My Travel Teachable Moments

Indian Ocean

When God speaks, you better move

“…el lugar mas bonito en todo del mundo.” | “…le plus bel endroit du monde.” | “…o lugar mais lindo do mundo.” {…the most beautiful place in the world} I must have thought and/or said that about pretty much every locale that I have been blessed to see and experience. Being totally transparent, I’ve always been more than happy to turn situations, circumstances that were unfamiliar or uncomfortable into my comfort zone! I had the travel bug since I was a teenager, curious about places that I read or heard about; however, I didn’t get to fully realize the travel experience particularly international travel until I reached my twenties after undergrad. Starting from that first trip abroad through personal and professional trips, the teachable moments were revealed and confirmed time and time again…

Teachable Moment #1: There is no better place to be than alone in the Lord’s presence, sometimes you need to get gone–from familiar–to focus totally on the most important relationship you will ever have- with your First Love, Christ! Most of my trips abroad have been alone, that was by design and I have come to truly appreciate the Lord for making me delight in His presence solo. Leaving to go to Spain (first trip abroad), my own family was confused about the why, ‘who do you know there,’ details as no one in our circle had ever done anything like it before. I knew I had to get somewhere that I could hear from, see Christ differently- the flight alone was amazing- looking down and seeing clouds and then buildings, the sun after just a few hours earlier seeing the moon, realizing I had to pull up on my Spanish pronunciation as the language has some distinctions and dialects vary by country/region, the food and people- there was something new to discover every second. Walking around, taking the train and simply loving the fact that I was welcomed and nicknamed as a “morenita hermosa” (beautiful brown girl) helped me to open up all my senses and realize huge cathedrals, gardens, mountains, the Alhambra, art work were each carefully crafted, stunning creations of God. I could clearly hear the Lord speak to me there, in Italy, France, El Salvador, Mexico, Belgium, Honduras, Switzerland, Germany, England, Belize answering my prayers for Divine wisdom and guidance; clearer than if I had not heeded the call to “go so you can hear Me, I will not yell to get your attention so go.”

Teachable Moment #2: God is BIGGER than even your wildest imagination. Stop listing your issues to Him and start listing His attributes to completely cover/mask those issues- HE GOT IT & YOU! Although I confess that I have used travel to escape and get better perspective on matters that plagued me, those matters/issues get pushed to the backburner the second I get to the airport for example. It’s as if my spirit knows that there is no room to bring along that foolishness- no complaints, no gripes, no wondering or questioning- simply gratefulness and openness to Christ. After providing care and serving truly amazing people in Peru, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Mexico, El Salvador, and even in the States- there were more reasons for me to open my mouth to only express gratitude for God’s omnipresence, grace, mercy, faithfulness. It had become uncomfortable to think on much less verbalize issues in my life when there is so much to be thankful for- if my God created entire cities (Lindau and Venice) on multiple islands and a natural beauty like Victoria Falls in Zambia without even breaking a sweat, then clearly He already has taken care of it all regarding concerns of this life (bills, health, relationships in need of repair, growth) and ordered steps accordingly. There is truly a feeling of freedom embedded in maintaining that perspective and trusting that God got it; decision-making and play-calling are on Him and we just execute/ do what He tells us.

Teachable Moment #3: The Lord will give you EVERYTHING you need in order to accomplish His Will using you to aid others- you are here to serve so lean on Christ and keep doing it! (Philippians 1:6; Proverbs 3: 5-6) On one of my many work-related trips to Africa, I got a chance to go to a country that I was obsessed with for years- Mozambique. Skyscrapers a few feet away from the Indian Ocean, gorgeous untouched beaches, as much seafood as you can possibly eat, and beautiful Black folks speaking Portuguese, what’s not to love?! Part of my work was touring hospital wards and meeting staff, asking them what they need or want to help them do their jobs with little to no impediments; I was a tad concerned since I didn’t speak Portuguese at all (much less that dialect- Euro) but God! So on the way to the hospital, one of the doctors spoke to me in Portuguese of course and I responded in slow Spanish and asked her to correct me by saying it back to me in Portuguese (I knew the languages sounded similar enough but Portuguese utilized soft sounds). By the time we arrived at the hospital, I could carry on a fairly decent conversation in the language although I slipped a bit and reverted back to Spanish and/or English. All this to say, in serving the hospital staff and patients- none of them had to adjust or try to draw out what they were saying for my benefit, they simply expressed themselves in their native tongue and I was able to record a full picture of what healthcare providers and patient populations needed at the time. Graças a Deus! {Thank God!} I was incredibly glad that I just relaxed and remained confident in CHRIST’S ability to give me what I needed exactly when I needed it; and all for the edification of people and glorification of the Father.

Teachable Moment #4: Embrace both the cultivation of your personal relationship with the Lord and the purification process- the most beautiful gems result from exposure to extreme heat! (Malachi 3:3) When I was in Venice, Italy and Cape Town, South Africa I got to see how glass and silver, respectively are made- the processes are rather similar; I reflected on silver, glass refinement and how the Lord’s refining and purifying process parallels in comparison. Both glass and silver has to be placed in the middle of the fire where the flames are the hottest so the impurities are burned away; the artist keeps their eyes directly on the glass or silver so that the fire won’t completely destroy the material. In both cases, the refining process is done when the artist can see their image reflected in the glass or silver. There is a comfort in not simply knowing Christ but in drawing near and trusting Him, as a result of His refining process to reflect His character and make us more like Him. Moreover, maturity in Christ will underscore the fact that God is not hardly committed to my comfort; He is however committed to my character.     

Bonus, Confirmatory Teachable Moment: When God speaks, you better move (even if toward unfamiliar territory) – and again I say MOVE! This one is pretty self-explanatory, but make no mistake- it is a lesson that should be learned and practiced as much as possible until it becomes habit. No looking for confirmation in other people, no wondering if you heard what you heard, no hesitation; simply utilize the litmus test (remember that God is NOT the author of confusion) when your spiritual ears are opened to His Word and Voice then move accordingly. Those are just a few teachable moments related to some of my travel experiences, looking very much forward to adding and sharing more… when it’s safe to do so, of course! Please stay safe, physically distant, masked-up, and wise.

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Alisha C. Gray

Alisha C. Gray

Alisha C. Gray, MPH Alisha is currently the Project Coordinator for both the Disease Burden & Simulation Unit and Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Program within the Global Pediatric Medicine Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She also writes grants for Childbirth Survival International, an NGO that provides health services and information for women and children largely in Africa. In prior roles, Alisha has worked to advance influenza emergency response in Mexico, Panama, and Chile by presenting epidemiological data and facilitating communication and service initiatives between in-country Ministries of Health and global health partners from the Pan American Health Office; she also helped to reduce the incidence of guinea worm disease in South Sudan by providing clinical care and designing health communication strategies aimed to eradicate the disease. A graduate of Florida A&M University and Drexel University School of Public Health, she is an extremely passionate and energetic traveler, public health advocate, and servant leader especially dedicated to vulnerable populations. Alisha lives by Galatians 2:20- “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Alisha C. Gray

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