Posts Tagged ‘christian missions trip’

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Help for the Novice Traveler

Sometimes, members of your mission group are new to overseas travel, or simply haven’t traveled for some time. Here are some ways trip leaders can help team members who are travel novices.

Don’t make assumptions about your team when it comes to their level of travel experience. You probably will have team members who fly only occasionally, or who haven’t flown in a significant period of time. So, early in your team interactions, try to get a feel for each team member’s travel comfort level.

airport screeningTalk through the travel process with your team. Make sure you address things like luggage weight and size limits, as well as the importance of making sure the gate agent puts the right tag on the bags. Explain the security screening process and the need to keep liquids in three-ounce containers inside a clear, quart-sized, plastic bag. Also discuss the boarding process.

Have a travel interruption contingency plan, especially if your team isn’t traveling in one group. You should have this plan even if you have a team of experienced travelers. For the infrequent flyer, this is vital.

Discuss what to do if a flight is canceled or delayed (see our past blog posts on Dealing with Airline Gate Agents and Avoiding Weather Delays for tips). If you purchase travel insurance through Ministry Travel, make sure that your team has the policy information and contact numbers. This insurance usually covers trip interruptions and provides 24-hour travel assistance.

Enlist travel buddies, especially for older travelers or those who are nervous about flying. Pair a team member who is an experienced traveler with someone who is not.

Explain how passport control and customs work, both for the country you are traveling to and for the U.S. on your return. These tips will help you greatly improve the rookie traveler’s experience.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Support Letter Can Help Raise Funds for Mission Trip

You leave the information meeting excited. In fact, you may have never been as excited about anything in your life as you are about this. It’s an opportunity to touch lives and make a difference in the world through a mission trip. You can picture yourself there: serving, helping, sharing. With the volunteer application form in one hand and the trip brochure in the other, you sit down to read through the materials. Everything is great except, for one part of the brochure: the part with the dollar sign in it.

“How can I ever come up with that much money?” you ask yourself. They talked about fundraising in your meeting, and you know other people who have done this, but still, it’s a lot of money!

You can take comfort in knowing that using a missionary fare from Ministry Travel may allow you to focus on your fundraising without having to pay until 30 to 45 days before your departure (depending on the airline).

But when it comes to raising the funds, where do you start? First, take a deep breath and then pray! The saying, “Where God guides, God provides,” has proven true countless times over. Second, come up with a fund- raising plan. God does provide, but He also expects us to demonstrate our commitment. Consider creating a plan with five parts: the support letter, friend involvement, fundraisers, social media and personal sacrifices.

In this article we will focus on the support letter. For many mission trip volunteers, this is the first — and sometimes only — tool they use to raise funds. This is a letter sent to family and friends outlining the mission you are undertaking and inviting them to consider supporting you. In the day of electronic everything, many people have abandoned the hard-copy support letter for the much easier email version. My suggestion, however, is to stick to snail mail.

There are several reasons why “old-fashioned” just might be better. First, people are so inundated with email today that your message can easily be lost or ignored. Second, there is something special about getting a personal letter in the mail. Also, people typically don’t make the decision to give support the moment they hear about the need. They ponder it, talk about it with their spouse, etc. Your hard-copy letter is a physical reminder that they need to make a decision.

So what makes for an effective support letter? Three things: brevity, clarity and a response mechanism. Keep the letter to one page. People have short attention spans and respond better to a focused message. State clearly why you decided to go on this trip and exactly what you will be doing. Then ask the person for support and provid a return envelope. If they can give online, make sure that information is include as well.

 What about people for whom you only have an email address? Go ahead and put your support letter verbiage in an email. Just make sure it includes the elements mentioned above. Since you can’t email a physical envelope, the message should include a link where they can give instantly or where they can print out mailing instructions (instant is best!). Also, email should be even shorter than a traditional letter. You can include a link in it to more information if necessary.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Christian Mission Volunteers – Building Bridges

We continue to be amazed at the diverse ways Ministry Travel clients impact the world. Each year we help thousands of short-term missionaries serve in places across the globe–some in major urban centers while others trek off to remote villages. Once there these Christian missions volunteers do everything from starting churches and caring for orphans to providing medical care and feeding the hungry.

