I like to travel and see new places. Most of the time I only have the opportunity to experience a new place as a tourist. I don’t really become immersed into the culture of the places I visit or the lives of the people I encounter. I view everything I see and experience through my personal lens with no filters. However, to travel to another place as a missionary is an entirely different experience. The people and place take root in your heart. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of a place aren’t only preserved in a photograph but have names and faces attached to those memories. Real people with real lives that have touched your own. I have had the tremendous privilege of being able to serve on several mission trips. The biggest component that sets a mission trip apart from a typical excursion is the intent behind the trip. On a mission trip, I, along with a team, go to share faith and resources with fellow believers and believers-to-be. Traveling and sharing our mutual faith in God with one another markedly changes the experience I have. I don’t return home with just snapshots and touristy t-shirts; I come home with memories of specific people, their lives, homes, concerns, and our shared worship experiences.
The Apostle Paul had traveled some in his life. He certainly had left his hometown of Tarsus and gone to Jerusalem in order to study under the great Rabbi Gamaliel. As we intersect his life in Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are in preparation for a different type of journey. This journey is not about self-improvement or education. It’s not about enjoying the scenery or relaxing from the tiring days of scholarship (Philippians 3:5,6). This trip had one purpose and one purpose only. They were called to serve the Lord and specifically to share the word of God and the good news about Jesus Christ.
“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers …While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3
How would you prepare for such a journey? What would you pack? Fast food, hotels, and safe highway systems were not available. The trips were long, arduous, and taxing, physically as well as mentally. These men had to be diligent and vigilant about their safety. Those who wished to do harm to others frequented areas of the road. These men also travelled by sea. This mode of transit was not without its own set of treacherous possibilities. Another aspect to consider is time. This journey of Paul and Barnabas would not be complete in a matter of days but in months. In addition, most people in the first century traveled in groups. Paul and Barnabas would have sought out clusters of other travelers to accompany them on their journey. This common practice ensured safety for all.
“The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.” Acts 13:4.5
Paul, along with his companions, had much to consider and prepare for as they made arrangements to embark on their journey. Quite a difference exists between their planning, packing, and preparing for a journey and my own. This trip for Paul and his companions became vital to the spread and growth of the Christian church. All the hopes and dreams of the Antioch church and the anointing of God rested on this small band of men to carry the message of Christ to the West.