Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 22, 2012

My Current Location

Doha, Qatar

In addition to collecting coins and stamps and other stuff when I was a kid, I also collected maps. When I was in elementary school, my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to join Commander Whitehall’s Explorers Club. For a fee of $5.00 per month, which was a lot of money in the 1960’s, I received a monthly package from Commander Whitehall. Each package contained a fast-facts information sheet about the country of the month, a small souvenir, a floppy vinyl record with Commander Whitehall’s narrative about that particular country and, most important of all, a map. The maps were important because they helped me to see the locations of the places mentioned in Commander Whitehall’s recorded narrative. Over a period of time these maps, and others in my collection, helped me to develop a sense of geographical context. In those early years I learned to match certain landmarks with countries and I also began to formulate a broad understanding about other people groups that share our planet.

I never lost my interest in maps and could never have imagined the day when a global positioning system  would help me to pinpoint my current location anywhere in the world. I purchased my first handheld GPS in the Fall of 2005 just prior to my trip to Darfur, Sudan. Two of my team members were retired airline pilots. They gave me a crash course in navigation and in understanding the basics of longitude and latitude. We had some good conversations along the way as we used the GPS to track our location among the displacement camps in Darfur. The dots on the map became even more meaningful because I could associate them with the desperate and heartbreaking realities I had witnessed at each location. Last year my son purchased a SPOT Tracker for his canoeing adventures along Texas Rivers. This little device sends a signal to a satellite that is then sent to an online map that tracks his progress in near-real time. When he is off canoeing and camping on his own I can always know where he is. The device also has a panic button that he can press if he is in distress that allows rescuers to pinpoint his location and send help. This is definitely a don’t leave home without it gadget for anyone who ventures afield and afar.

Maps have certainly reached a remarkable level of accuracy and sophistication. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours along the shores of the Persian Gulf with some friends. I used the GPS feature on my iPhone while en route to our destination and then used it to pinpoint our exact location once we arrived. It’s beyond cool to look at the satellite image on Google Maps and to know that, in the words of some philosopher, “no matter where you go, there you are.” It’s also pretty cool that the pictures that I take with my iPhone are linked to a map. Now when I look back at my photos I can see exactly where I was when I took them, giving geographical context a whole new meaning. Looking at my current location on a map has also challenged me to consider whether I did anything more than just visit or live in a particular place. I always want to look back and to know that wherever I ventured I made the most of my time there. I want to ensure that I was kind to others, asked the kind of questions that helped me to learn more about them, and that I made the most of every opportunity to encourage and to be a blessing to those I met along the way. Mark Twain once said that travel is fatal to prejudice and bigotry and can help us to develop charitable views of others. He was right. Today when I look at my current location on a map, I want to do all that I can to make my time there meaningful, to continue to develop charitable views of others, and to leave with as few regrets as possible.


Responses

  1. Very cool! What is the app on your iPhone that you use? I would love to add it to mine! (I have no doubt that you did more than just visit…you always leave the fragrance of Christ wherever you go!)

    • Thanks, Pam. I use the Google Maps app on my phone and the National Geographic maps on my iPad. Love both of these apps.


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