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Travel That Has Shaped Us, Part 2: Building Relationships Cross Culturally

This piece is part of an ongoing series we did a couple of years ago. In this series, we explore how travel has shaped our lives - who we are and how we see the world.

When we look over our lives, we can see milestones and events that have shaped us along the way. We can observe the ways they’ve shaped our world-views, our sense of culture, our characters, and shaped the way we look at others who are different from us. Our team is exploring the traveling we've done over the course of our lives so far and how those travels have shaped who we are up to this point. Our hope is that this multi-part series will prompt you to reflect on your own experiences and discern how your life has been impacted by your adventures and journeys.


At the age of thirty, I (Christie) had traveled to several nations in Latin America, but I had not yet been across the ocean. Finally, in the mid-2000s, my local church began a partnership relationship with sister churches in Indonesia. I felt led to get involved, and over the course of a decade, I had several opportunities to visit Indonesia, the fourth largest nation by population (just behind the US) and the largest Muslim nation in the world.

A fishing village near the island of Batam, Indonesia

Each trip to Indo (as we affectionately call it) had a different agenda - sometimes we were there for ministry, sometimes for conferences, sometimes for leadership team meetings, and sometimes just for relationship building. On these trips, I made new friends, taught, held babies, fed the poor, and just generally expanded my relational circle to include friends on the other side of the globe.

Early on during these trips, I observed how little I knew about non-Latin cultures. In fact, I was utterly humbled by how little I knew about Asian cultures, and more specifically, Indonesians. On top of that, so many people groups were represented in Indonesia, so there was an untapped well of learning in front of me. I embraced it - even loved it. I became a cultural observer and learner and have not stopped since.


As part of my role with Vineyard Missions, a larger church network that Chris and I used to serve, I have had many opportunities to sit in on leadership meetings with pastors all over Asia. I have had meals with people from at least 10-15 different nations, and I have spent time in India, Indonesia, and Philippines on multiple occasions. These meetings typically had a planning component, a leader-care and spiritual development component, and sometimes a conference component where even more pastors throughout Asia would join us.

Leaders from all over Asia

To say that I grew, both culturally and spiritually, through these experiences would be an understatement of epic proportions. I learned so much about the different Asian cultures as well as how cultures interact and function with one another. There seemed to be a church pastor culture that trumped the specific nations’ cultures in some regard. At the same time, there are certain Asian cultures that defer decision-making and others that take charge more often. The leader of the discussions (our boss) would continually observe the level of contribution of the leaders in the room and actively encourage participation to balance things out. It required a nuance, sensitivity, and intentionally that was inspiring and fascinating to watch.

During these meetings of the leaders of leaders, we walked through various spiritual formation exercises to foster deeper growth and rooting in our relationships with God. I felt so fortunate to be able to participate in these meetings with fellow Christian sisters and brothers. In my own journey with God, I grew exponentially during this time in my life. I had the opportunity to press into areas of my own journey that, up until then, may have stayed dormant.

My friends in Manila, Philippines

No matter where we go, travel shapes us in ways we could not predict or imagine. The world is so big and full of limitless opportunities for growth and the expansion of our minds and our hearts. We share these stories to inspire you to reflect on how you've been shaped by your own journeys.

And what about tomorrow's adventures? How might your future travels develop you, your family, and your circle of friends into the people you want to be? We'd love to hear from you about how you've been shaped by your travel experiences.


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