The passion of Wanderlust

The pretty brunette exhales atop the mountain range. Slender fingers sling her backpack down in the snow. Brown eyes sparkle as she beholds the splendid view. She laughs and lifts her hands to heaven.

She is my sister. Single, 30-something year old world traveller. By day, a child protection counsellor with two degrees to her name. A few weeks a year, wanderlust is her passion.

Michelle was 23 when she took her first overseas trip from native Australia to Canada. She started in Toronto, Ontario, and spent 12 months on a working holiday visa in the States and North America. Michelle caught the travel bug.

Her adventures have taken her from safari in Africa, to the beauty of Europe and the wilds of the Amazon jungle.

Look her up on Facebook and you will read, “Just returned from the holiday of a lifetime! The world is an amazing place.”

Michelle grew up as a tomboy on a sheep and wheat farm in central New South Wales, Australia. She adored Dad and would often be found mustering mobs of sheep on a motorbike, or shooting rabbits with a 22 calibre rifle. After finishing school, she spent her gap year undertaking a rural traineeship on the family farm.

With a heart for kids, particularly troubled youths, she spent time working in a juvenile detention centre. Her first university degree was in early childhood teaching; her second social work.

She has a beautiful heart, crafted by her heavenly Father. Since the age of nine, she has called Jesus Lord. Michelle has always attended church, served on various teams, led Bible studies and drawn her friends into fellowship. She is pure in body and spirit. A true princess daughter of the King.

For her first mission trip, Michelle worked in Watoto baby home in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. She was assigned to the “Hippo Room”, caring for 12 month old babies. The little boys and girls came from hospitals where mothers gave birth and left, or were brought in off the streets and from garbage dumps by police. Many had HIV.

Photos of Michelle from this time show my white sister sitting down on the ground, and half a dozen black babies lying on her drinking milk from bottles. Michelle’s smile is radiant. I think God smiles when He thinks of that time.

More recently, Michelle spent five weeks in South America. On her single wage and with a house mortgage, she sponsors five children. She visited three on her trip; Lisandro in San Salvador, Juan in Managua and Pedro in Guayaquil. They were blessed during this time with her presence, and the Nike soccer balls she gave them. Not to mention the finances and letters she has sent over the years. They are her spiritual sons.

Picture a beautiful woman with a listening ear and wise counsel. A thoughtful, compassionate friend. Hear a lovely soprano singing voice worshipping God. A mighty intercessor praying for her clients.

Watch as she jumps out of a plane, skydiving over an aqua ocean. Plummets down raging rapids in a white water raft. Treks through forests, perspiration beading under her cap.

The pretty brunette exhales atop the mountain range. Slender fingers sling her backpack down in the snow. Brown eyes sparkle as she beholds the splendid view. She laughs and lifts her hands to heaven.

“Ask of me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as your possession.” Psalm 2:8

Nicki Jeffery – is an Aussie country girl who has travelled the world and now lives at the beach. Her passions are teaching, writing, and caring for her husband and sons, and she is a member of Faithwriters. Her first book, “Faith-based Travels: A Devotional Guidebook for the Faith-filled Traveller”, was written to help Christians stay close to God whilst travelling.

Adventures in the land of Queen Esther

“Are you okay back there, Trudy?” asked ‘Uncle’ Les.

“Doing fine.” I whispered.

I was just getting over a bronchial infection, but no way was I going to miss this trip.

As we bumped along Route 21 from Kermanshah to Shush, my thoughts went to Queen Esther.

It was December 1976. What an exciting thing to live and work in the world of Queen Esther, Daniel and Cyrus the Great. I chuckled to myself. Who would have thought that being a missionary could be so much fun?

There was a lively discussing about Esther, “star” in Persian – the foreign orphan girl forced into the biggest beauty contest in the kingdom.

She had three strikes against her.

