by Rev. Lori Ethridge
Minister to Senior Adults
In a sermon several months ago Dr. Sam Matthews made an illustrative point about approaching life as either a “tourist” or a “traveler”. He made the distinction between the two terms indicating that a tourist is often a passive sightseer; almost a spectator, waiting for events to happen. In contrast, the traveler is active, strenuously in search of people, experiences and adventure. The word “tour” from the Latin tornus, means “one who goes in circles”. The root word for the term “travel” comes from the word “travail” which in French means “work”, but in English means “obstacle”, “trial” or “trouble”.
I have just returned from a mission trip to Prague, Czech Republic. Some wondered, “What sort of mission work are you going to do in Prague? Are you going for tourism or evangelism? Is this trip for work or for pleasure?” Certainly those that asked these questions were aware that the Czechs enjoy beautiful architecture, an intellectually accomplished citizenry and a high standard of living. While this is indeed true, the society is extremely secularized in the Czech Republic, and over 80% of the population declares to be atheist. Opportunities to share the Gospel are abundant, but the churches are quite small. Years of communist rule has all but eradicated a protestant faith base.
There is no doubt that at times I felt like a tourist while in Prague, especially while shopping for souvenirs and when I got on the metro going the opposite direction from my intended destination. However, at other times I felt like a traveler, taking risks, plunging into a diverse culture, seeking to learn local customs and to appreciate the struggles of faithful believers. Our church is desiring to partner with a local United Methodist congregation in Prague. We are willing to make a minimum three year commitment to encourage and support ministries in the Czech Republic. In
general, tourists do not cultivate such alliances, nor do they invest time and energy in such endeavors. For those that traveled with me to Prague, I am grateful. For those that could not, I hope you will pray with me for the Czech Republic and for the United Methodist churches there. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.