When was the last time you heard a tourism expert talk about land redistribution and debt forgiveness?

TV travel program host Rick Steves donates $4 million apartment complex for homeless woman and children

by Ken Sehested

        Years ago, when I first heard Rick Steves’ squeaky voice, channel flipping late on night, I thought it was satire. This being my last resort of delaying bedtime, I continued watching. And then later, in my night owl habit of TV diversion to put my brain in neutral to (hopefully) coast toward sleep, I would stumble across his show again. Over time, I actually began to look for the “Rick Steves’ Europe” program.

        Why? I don’t remember exact details now, but interspersed with touristy stuff, he actually made a few honest comments about some of the history that had occurred in that place which the local chamber of commerce doesn't mention, the kinds of things travel brochures will never say.

        Then there’s his talking about travel as an education in global awareness (and not just voyeurism), talking about “Travel as a Spiritual Act”  and as a “political” act, about the way travels helps us “challenge truths we were raised to think were self-evident and God-given,” and his desire that travel help us “become better citizens of our planet.” He has initiated multiple fundraising efforts to support things like Habitat for Humanity, and is an active member in his hometown Lutheran Church.

        But Steves’ vision and commitment go beyond simple charity.

        “I traveled in Central America, where I learned civil wars that I thought were between communists and capitalists were actually between obscenely rich oligarchs and landless peasants. I hung out with poor Christians who took the Biblical Jubilee Year (the notion that every fifty years the land is to be re-divided and debts are to be forgiven) seriously . . . even though rich Christians assumed God must have been kidding.”

        Just goes to show you never know in advance when kindred spirits will emerge in the most unlikely of places. That’s why healthy spiritual communities emphasize paying attention in all things. There is no secular space. There are only sacred spaces and desecrated spaces. Jesus had a marked proclivity for being in the latter.

        Our confidence in claiming to track the coordinates of when, where and how the Spirit will show up is often misplaced. More often we are surprised, and even make us look foolish. So don’t be afraid of feeling foolish. Foolishness is Spirit’s middle name; surprise, Her nickname.

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Read Steves’ commentary, “Travel, Budget Beds, and the Homeless.”
©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org