BAD Tourist. Well. I am working in the part of the world that is famous for it. I once held that prejudice toward them too. But after I moved to the region, and having lived, worked, and mingled with the locals here, I realized we are all very similar.
From my experience and observation (and maybe I have participated), ALL bad tourists share some common traits. Here are some of them,
- A lack of respect for local culture
- A lack of desire to learn about the local culture
- The exploitation of local resources
- To insist on communicating in your native language and style and demanding others to accede
- Critical of everything different
As Christians, we can be tourists too. Of course, I am not talking about the reality of people traveling to another country for a holiday, but as a person visiting a world different from where we call home – God’s kingdom.
When we talk about Christian tourism, it is easy to place the blame on missionaries of past and present, short-term or long-term, and criticize them for their actions, approaches or methodologies. But I think, as Christians, we all represent God’s kingdom in one way or another. We are going to either be a tourist or an ambassador.
Unfortunately, most of us are tourists most of the time. I am a tourist most of the time. I hate to label others, so I will wear the label myself. Often, I forget who I am. I act as though I am a consumer, making judgments of things and people around me. I judge whether the way things are and how people act is pleasing to me. I either seek to change them without understanding where they are coming from or who they are. In fact, I can say I have exploited others for my own gains and ambitions. I have also been frustrated by what seems to me as a reluctance to accept the wonderful gift I am gifting them.
Christian tourism has to stop. Instead, I must recognize that I am an ambassador of God’s kingdom, not a tourist. I am not here to take but to learn and serve. I am not here at my own expense but at the blood of Jesus. Who I represent and how I represent him matters. I have a role to play in how the world views Christ, and it cannot be accomplished.
The world needs fewer BAD Christian Tourists and more DEDICATED and humble Ambassadors for God’s Kingdom. Tourists do not prepare themselves before going on their trip, but ambassadors dedicate themselves and commit themselves to a rigorous preparation period. I am choosing to enroll myself in that training program taught by the best instructor – the Holy Spirit. By the way, just as a word of caution, once you enroll, you never graduate, well, not while we have to play the role of an ambassador. I am in. Would you be interested? Join me. It is going to be fun.