My life is a string of journeys. In fact, every year is a journey broken down into months, weeks, days and hours. As a missionary, many of my journeys take me to remote and unusual places. Before each journey begins, I spend time in preparation. I study, read and search out others who have been on the same journey. You may know that missionaries share a golden rule: “INFORMATION IS EVERYTHING.” The leader of the team should have the most information of all, so of course, I want to be the most informed member of the group. I study the history of the country where I will serve. I make myself aware of the political climate there. I learn about mission work that has already been done and make contacts with translators and other co-laborers. I research the best ways to handle medical emergencies that may arise.
To obtain this information, I often consult the print media. Sometimes it is helpful. At other times, it disappoints. On one occasion, I rented a house with multiple bedrooms for our missionaries to use while we were working in the country of Hungary. The owners had sent me a brochure with pictures that showed an “enchanted” backyard. Covered with multiple groupings of tables, benches and chairs, it looked like the perfect setting for evening study, worship and fellowship. After reviewing the brochure, I rented the house. I even remember raving to our missionaries about its “enchanted” backyard.
When we arrived at the home, the backyard was completely bare: no tables, no benches and no chairs. I entered the house and immediately recognized the living and dining room furniture. I had already seen it all . . . in the pictures of the “enchanted” back yard.
When I met the homeowner, I asked him how this could have happened. He told me that he had taken pictures of the home’s interior and then hauled all the furniture out to the backyard to use in the outdoor shots. He gave me a choice: I could have a house with living and dining room furniture, or he would pull all the tables, benches and chairs outside again and give me the “enchanted” backyard. I chose the furnished house. For the next eight weeks, our missionaries glibly described that backyard as . . . “un-enchanted.”
Since that catastrophe, I question the wording of every travel brochure I read. Those who write these pamphlets must have a unique vocabulary. Their words have multiple meanings, some of which immediately raise a red flag in my mind. For example, 99 out of 100, the term “secluded hideaway” means that the place is impossible to find. If you do manage to find it, the entrance is in the back alley. Other terms found in these travel brochures include “charming,” “rustic” and “Old World ambiance.” The simple translation of these terms is that this place hasn’t had a thing done to it in 30 years. “Charming” means “The bathrooms are out behind the house.” “Rustic” is a synonym for “having a slight musty smell.” “Old World ambiance” means “We haven’t bought new towels or bedspreads since 1950.”
The brochures may even describe a place as “off the beaten path.” This creates the image of a relaxing, secluded atmosphere. More often than not, however, it simply means that no one comes here anymore. If the brochure includes the word “tropical,” I guarantee that it will rain the day after you arrive and not stop raining until you board the plane home. I have also learned that “close to beach” is a relative term. Recently, I visited the “close to beach” city of Piura, Peru. Many of the T-shirts sold there show palm trees and surfers. I asked one of the vendors how near the ocean was and he responded, “an hour away.” After years of study, I have concluded that in travel brochure language, “close to beach” means that you can see the beach with high-powered binoculars. They must have a different understanding of the word “close” than I do.
Just about any advertisement the world sends your way uses words designed to sell ideas. The Word of God is the only thing you can count on to give you absolute truth. You can’t properly guide your life, raise your children or develop a wholesome marriage without it. Guess what? The Bible is the travel brochure for the journey of life. Are you ready for the journey into the year 2008? Take the time to prepare by reading and studying the Word of God. When you do, you’ll find that your year-and your life-will be . . . enchanted.