The small children cheered when they saw him. Some pulled at his clothes, some simply hugged whatever body part they could grasp. It was a remarkable contrast. Here stood a middle-aged plump white man from the United Kingdom surrounded by a horde of small dark-skinned Ugandan boys and girls. Despite their differences, the villagers welcomed Roy as if he was family. He had been there many times before, so in some respects, he was like family.
Roy had a regular job as an engineer. He spent most of his time managing his fellow engineers and trying to hit deadlines. But twice a year he left that behind and visited a small village in Uganda to help with whatever was needed. Some times it was to simply bring coveted resources like food and shoes. Other times it was to help build a house or water irrigation facilities. He did whatever was asked of him each time he returned. He still traveled to other places with his wife and child but he always saved time for his Ugandan family.
I have a similar experience each year, however, the contrasts are more understated. I don’t travel to Uganda. And many of the children I encounter have closer backgrounds to that of my own. But the story is based on the same reason… to serve.
In upstate Pennsylvania, miles from the New York border, sits a vast stretch of land where magic happens. It’s a summer camp called Camp Iroquoina. I take a trip there every year. It is traveling at its finest. Now, some would not see summer camp as traveling. And most would definitely not put a trip to Uganda and a trip to Hallstead, PA in the same category. But why not? Before we pass judgment, let’s think about our thoughts on travel and impact.
In the world of traveling, especially when it comes to blogs and social media, we tend to give more legitimacy to the crazier people and the wilder landscapes. It’s understandable – we crave to see what we haven’t before. The places and people are new and exciting.
“What kind of animal is that!!!!?”
“Wow! Is that guy really wearing that!?”
“Wouldn’t it be great to go there?”
These are the sights and experiences that drive our enthusiasm. The “Wow-factor”. It captivates us. And there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to be enthralled. To be completely overwhelmed with new things. It is fascinating and exciting and travel pushes us in extraordinary ways. But then we come home and continue with our lives. Many of the things we saw will continue on in our lives but only through our memories. We enjoyed the time traveled and it has made an impact on us, but we have not necessarily made an impact on the places weve traveled TO.
In the world of education, kids love memorable moments. When a baseball player or famous author comes to your school and gives some inspiring speech it’s a very inspiring moment. But in terms of its impact, it pales in comparison to the person who interacts with the children every day. It is the regular day-to-day encounters that truly shapes hearts and minds. Thus the example of my yearly trip to Camp Iroquoina.
Every year I go to camp and see God use me in amazing ways. Through collegial bonds and bonds with campers I see the lasting impact of consistency. Like Roy in Uganda, every time I return to those sacred grounds in upstate PA, it is a joyous and exciting reunion. It is beyond moving to see how just being consistent, and living faithfully can have the greatest impact on others’ lives.
It was that thought of consistency that someone once told me when I was a camper at Camp Iroquoina. At the time, I was discouraged and downtrodden. The world around me seemed dark and doubtful. But a counselor told me something that gave me hope.
“Never underestimate the power of living faithfully.”
I didn’t know why at the time but the words gave me peace. It showed me a slice of life that God holds for us which does not depend on our works, or ambitions, or even our travels. It was a calm, confident, yet powerful idea. Live a consistent and faithful life, and thro that it, you will make an impact on the people of this world.
Those Ugandan children did not run to Roy because he was famous or because he threw out gold coins to the villagers. They ran to him because he was faithful to them. He showed up time and time again to meet their needs. Where is it that you can live more faithfully? I would encourage you to re-examine the things you thought made the biggest impact and ask yourself where you can be more faithful. Because when you are full of faith, you are full of life… no matter where you are in the world.