1. She was an orphan. Her older cousin Mordecai raised her. Orphans and widows were third-class citizens.
2. She was female. Women in the Persian Empire had little value or respect. Even in the 1970’s women in Iran made few decisions. As I walked into any bank I would get the strangest looks. Who would trust a woman with money! It sounds pre-historic but it’s true even today in places.
3. She was a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land. But God had a plan. He used her influence to save the Jewish nation. …”for such a time as this.”(Esther 4:14)

It was 5 p.m. when we reached Shush, where the ruins of Shushan the palace beckoned us. This sure isn’t interstate! Over 7 hours to go 250 miles?!

As we stopped at a restaurant, the aroma of “Chelo kebab” (rice and lamb strips) tickled my nostrils. We were all worn out from the trip and sure enjoyed the lovely meal set before us. Dr. C and his lovely wife had been to Shush a number of times. How great to have someone on our team of missionaries who knew the area.

Then we checked into a somewhat classy rinky-dink motel. ‘Somewhat classy’ means the sheets were clean and there didn’t appear to be any bedbugs. Yes, Dr. C. had done his homework!

The next morning dawned cloudy. Rather strange for this desert town. After breakfast we headed to the ruins of Shushan the place. It was a sticky 80 degrees when we left for Shushan, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities. It was the Persian winter capital from 675-330 BC.

After climbing up the mound it was really sticky! Dr. C gave us a “tour” of the palace. Then, as we stood where the throne room use to be, he began to read portions of Ezra, Esther and Daniel. It started to rain. Just as Dr. C. read Ezra 1:1 “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia….” The heavens opened up and it poured!

That ended the Bible lesson; we scurried down the muddy slope as best we could and ran for cover!

After a cup of tea, we headed for an indoor spot, the alleged tomb of Daniel the prophet. We do know that Daniel lived in Shush (Susa). Whether this is his tomb or not is debatable. This is a very holy place for Muslims, and I wondered if all the pilgrims had chosen this day to visit the tomb. The three of us ladies were given black chadors (full body coverings) before following the crowd downstairs. If it was sticky outside, it was hot, stuffy and sticky inside. The chador didn’t help any.

A year ago I googled a tour website that plans trips into Iran. I shook my head in disbelief. Who would be traveling to Iran today with world conditions the way they are? When I checked out the ruins of Shushan the palace there was this notation about the ruin. “This site will be closed after heavy rains.” I chuckled as I remembered slipping and sliding down the muddy slope and running for cover.

Two weeks later I checked out the same website. All I found was a travel warning. The information on Shush was blocked out. It is no longer possible to visit the land of Queen Esther. How sad. Yet, with the damage done because of the conflicts, there really isn’t much left to see.

What a privilege and blessing to have made this trip before things fell apart. God is good, all the time.

Trudy Newell – Retired Christar missionary. Served in Iran, Kenya. (among Muslims/Hindus) England (among Hindus) and now reaching Hindus in NE GA. Married to Mike Newell – the best ever! A member of Faithwriters.

How chronically ill can manage pain in comfortable hotels

If you have a chronic condition, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, making the effort to travel can leave you feeling exhausted and ready to crash on a comfortable bed like you’d find in those cute little bed and breakfasts. But until recently, those with chronic illnesses often found a hard bed and few comforts of home. But this is changing fast.

If you’re like me, (I have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis) I always sit down on the bed to see just how hard it is and that determines if I’m going to find the closest Target and buy an “egg carton crate” foam mattress that I just leave when I check out. The beds nearly always feel like a slab of cement. I avoid actually touching the bedspread (they don’t wash them too frequently) and then begin my calls to the front desk. “I need three more pillows.” If they don’t have them I try to roll up towels to prop my shoulders into the right place.

Thankfully, hotels figured out that everyone likes comfort. (Well, nearly everyone. A few have complained about “what do I do with all these pillows?”) The first “hotel bed wars” began over six years ago as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. rolled out their Westin Heavenly Bed which became so popular guests insisted on taking it home. Then Hilton Hotels announced a $1 billion effort that includes the addition of its branded Serenity Bed, signature mattress pads, down pillows, linens, decorative bed pillows and bolsters. Their web site sells everything from The Hilton Family Exclusive Clock Radio to a showerhead (Hilton sisters not included.)

