in a broken world.

And that can be very dangerous indeed.

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