By JENNIFER BURGIN
We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.
Travel Overseas In October 2012, my boss asked me to travel to Malaysia on company business. I was totally psyched, ready to make my debut on the other side of the world! I quickly booked my flight and coordinated the hotel stay. I felt like Saint Paul embarking on a journey to a foreign land not sure what to expect. Shortly before the trip, I spoke with a friend who traveled to Malaysia years earlier. He gave me very useful advice: Pack extra rolls of Charmin. You never know the state of a local bathroom. Oh, the little things we take for granted in America...
Flying to Malaysia took 28 hours with long layovers in New York City, Vancouver, and Hong Kong. I sat in the plane for about 18 hours straight watching hours and hours of movies. My feet and legs swelled from the cabin pressure. I always have trouble sleeping on a plane so I felt like I was in a chronic dreamlike state, groggy and exhausted. Jet lag settled in fairly quick.
On the last stretch of the flight I thought to myself, "Only two more hours and we will touch down on Penang Island. Thank-you, Jesus, for keeping me safe through this very long flight. The home stretch has arrived!" I remember sitting in my seat listening to my earphones when a wave of nausea hit me. I felt dizzy and clammy all over. I got up to go to the toilet when I fell to the ground, suffering symptoms of dehydration. The flight attendants quickly came to my aid. They moved me to a First Class seat giving me Evian bottled water, a cool towel to wrap around my neck, and a blanket to cozy up in. I felt better almost immediately. When the plane landed, I was the first one escorted off the plane in a wheel chair. I was pushed through customs ahead of the other passengers without any major hassles. People stared at me throughout the airport even after getting out of the wheelchair. I figured a petite blonde woman from America was quite an unusual sight.
I trusted God's eyes watching over me. I was weak with fatigue yet strong with enduring faith. I was hungry and thirsty yet cared for along the way. I wandered into a foreign land yet blessed by the opportunity. I felt like the world's rubbish yet thankful to make it around the world safely.
Foolish and Wise I rather foolishly imagined my company-preferred hotel sat next to a sandy white beach. Unfortunately, I stayed in the industrial area surrounded by rundown buildings with sagging roofs, peeling paint, and laundry hanging out of windows. Major companies like Dell, Continental Tires, and Hitachi housed manufacturing facilities. Riding to and from our distributor's warehouse, on the left side of the road no less, was a harrowing experience. I'm not used to roundabouts or mopeds while weaving around orange hazard cones and construction debris. My seat belt didn't work, so it meant a bumpy ride most mornings and afternoons. At night I laid wide-awake listening to wild dogs barking or a local band playing bongo music.
Each day, on our way to the warehouse, we passed by a Catholic Church. I was surprised to see one since the majority of Malaysian citizens are Muslim. I remember the Church wasn't colorfully decorated like the area mosques. A simple sign proclaiming the start of the "Year of Faith" displayed in the front. With Jesus present in the tabernacle, I said a silent "Our Father" every time we drove by. How comforting to know I was not alone. The Holy Spirit continued to guide and protect me along this journey.
I remember my Muslim companions asked me a little about Catholicism. They never met anyone Catholic before. It was nice to share with them a little about my faith. Likewise, they described some of their religious customs.
Even with jet-lag, lack of sleep, and bad food to eat, I was happy to visit Malaysia. I traveled around the world and back in literally 7 days. I met so many interesting people along the way. I'm glad I didn't wine and dine in luxury but got dirty and gritty with the working class. This just made me appreciate my blessings even more. I gained incredible wisdom experiencing a culture so different from my own.
World's rubbish and scum Saint Paul and the Apostles endured ridicule and condemnation throughout their ministry. Yet, they didn't stop preaching the faith. When persecuted they blessed. When slandered, they responded kindly. They willingly died for the Faith. After my travel to Malaysia, I became more respectful of cultures different from mine. I didn't see the Malaysians, Indians, and Chinese living on the island as the world's rubbish and scum. I saw them as children of God with the same fears, burdens, and struggles all of us experience. Their skin may be a different color and language foreign to the ears, but they are still human beings capable and worthy of love. I don't see myself superior just because I'm an American. I see myself as one woman living in a global melting pot; a melting pot of cultures brilliantly created by God.
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality
(Photo: Penang, Malaysia 2012)