I still remember the Lufthansa Boeing 747 in April 2020 flying a loop over Christchurch evacuating tourists as borders were closed across the world and regular flights cancelled. In the years after that there were hardly any tourists around. Last year more essential travel slowly returned. And now tourists have finally returned in numbers to New Zealand, I have recently noticed them back in force. Sometimes that can feel annoying as getting accommodation or tickets to attractions is not only more difficult, but also significantly more expensive. Popular places are fuller, mountain huts are occupied.
That also means that family and friends now feel more confident to travel – that is a joy for many of us. They are often welcome guests.
I have often wondered how we can treat the many tourists more as guests, rather than annoying crowds or sources of revenue. How can we show them some of the beauty of this land? How can we share something of our faith with them? After all, people who are in unfamiliar settings are often more open to new experiences and new understanding. Maybe during their travels tourists can get a new impetus, which can blossom later. On the other hand, bad experiences may also influence travellers, so that they think less positively of New Zealand or sections of society or the Church.
We never know the effects of our actions and our conversations. Maybe what we do is quickly forgotten in the flash of experiences; but maybe it lingers on in someone’s memory, even subconsciously.
At St Paul’s we have also noticed more international visitors recently, both during “Open Church” and at services. It is great to have these visitors. They may never fill slots on our roster or contribute regularly to the Church, but taking time for them is nevertheless important—and often interesting. I hope that as we encounter tourists, we can see them as individuals, and at times even as valued guests.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2