Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Travel: An Antidote to Prejudice

Written by: on February 17, 2021

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

Malcolm X to Mecca.

Diedrich Bonhoeffer to Harlem.

And Frederick Douglass to Ireland.

These leaders were forged through their international experiences. There’s something about international travel that opens eyes, provides margin for contemplation, and awakens adventure. New experiences, surprises, and interactions with all things different force a type of disoriented learning that seeks understanding. International travel chisels away long-held assumptions, while also galvanizing transcendent truths and postures.

A commemorative plaque to mark Douglass’s visits to Cork, Ireland.

For Frederick Douglass, as his popularity and notoriety increased in the US, fear was growing that his former master would attempt to find Douglass. Many encouraged Douglass to tour Ireland and Great Britain. This journey affords us some of Douglass’s most poetic passages from his memoir as if the water and travel gave rise to the words themself. Douglass was supported by comrades who were mutually inspirational. He was mentored by the abolitionists of a generation past, energized by the packed rooms to engage his lectures, and for the first time was treated “not as a color, but as a man” (Blight, Frederick Douglass, 138-156).

I’ll assume the immersive, international advances played a significant role in your process of choosing this program. We continue to lament our “missed” opportunity and hope with all hope that we can increase our broad, wholesome, and charitable views through linking arms… oh wait, that would be too close in proximity… together this fall.

Reflecting on international travel gives me renewed fervor for the short-term sending of college students with Cru. Not so much for the lasting change they might bring (though I would never minimize what God can do), but that they might participate in for their own formation.

Bigotry-battering travel is a non-negotiable element for the formation of today’s thoughtful leaders. Where shall we go?


Photo Credit: Open Plaques

David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018).

About the Author

Shawn Cramer

5 responses to “Travel: An Antidote to Prejudice”

  1. Dylan Branson says:

    My first trips to Hong Kong were on short term summer trips and they always ended in a one week “Vision Trip” to a location where the organization had a long term presence. While the summer experience itself was supposed to be a “dip your toes in the water” type scenario, the Vision Trip was where we got to see the long term effects of the organization’s work.

    The one trip I always wanted to go on with them was to Laos, but never got the opportunity (I always say that the Holy Spirit was blocking me because every chance I DID get, something happened to where I was switched to another place 😛 ). But for those who spent their time in Laos, they came back with a new perspective on the work that God is doing there. It was like scales falling from their eyes and many of them ended up signing up long-term with the organization because of that trip.

  2. John McLarty says:

    A friend and I were talking earlier this week at the different ways people in our state are reacting and dealing with this current weather and energy emergency. We aren’t tested like this very often where I live and it brings out some interesting things in people. I’ve wondered if my own experiences in “developing” parts of the world- both in terms of having to make do and in learning from people who live everyday with very little- had helped build a bit more patience and resilience in me. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t want to come off as smug. Your post invites me to consider how a broader worldview can help us face more personal challenges later. Unfortunately, as my friend said, “most people have had their head up their butts for so long they’ve forgotten what the real world really looks like.” What have your travels taught you?

  3. Jer Swigart says:

    Stunning quote by Twain. Wow. I agree…and…yet I think his argument falls a tad short. He doesn’t seem to capture that it’s not just the experience of travel, but also the disposition of the traveler.

    I’ve noticed (and heard myriad times throughout my own global travel) that there seems to be something ingrained within U.S. Americans that shapes the way that we travel. Many of my international colleagues would say that colonialism has duped U.S. Americans into believing that the world (its resources and inhabitants) is there for our consuming pleasure. In this regard, travel doesn’t change us, but, instead, reinforces an elitism (dare I say, “supremacy”) that is misguided and detrimental to all.

    As I think you would agree, this is especially pronounced in our methods for short-term missions or ministries. What are some of the best CRU practices for helping your young travelers embody the reality that they are the projects to be undone and remade throughout their travel?

  4. Greg Reich says:

    Your post causes me to ponder my travels over seas and what I have learned. Each trip has been a labor of love. Interestingly I have never traveled out of the US or Canada for vacation. It has always been for business, schooling or ministry. Each time I have learned more than I have taught and received far more than I have given. It impacted me so much that as my children grew in ager each one of them was given opportunities to travel abroad. Each one grew tremendously.

  5. Darcy Hansen says:

    As I read your words, I’m reminded of my many visits to Rwanda. That little landlocked nation and its people changed and captured my heart in ways I could not predict. In 2007, only 27% of Americans had a passport. By 2018, that number rose to 42%. Much of that increase happened because passports were required for travel between the US, Mexico, and Canada.**

    I remember my friends in Rwanda asking me about the travel habits of Americans. I told them few ever leave the country. The reasons are varied, but I think overall, many are quite content to remain where they are. I have friends in Arkansas who never left the state until they were in the 40s. Some have never been on an airplane. Travel has been one of my greatest joys and transformation initiators. Understanding that I am in the minority population of the world who lives the way we do has encouraged humility and empathy for others. It also has forced me to pause and consider how our American way of life is detrimental for creation, relationships with others, and our understanding of God.

    **Source: (https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2018/01/11/the-share-of-americans-holding-a-passport-has-increased-dramatically-in-recent-years-infographic/?sh=11def9a33c16)

Leave a Reply