Augustine of Hippo once opined, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” (Slimbach, 2010).
Traveling is emotionally and conceptually romantic. It embraces all senses on a road to discovery, not just of a place, but also of self. Travel in essence, then, is education. I know, personally, travel has often led to formative experiences that have challenged me intellectually, academically, and spiritually.
One such occasion was five years ago when I lived a month in Mongu, Zambia with my cousins who are third generation missionaries. Thirteen hours from the nearest city, I found myself living on the Zambezi flood plain near a rural village of mud huts with limited access to electricity or fresh water.
With the intentions to serve the community, I found myself engaged with the local children, many of whom were orphans. These children were partially clothed with tattered and scruffy attire that had been discarded by Americans. Most did not even own a pair of shoes. But despite their lack of materials, the children adorned precious and contagious smiles that resounded with gratitude each time a need was met.
In Running for My Life, Lopez Lomong indubitably expressed how each day was a story of survival, much like the story of the children I interacted with in Zambia, as he, too, fought for basic human essentials – food, water, and shelter. “Even with pooling our rations,” Lopez describes, “we only had enough grain for one meal a day. Six days a week we ate our meal in the middle of the night. That way, we were the hungriest when we needed our strength the least” (2012).
In an effort to replicate a small piece of what life would be like in a refugee camp, I chose to abstain from using personal transportation on Saturday, May 3, 2014. Instead of using my car during a 24-hour period, I decided to utilize public transportation, a bicycle, and my own two feet to complete my daily tasks.
One anecdote that stands out from this experience was when I realized that the date I established to forgo my automobile was also the day I was set to graduate. Instead of riding my bicycle to the ceremony though, I decided it would be most realistic to walk. So I packed my graduation outfit, including my cap and gown, and walked more than an hour to my destination.
In reflection, it was certainly a sobering and refreshing practice. I never contemplated how a lack of personal transportation binds oneself to a small geographic region. My entire life I had been used to traveling from one side of my city to the other at my leisure, whether meeting friends for a movie, studying at Starbucks, or heading to the beach. Instead, if I had been confined to merely my walking shoes, I wonder if I would even know what the other side of the city looked like.
The simplicity of going a day without personal transportation was revolutionary both in my life and to my thought process. This is one reason I am excited that Cornerstone University’s incoming students will participate in a similar exercise. Many of us will never experience the harsh realities and arduous difficulties of living years inside a refugee camp, but my hope is that this experiment revolutionizes this generation, one heart at a time, to live a life empathetic to the needs around them. Furthermore, I expect this practice to embolden a class of Christ-followers to relinquish apathy and pursue a deeper compassion for the plight of the hungry, sick, and downtrodden through further exploration of the issues. Living a day in the life of a refugee should only be the beginning of a lifelong endeavor.
Lomong, L., & Tabb, M. A. (2012). Running for my life: one lost boy’s journey from the
killing fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson.
Slimbach, R. (2010). Becoming world wise a guide to global learning. Sterling, Va.: Stylus Pub., LLC.