They also build bridges—literally as well as figuratively.

Yonathan shared on our Facebook page his mission trip story of helping build a bridge for the Bribri people of Costa Rica. He wrote, “In the last few years, many mission teams have assisted with various significant work projects, but perhaps the most crucial was a suspension bridge in the remote village of Alto Coen, deep in the Costa Rican rainforest. An isolated community of about 130 people, Alto Coen is only accessible by an hour boat ride, a half hour bus ride, and a four hour hike.”

Yonathan shared that for years the isolated village dreamed of having a 100 meter suspension bridge. “The project had been a prolonged, complex process for the Bribri as they fought to find aid and funds to build this much-needed bridge. With the addition of a bridge, families would no longer be constrained by the powerful river that divided their village. The children from the far side of the river would be able to attend school regularly, and doctors would be able to reach the entire village to provide medical attention for the ill,” wrote Yonathan.

Their dream became a reality thanks in part to the efforts of American short term mission volunteers who labored for many days in hot summer heat. But the praise, said Yonathan, goes to the village’s people. “By far the ones who labored the longest and the hardest were the people of Alto Coen. It has been nearly nine years since they first began planning for the apparently impossible endeavor, yet they never gave up. They accomplished tasks by hand that most people would only consider undertaking with heavy equipment.”

How does Yonathan feel as he reflects on that mission trip?

“It is an uplifting feeling every time I return and see them eager to work and accomplish a new project that will empower their community. Continue to pray for the people of Alto Coen,” he said.

Helping those who empower others—that’s what we do each day here at Ministry Travel. We’re glad that we can play a part in helping people like Yonathan make such a difference in people’s lives. If you are planning a mission trip, we would love to provide you with discounted international airfare and excellent service from travel agents who really know missionary and humanitarian travel. Contact us at www.ministrytravel.com or by phone at 1-877-541-5726.

 

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Preparing Mission Teams for 2012 Airfare Increases

The continued soft global economy has airlines cutting flights and raising prices, and that could have a major impact on missions teams and their 2012 budgets. In addition, with the Olympics coming to London next year (a major transfer airport for missionary teams) airline prices are being driven up even more.

USAToday reported that airfares rose in the U.S. nearly 10% for the 12 months ending in August compared to the previous 12 months, and the major U.S. airlines will cut capacity 2%-4% next year. This means 2012 airfares could go up even more. Baggage and miscellaneous airline fees are also on the rise.

In addition to fare increases, travelers can expect tax increases in 2012, especially on international trips. The White House has proposed travel tax increases, the UK is threatening increases, and various individual countries have already raised their taxes. Bulgaria, for example, just raised one of their travel taxes by 8%.

What does all of this mean to the mission traveler? Here are four things to keep in mind:

You can’t use last year’s mission trip budget. If you base your 2012 trips on what you paid for your 2011 trips you can expect to be greatly disappointed. Instead of guessing, call us and let us give you a no-obligation quote so that you can work with realistic numbers.

You may need to alter your trip dates. It is always true that flexible travel dates often lead to substantial savings; this is especially the case for 2012.

Consider alternate airlines. Some frequent missionary travelers have their favorite airlines and will stick with them even if they have to pay a little more. In 2012, however, you could be paying a lot more. Be open to considering other airlines. Your Ministry Travel agent can give you all the details and let you make apples to apples comparison of airlines.

Watch the luggage weight. It is reported that some airlines are charging as much as $450 for overweight bags on international flights. Pay attention to the airline weight rules and know that if your trip involves different airlines, there may be different weight restrictions. This is especially true if you are transferring to smaller regional or national airlines. For example, with certain tickets a team traveling to Tanzania from the U.S. can have three 50-pound bags, but if they take an in-country flight the national airline limits them to one 44-pound bag. Again, contact us for details on luggage rules and for information on our special tickets that allow for free extra bags.

As always, the earlier you can plan your trips and purchase your tickets the better off you will be, especially going into a volatile 2012. Contact Ministry Travel today at 1-877-541-5726 or www.ministrytravel.com and find out about our airfare discounts for your 2012 international mission trips.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

A Shout-Out from a Missions Newbie

It is easy when you do something all the time to assume that everyone else knows how to do the same thing, when they really don’t.

