Why Visit Overseas Brethren?
Written by Travis Hees
Visiting brethren in other countries can broaden our perspective. Here are some of the benefits of international travel for the Feast and FOI projects.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Africa twice for Foundation Outreach International—once to Kenya to volunteer for the teen and preteen camp and a second time to Zimbabwe to help teach English. Traveling abroad changes the way you think by expanding your view of “reality.”
Even more so, traveling to a foreign country to visit Church people changes not only the way you see the world, but also how you view the Church and God’s people. Traveling abroad helps you meet people you can connect with on a much deeper spiritual level (even if there is a language barrier), which opens the door to deeper social and intellectual connection.
However, I believe that the most important reasons to travel abroad are not to broaden your own mind, make new friends or even try new foods (although that is high on the list!). There are far more important reasons to get out and explore the world. Here are three of those reasons:
1. It gives you a clear picture of how badly the world needs Christ’s return.
Here in the United States, we have it good. Really good. But we are the exception. A quick Google search brings up the fact that “extreme poverty is increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. About 40% of the region’s people live on less than $1.90 a day” (WorldVision.org). Of course, we’ve all heard such statistics.
We know it’s bad out there—we’ve seen the pictures, we’ve heard the stories, we’ve been told the stats.
But do we actually know how bad the world is if we’ve never seen it? Are we able to understand how bad corruption is if we’ve never been stopped by armed police in rural Africa for a nonexistent traffic infringement? Can we comprehend what it feels like to be imprisoned in poverty through no fault of our own, if we’ve never gotten to know someone personally in that situation?
This world needs the return of Christ, even if not everyone in the world knows it. We can easily take our own prosperity and opportunity for granted and lose sight of the urgent need for Christ’s return.
2. It strengthens and unifies the Church.
Here in the United States, we can easily take for granted how connected we are with other Church members. Right now, as I write this from North Texas, I am a 15-minute car ride from approximately 50 baptized members and probably 15 different deacons and elders. This is a blessing that most Church members (both in and outside of the U.S.) do not have.
One of my favorite things about the Feast of Tabernacles is getting to meet new people that I’ve never met before. I also enjoy the many different activities we have here that allow us to meet brethren from all over the country. The ability we have to travel in this country or to visit different congregations in our region is quite literally a foreign concept for many Church members, whether for financial or cultural reasons.
Those of us who are used to being easily connected nonstop may not realize just how isolated our brethren can feel when they see visitors only a couple times a year.
3. We are better able to pray for people when we know them personally.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 the apostle Paul exhorts us to pray for the brethren, saying, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.”
We should also learn from Paul’s example, as he mentions throughout his epistles that he prays for the people of each congregation that he wrote to (1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:6; Philippians 1:3-4). The last chapter of the book of Romans is a chapter committed to greeting, encouraging and commending the brethren.
For us to be able to do so, we must get out and meet people.
Last of all, it’s a ton of fun!
There is nothing quite like traveling overseas, especially to visit with Church brethren. While the main goal for traveling to see Church brethren shouldn’t be our own personal enjoyment, it’s nearly impossible not to enjoy visiting and serving foreign brethren!
As countries open up to international travel, why not start planning to participate in a Foundation Outreach International project or travel overseas for a future Feast? It’s never too early to begin thinking about an international trip and saving up money for it.
I don’t think you’ll regret it!
For more insight on this topic, read our blog post “Working Through Language Barriers at the Feast.”