On Columbus Day, we celebrate the day that Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas, proving that the world is round and finding a whole new world to explore. In total, he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean four times, leading to ongoing contact between Europe and the Americas.
It might not seem that there are many new lands to explore these days. World travel is as easy as hopping on an airplane, and the Internet connects us instantaneously with people on the other side of the globe. However, we can still be trailblazers, not only in making contact with strangers, but in sharing Christ’s love with them.
Other Lands are Everywhere
In this connected world, “other lands” has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s no longer limited to helping others and spreading the Gospel in other countries to those who might never have heard it before.
That’s still important work, but sometimes going to another land means stepping out of our comfort zone and going to places that are near our homes, yet a world away. The people there may already know of Jesus, but they may have never experienced a demonstration of His love.
The importance of helping others is spelled out very clearly in the Book of Matthew:
I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ —Matthew 25:36-40
How do we accomplish this? How can every family member help? For those who are both literally and figuratively far away, it can mean anything from going on a mission trip for summer vacation to supporting those who are travelers to strange worlds like Columbus. We can help them monetarily or with other donations.
Get the Whole Family Involved
Kids love getting involved in mission work. It gives them a sense of pride and builds their self esteem to help the less fortunate. Often they get into a “me, mine” mindset, and get locked into materialism because of the pressure to keep up with their peers with the latest toys, clothes and electronic gadgets.
When you educate them about children who don’t have enough to eat and who are happy to have even tattered clothing, it opens their eyes. Suddenly they realize how blessed they really are and understand why Jesus wants us to share with others.
You can even use Columbus Day as a springboard to sponsor a child in another country. Instead of just being a one-off gesture, it gives you and your family a personal connection with someone in another part of the world. Just as Columbus made several return trips to the Americas, you can maintain that long term bond and know that you’re making a real difference for someone.
Organizations like World Vision, Compassion International, and Save the Children all let you do a virtual world journey to pick the child of your choice. Get the kids involved in selecting the new family member. It’s one thing to send money to a charity, but quite another to put a face to that donation and to know exactly who it’s helping.
Strange Lands Close to Home
Although there’s a need for Christ’s love around the world, you don’t have to journey very far to find a strange land. Often, it’s just miles from your own home, when you step outside of your comfortable neighborhood and into the inner city areas or pockets of rural poverty.
According to Feeding America, 15 percent of Americans were in poverty as of 2011, and over 20 percent of households with children were having trouble getting enough to eat. These are people right in the United States who can use a demonstration of Christ’s love in a very practical way. How better to teach them about Christianity than to show them the values at its core? You can talk about what Jesus taught while showing them what He was all about at the same time.
Projects your family can get involved in on the home front include food and clothing drives, serving at a soup kitchen, coaching underprivileged youngsters in sports, tutoring them in school subjects, and acting as mentors. It’s a great way to use your talents and interests to improve the world by helping others.
Columbus was a pioneer who opened the door to continued visits to the Americas, which eventually led to colonization and to our country today. When you touch the lives of natives in other lands, whether they be near or far, you also make an impact that will have ripples far into the future.