Take travel, for example.

For those of us in the business, navigating complex itineraries, adjusting to airline changes and enduring airport security screenings are old hat. It is easy to forget that most people travel very little, and many have never traveled internationally. At Ministry Travel, however, we strive to treat every client with care remembering that many of our clients come to us as travel novices.

So it is exciting when we hear back from “newbies” about their first ever mission trip and we enjoyed reading on our Facebook page Ric’s story about his first trip:

A big shout-out to Ministry Travel for their help in making our first foreign mission trip a breeze…Arriving in Nairobi late in the evening and looking at this lively metropolitan city of a few million people, I said to myself, ‘this is not going to be too bad’. This was, of course, before the 10 hour bus ride across the Kenya countryside getting to our final destination of Mumias, Kenya. What a ride. We started our pastor and leaders conference…then were able to travel to six village churches and share God’s precious word. We were able to hand out over 300 Bibles and make a large donation to help with several orphanages…TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

We appreciate Ric’s compliments, but most of all, we appreciate the fact that another person had the opportunity to experience international missions first-hand. Ric is already preparing for his next trip. He wrote, “The Story doesn’t end there, it’s only beginning. That was the first mission trip; we now are gearing up for a trip this year into India.”

Whether you are like Ric and preparing for your first-ever mission trip, or you are a seasoned pro, Ministry Travel looks forward to helping you! We not only provide discounted flights for missionaries, but we help you sort through the maze of international travel. Contact us today on the web at www.ministrytravel.com or by phone at 1-877-541-5726.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

New International Religious Freedom Report Released

The U.S. Department of State recently released its report on international religious freedom. Many organizations and churches engaged in international missions, including those doing short-term missions trips, will find the report especially useful.

The report is divided into individual country reports that provide great detail on the religious conditions in every nation of the world. Included in the country reports are religious demographics, overview of the country’s religious laws, restrictions on freedom, and summaries of religious abuses.

The report documents what many mission groups and global Christian leaders already knew: violence and discrimination against Christians continues to grow in many parts of the world. What’s not in the report, however, is what has many religious liberty watchers upset.

By law the State Department must designate as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) nations that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom. This report included the same list of CPCs as the last report released in early 2009. “Repeating the current list continues glaring omissions, such as Pakistan and Vietnam,” said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom  (USCIRF) in a written statement. USCIRF is a bipartisan federal government commission appointed by congress and the president to review international violations against religious freedom and make policy recommendations.

The eight countries keeping their CPC designation are Burma, North Korea, China, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. The USCIRF earlier had recommended adding to the list Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and Turkmenistan.

The report highlighted religious liberty issues in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, and Vietnam in addition to the eight CPC nations.

The report specifically mentioned the government of Eritrea (located in the Horn of Africa) as it continued to “harass, arrest, and imprison thousands of believers.” It noted that 2,000-3,000 pastors and church members were being detained without trial. The report went on to say that the Eritrea government demands that “adherents renounce their faith, or force them to relocate or flee the country.”

The report also explored countries that allow some religious freedoms but whose governments discriminate against some groups or favored one religion over another, such as Russia and Belarus. It noted that in 2010 the Russian government brought criminal cases for the first time against individuals who possessed banned religious literature, and that the government restricts access to places of worship.

The complete report can be found at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010_5/index.htm. Scroll down the page to find the country or countries that interest you. Countries are organized by world regions.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Discounts and Tips for Missions Teams Traveling Through London

Your short-term missions team has landed in London and you have a long layover before you continue your onward journey. Like many other teams, you will probably want to venture into the city to do some sightseeing. Here are some tips to help you save money and make your group’s experience better.

Group Discounts

The London subway system offers discounts on unlimited day-use tickets for groups. The savings are significant, about a 75% discount off peak tickets. You can purchase tickets right outside of the arrivals hall of Heathrow’s Terminal 5. You will need to have one person pay on behalf of the group. The tickets provide unlimited travel at any time of the day within the zones that you pay for. Most likely you will want to get tickets for zones 1-6 as those include the airport and central tourist area.