Sheraton’s popular Sweet Sleeper Bed, the Four Comfort Bed is a multi-layered, “cozy cocoon.” The four key comfort points are: a deluxe 11.5″ Sealy Posturepedic Plush Top Sleep System featuring a 9-inch high Shock Abzzorber(R) foundation; four large luxurious pillows including two feather/down and two Euro Square lounging pillows; a decorative and inviting cushioned duvet; and, crisp cotton blend sheets. In late 2003, free high-speed Internet access was added, upgraded bathroom products and (gasp!) complimentary bottled water.

I recently has the privilege to stay in a the downtown Denver Marriott and found 300-thread-count sheets, a feathered mattress topper, stylish pillow shams, a decorative bed scarf and (yippee!) extra pillows—I believe I counted eight. I had just purchased my travel version of the Cuddle Ewe, a special mattress for those with fibromyalgia, but Marriott’s bed felt so good I thought I’d forgo the Cuddle Ewe (until 3 a.m. when I got up and put it on the bed). But truth be told, my family makes fun of me that I am like the princess who can feel the pea in her bed under fifteen mattresses. The bedspreads have been replaced by pretty white covers which are washed and a colorful “bed scarf.” (Half a blanket that adds some color to the foot of the bed.)

And those bath supplies you can never squeeze out of those teeny tiny bottles—I actually was able to squeeze out the conditioner and took home my extras. Glancing through the catalog, displayed prominently on the bedside table, I saw I could order the 10-ounce size of Orange Ginger Aromatherapy Body Wash for just $13.50. Not bad considering it’s by Bath & Body Works®. Or if that lamp caught my attention, or even the shower curtain rings, they too could be mine for an extra charge.

Most hotels do their best to be accommodating to those with chronic illness. You can ask for a complimentary refrigerator for your room if you need it to store medication that must be kept cold. If they don’t have one available, you can ask them to store it downstairs in their own refrigeration, but you may be safer with an ice bucket.

When you make reservations, ask for a room near the elevator so you don’t have to walk too far. You may want to be close (or not close) to places like the pool, ice maker and internet “café.” If you need a disabled-friendly room, don’t be afraid to ask. You may be able to get a walk-in shower and raised toilet seat with hand rails.

Small hotels without concierge service will bring your bags up to your room as a service. And if carrying luggage through an airport is difficult, you may be interested in LuggageExpress. They provide luggage transportation services by collecting travelers’ luggage from home, hotel or business and delivering it to the end destination. The baggage flies on a separate independent flight, is in the hotel room when the traveler checks in, and is returned on a separate flight to home. See . Another new service is Avis Rent A Car System’s pilot program where customers can rent a mobility scooter and have it waiting in the trunk of their next rental vehicle or delivered to the customer’s location, the first program in the industry. The program starts in Las Vegas and Orlando.

Hotels are coming up with all kinds of interesting perks these days to lure customers to their business. For example at Cherry Valley Lodge near Columbus, Ohio you can get the “MenoPause Escape.” The package is $350 for two women sharing a double which includes a fan and cooling pillow, 30-minute massage and bottle of wine.

What do I really want? A soft bed, lots of pillows, a reading light that won’t wake up the rest of the room, something that drowns out the snoring of my guests who are sleeping soundly, and a bowl of soup that cost considerably less than $7.95. Oh, and an alarm clock I can actually figure out how to set and a remote control I can work. Until then, I’ll stick with my Cuddle Ewe, my grocery bag of sugar-free snacks, and hotels that have Starbucks nearby.

Lisa Copen – is the founder of Rest Ministries, Inc., a Christian organization that serves people who live with chronic illness or pain. She is the author of various books on chronic illness, including, “Mosaic Moments: Devotionals for the Chronically Ill”; and “Why Can’t I Make People Understand? Discovering the validation those with chronic illness seek and why.” She’s lived with rheumatoid arthritis since 1993 and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.