When we were children, my brother and I loved reading National Geographic. We absorbed new issues as soon as they arrived. We also sought out older issues, buying stacks at garage sales until our collection spanned many decades.

Reading National Geographic was like staring at the stars. It reminded us how wondrously small we are. Its blazing images expanded our vision of the startling enormity of the planet, the fecundity of creation, and the diversity of human life. Its stories made clear that our own experience was a tiny fragment in a vaster and more mysterious reality.

It was a humbling recognition, but one that stirred a holy longing. To rise up on our feet, leave the still air of our indoor lives, and go. To wander and explore. To measure ourselves against the horizons of the world. To test our nerve against its dangers. To confront ourselves with ways of being in the world radically unlike any we knew. And to return changed. Wiser and hardier. More capacious. Containing more of the world within our rib cages.

Our prayer is that the issue you hold in your hands will have a similar effect. That it will transport you to far-flung corners of the globe and expand your imagination of what it might mean to follow Jesus. That it will show you the immensity and the beauty of the body of Christ. And that it will stir in all of us that same sacred yearning to go beyond ourselves, outside ourselves, and plunge into the life of a kingdom that knows no boundaries and never ends.

We stand near the close of a profoundly painful year. A global pandemic has brought death and devastation on a colossal scale. Racial and political tensions have torn apart our families, our churches, and our country. We find ourselves disappointed in our leaders, ...

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