If I had to choose the one travel experience that made the greatest impression on me, I would have to go with the summer I spent in Shanghai, China.
It was the first time I had ever traveled out of the country, and with fresh passport in hand I raced to the airport and flew to the other side of the globe, where I would remain for six weeks. Being so close to the equator, the weather was incredibly hot and humid, and teaching English to 2nd grade students all day every day (with a language barrier, no less) was hard work. But the trip was an amazing experience, and one that I’ll always be grateful for.
The most powerful memory from the trip took place during an evening of worship. My college friends and I were weary, homesick, and extremely hungry (let’s just say the cafeteria food was lacking… the first time I saw a fish eye staring back up at me I jumped out of my chair!). We needed a time of encouragement, so we closed the doors to one of the classroom and began to sing praise and worship songs as a group.
One young Chinese man heard the sound of our voices drifting down the hall, and wandered into the room. He told one of our translators that he had never heard anyone sing like that, and that whatever it was we were singing about, he wanted to know more about it.
Our hearts were encouraged, this young man was able to hear about God’s love, and I learned what a powerful thing genuine worship can be. In the Old Testament, the Israelites would often send the worshippers to the front lines of battle, because they recognized that praising God and putting their trust in Him would encourage their own troops, dishearten the enemy, and allow God to pour His blessings on them (2 Chronicles 20:21).
After returning to America, I remember growing frustrated with my friends in the States. They had the ability to worship God freely and openly, and yet they took moments of worship for granted and sang half-heartedly. “If only you realized how powerful our worship is,” I remember telling them one Sunday morning. “You would sing with all your heart… and we could change our world!”
They rolled their eyes at me, of course, but I’ve never forgotten this experience from my summer in Shanghai. And I want to be remembered as someone who worshipped with abandon, at all times and in all circumstances.
The world is listening. And so is our Father.
Photo Credit: Pudong at Daytime 2012 – J. Patrick Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0