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Eric Kennel (C 04) and Dave Landis (C 04) are currently four months into a year-long journey around the world that will take them through over 40 countries. If you wish to learn more specifics about the motivations for their adventures, you can follow their web site at www.vivaelviaje.com, which is regularly updated with journals and photos of their experiences.
February 10, 2005
After spending 442 hours on buses, visiting 58 churches, passing through 21 countries and seven time zones, we have arrived at a familiar place. As we begin to travel through the Middle East for a second time and reflect on all that has happened since our first visit, we can clearly recognize the incredible potential of stepping out in faith to explore the beautiful depth of our worlds complexity. On the path that we have chosen for this year of our lives, we are eager and ready to humbly seek Gods will for our future in the midst of the worlds struggles.
Our first encounter with the Middle East was with EMUs cross-cultural program in the fall of 2002. As a region of the world in constant cultural, political and religious conflict, we were continually confronted and challenged to determine how we would respond to many tough issues that often seemed beyond solution. There is one example that has shined through with a gleam of hope for how we approach lifes strugglesthe example of a humble Christ, traveling across the culture of his time in order to creatively find ways to meet the needs of the world.
Curious about the outcomes of actually trying to personify this example, we decided to put all plans on hold after graduation and commit one year to a sort of lifestyle experiment where we would attempt to physically live out this journey by traveling around the world. Various past international experiences with missions, service and education have taught us the incredible value of leaving the familiar in order to explore the world with a fresh perspective. Our hope was that by changing our lifestyles into ones where it is easier to recognize the needs of the world, we would be more able to sense how our futures might be directed to address those needs.
After spending the summer working countless overtime hours, e-mailing contacts around the world, selling most of our unnecessary possessions, and building a website to keep others connected, we set off on our adventure in early October. The first leg of the journey took us south over land from our homes in Pennsylvania to the southernmost tip of Argentina. We visited many missionaries and volunteer organizations, offering our service and hoping to learn by building meaningful relationships. We believe that personal relationships are at the core of understanding our relationship with God and finding fulfillment in our lives, and are the ultimate focus of our journey. Looking back on the last four months, these relationships have left the largest impact on us, coming by means beyond our well-laid plans.
During our time in Costa Rica, we planned on visiting the house of one of our friends parents in the rolling tropical ridges near the Pacific Coast. As during many points in our travels, we loaded our backpacks and started walking, unsure of where the day might lead us. We began the eight kilometer hike up the magnificent green hills, wondering as we walked how a car could ever ascend the steep slope as we felt the response of our unfit legs in the mid-day heat. When we arrived at the top, we were rewarded not only with a magnificent panoramic view, but also by finding Warner, a man who quickly became our close friend.
Warner, a local Costa Rican, spends most of his days on the mountainside in his black rubber boots, working with his machete to maintain the property and finding the solitude that he needs for spiritual contentment. His aim is to be available to the physical and spiritual hunger of anyone who wanders across his path, whether by offering a warm meal and bed for the night, or simply spending time together in meaningful conversation. Passionate and enthusiastic about the tranquility of such a beautiful location, he was eager to bless us with the fruits of his lifestyle.
The three of us spent our evenings sitting in hammocks, stimulated by rich local coffee and conversation, gazing down over the distant city lights and discussing how our faith is sustained by simply living the pura vida. During these times we felt the powerful ability of relationship to transcend cultural boundaries and better equip each of us to continue walking our own journeys of faith, navigating through our own struggles and enabling us to extend our availability to the needs of others. Experiences such as these continually remind us that all of our journeys are interconnected, and sometimes it is only by faithfully stepping out into the unknown that we are able to realize the depth of what we can learn from each other.
Many other experiences in Latin America have taught us similar lessons. Working with malnourished children in Honduras, hanging out with the local youth in Colombia, and connecting with other international travelers by backpacking through the mountains of southern Chile have all shown us that the meaning we pull from our journey is a direct result of the relationships we make with others along the way. As we now move into another region of the world that has already powerfully taught us this lesson, we are excited to build upon existing foundations and continuing to pursue what is in store for our lives.
After we leave the Middle East in a few months, we will travel to many countries and cultures that we have never previously encountered. As we strive to physically live out a spiritual journey, we have begun to uncover themes spanning cultural divides, enabling us to focus our lifestyles in ways that we feel will effectively address the needs of a complex world.
We continue our adventure of faith one day at a time, ready and willing to go where we are called, hoping to inspire all relationships to seek a way of living that will provide hope to a broken world. The possibilities are endless; all we must be willing to do is take the first step.