Jean Woods, former European Mission Fellowship (EMF) missionary in Spain, has some advice on how to think ethically when travelling this year. 


Source: Pexels / Photo by Te lensFix

Spring is a popular time for booking holidays in the UK, and out of the top 10 destinations that we’re mostly likely to choose, nine of them are in Europe.

Spain, France and Greece are top of the list, luring us with their blue skies, warm seas, and copious amounts of sunshine!

In the UK it sometimes seems that the skies are always grey and it never stops raining. It is then most people begin to discuss holiday plans. You would love to travel, need some sun and maybe sea, and, above all, a change from your normal routine. Your church has contacts with missionaries in Europe, perhaps nationals working in their homeland, perhaps expats. You have read about them, prayed for them and maybe you correspond with them. Perhaps you have even met one when they have visited your church on deputation. Would it be possible to visit them?

As a volunteer with Europe-based mission organisation EMF, I can say in most cases they will be delighted to have visitors. Most are very busy, but some may also feel lonely and would love to have fellowship and share their lives and work with believers and their families for a few days. If they are in the early days of church planting, they may have little contact with other believers and be 100km or more from the next nearest evangelical church.

A few hints and things to think about:

  • Bring a gift.  If you are visiting expats from the UK there may be things that they miss and that would be greatly appreciated – tea, Marmite, Cadbury’s chocolate (though don’t put that in your luggage in August if visiting central or southern Europe, where temperatures may be 40+!)  Ask what they might like. If it’s a missionary family, games are probably very welcome. Or a Christian book you have recently read and think they would appreciate.

  • Be sensitive - they will probably be delighted to see you, but bear in mind they may have had other groups of visitors already this summer. At the least, you can attend their church services, but don’t expect or assume anything else (including that they will be able to help with accommodation). Before travelling, you could check that they will have time and would like to see you.

  • Invite them out for a meal. For many that will be a real luxury.

  • You will probably be a real encouragement to them and, if you are willing, be able to share in a service or a young people’s meeting. You will be thrilled to meet believers from their church. These are the people you have been praying for!

  • If you are going as a family, there may be a camp or holiday Bible club that your children can join in, or friendships to be made with local children and young people.

  • Do you want to use some of your holiday to serve the Lord and to do something useful? Perhaps you can distribute literature or help do practical work on a new church building, Are you an IT wizard? It may be just what they need. Contact the missionary and offer your skills.

  • Taking it one step further – consider whether a team could go over and join in a sports camp or be involved in helping to run a children’s club.

Missionaries are normal human beings just like you and me. They are not super spiritual. They have highs and lows, are often very busy, but sometimes lonely and discouraged. Whether they are expats or nationals, they will be pleased to share time with you, talk about the Lord, their work (and also about your church back home), and to pray together.

Yes, have that holiday that you need.  Enjoy the tourist activities, but you can also make your holiday count for the Lord and bring pleasure to His people. You won’t be disappointed. And neither will they.