Maintaining a faith and finding ‘churches near me’ while backpacking
Hey friends. Today I’m writing a little about our faith, and how we plug in to faith-based communities and find churches while travelling (as well as tips to finding churches wherever you are in the world!) If you didn’t know already, we are a Christian family- that is to say Patrick and I are and Esmae and Eira I also think would identify as Christians. Elfie identifies mainly with biscuits and the Lion King. We don’t subscribe to any denomination- we barely subscribe to calling ourselves Christians as we don’t feel labels are helpful and they are divisive. We love Jesus and so would prefer to call ourselves Jesus lovers, but sometimes it’s just quicker and less confusing to say Christian, so…
Back in the UK we attended an amazing church and it is probably the thing we have missed most while travelling full time. Our routine was to usually attend morning services on a Sunday and then Patrick and I would take it in turns to go to the two evening services (yes, three times on a Sunday, we are wild). We also had a weekly home group and I helped with a teenage girls’ group on a Monday so I think it’s fair to say we were pretty involved and certainly committed.
One of the biggest challenges while travelling is maintaining our faith. That might sound weird to people who don’t have a religious faith, but what I mean is that when you are used to hearing teaching several times a week and being around people of the same faith, there is a big void left when you leave that behind. It’s kind of like… I dunno, having a personal trainer three times a week and then suddenly having to train yourself with no gym and no instruction and fewer people to chat about sports to; you just have to kind of figure it out and self-motivate in a pretty big way.
Finding churches near you: How easy is it to find a church wherever you are?
Our intention has been to find a church wherever we are and attend it each Sunday. That has proven harder than we thought- there are a fair few Catholic churches in most cities, but we aren’t Catholic and these often don’t have kids’ church and we are very intentional about allowing church to be a very positive experience for the kids. We’ve met far too many adults who were completely put off faith through being forced to attend boring churches as kids, and one of our main priorities as parents is to give our kids a positive experience, free from force.
Then there’s the language barriers; often churches are in another language, so not really suitable as a weekly thing for our family.
In Bali we Googled ‘churches near me’, found an amazing church and really settled in within the 6 weeks that we were in Sanur. We’ll be attending regularly when we head back to Bali in a few months and this is something we are really looking forward to – the teaching, the community, the fact that the kids LOVED children’s church so much that they asked to go on random days of the week!
In Thailand we attended a tiny home church on the Thai-Burma border, and this was another great experience. Three families attended and the adults watched a YouTube preach downstairs while the kids had Bible stories and snacks upstairs, and that was cool too.
Here in Sri Lanka we haven’t found somewhere yet, mainly due to the shockingly bad WiFi so it is almost impossible to research online, but we will try and make a big effort this Sunday.
Challenges to faith as a full time travelling family
It is all too easy when you’re travelling to fall out of some habits and into others. Combining this with an very challenging environment (travel with kids is wonderful but also very challenging) and it is easy to start to fade out from your usual practises. Mum has been incredibly committed to listening to the usual church preaches that are streamed online, as well as her home group who have kindly recorded their sessions every week, and Patrick loves listening to podcasts of different theologians and philosophers. I, frankly, need to get my ass in gear and make it more of a priority.
Another thing that can have an impact on faith while traveling is the huge increase in difficult situations that you might come across. Just before Christmas we were involved with a children’s charity, and as well as being a wonderful experience it was also very challenging. Going to places where there are high levels of poverty can be something that you really have to work with and process with regards to your faith, and I have found this challenging especially with regards to the extreme suffering that children experience, and the institutionalised corruption around the world. Nature is somewhere that I personally find God’s glory very evident and it is wonderful that we are surrounded by so much natural beauty; I would encourage you wherever you are to seek this out and meditate on it in your spiritual practises.
Finding a church anywhere in the world
If you are travelling and want to find a church, there are a few things (other than Google ‘churches near me’) that you can do to make it easier to find a church that will suit you. Here are our tips!
- Get the Church Finder app. Available on iTunes or the Play Store, this app uses GPS to determine where you are and show up a list of churches near you. You can ask for specific denominations or see all the churches near to you. Over 280,000 churches are in this directory and it is used by over a million people.
2. Find Facebook groups for towns/cities and ask in there for church recommendations- this is a great way to meet new friends before you’ve even set foot in the church! You can also search for ‘Christians (location)’ in Facebook as there will probably be one or two faith-based location groups too.
3. Google ‘churches in (your location) and grab the contact info for different churches from the results page. Then go onto Facebook and see if each church has its own Facebook page- you can also check out their ratings so if you are looking for something like a good kids’ ministry you can see more information this way.
4. Ask your home church for any contacts for the area you are travelling to. More often than not someone will know someone and will be more than happy to contact someone to connect you with a friendly face when you get to your new destination.
I’ll be posting more soon on what we do individually to grow our spiritual lives, including creative prayer journaling and tips to help kids explore their spirituality. Any questions? As always, let me know!