The Original London Sightseeing Tour—the tour with the double-decker red buses–offers group discounts (www.theoriginaltour.com). To get the best discount, you need to purchase tickets online prior to your travel to London. The challenge with this, however, is that you have to buy tickets for a specific departure time, which is difficult to do when you don’t know if your fight will be on time or how long it will take to clear customs, etc.

A better alternative, although not quite as much of a discount, is to buy tickets as a group at the bus itself. Again, you will need one person to actually pay for the tickets, but the savings is worth it. The best place to start the tour is near the Piccadilly Underground Station, which is about a 45 minute subway ride from London Heathrow. The tour departs from the McDonald’s about two blocks from the station. This is also a great area to eat as there are several fast-food restaurants there.

Luggage

For eight British Pounds you can securely store your carry-on bag at the Left Luggage center near the rail station entrance at Heathrow airport. It is well worth the money to not have to lug your bag all over London.

Change for Restrooms

Some restrooms charge to use the facilities, so be sure to have some British coins with you as you tour the city.

Hopefully these tips will help your international missions team the next time you find yourself traveling through London. As a reminder, Ministry Travel offers discounted airfare for missionaries and humanitarian teams on most major carriers to just about every place in the world. Contact us today at 1-877-541-5726 or www.ministrytravel.com for a no-obligation quote and see how much money we can save your missions trip.

 

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Little Things Make a Big Difference

Our Christian mission clients who traverse the globe to bring hope to the hopeless know what a big difference little things can make in developing countries and remote parts of the world. They know that there are so many things that we take for granted in the West to which others around the world have little or no access.

Deborah shared this story on our Facebook page:

In China, I joined a national/international group that trekked to a remote village bringing school supplies, shoes, and treats. It was amazing to see the conditions in that impoverished community. They still rely on outhouses and only have cold water spigots that came to their yards. The whole village has one phone. Needless to say, the candy was consumed almost immediately! Similarly, the international Christian school I worked at in Bolivia took Christmas presents to street kids living in an orphanage. We were able to link up with Operation Christmas Child. It was incredible how a little box of toys was cherished. It was a joy to bring Christmas to these children in different parts of the world. I thank God for the opportunity to serve and to bless. 

As millions of children return to school in our country, complete with backpacks full of supplies, Deborah’s story is a great reminder of those who struggle every day with limited resources. But as she said, she was blessed because she had the opportunity to go and share things as simple as candy and school supplies. That’s the double blessing of mission trips: needy people are touched and encouraged abroad while touching and impacting the lives of those who go. 

Ministry Travel is proud to arrange thousands of missionary flights every year to just about every place imaginable. We are unique in that we are a mission travel agency—that is our single focus. We’re not trying to sell vacation packages to top holiday destinations. Instead, we help people like Deborah save money on their international airline tickets so that they can buy a lot more of the “little things” that actually make a big difference in the lives of others. We are blessed when we hear stories like Deborah’s. 

Do you have a mission trip story that you would like share? We would love to hear it. Visit the discussion tab on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ministrytravel.

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Mission Round-Up: Denominations Highlight Global Missions Needs

Several major U.S. Christian denominations recently held their annual meetings, and missions continues to be a major topic of both discussion and action. They are appointing more long term missionaries as well as encouraging short-term volunteers.

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. recently appointed several missionaries to work in the new African nation of South Sudan. Their focus in the fledgling nation will be on community based development, evangelism discipleship and ethnic conflict resolution.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is commissioning 26 new missionaries today. Throughout the year, the various conferences that make up the UMC focused heavily on disaster relief, global malaria prevention, and feeding the hungry.

Southern Baptists spent much of their annual convention emphasizing the world’s 3,800 “unengaged” people groups and the need for more churches to take a proactive role in missions. Birmingham, Alabama pastor David Platt challenged the group of church leaders to take seriously the need to engage unreached people groups. “This is a problem for every pastor and every local church to address,” he said during a sermon.

Nearly $1 million was pledged for missions during the Foursquare Church’s annual meeting. This was a historic event, according to Foursquare Missions Committee Chairman Richard Casteel. Writing on the denomination’s website, Casteel thanked the pastors who made the commitment for their “generous act of faith in funding the expansion of the gospel throughout the world… (which) will help fund strategies to reach more people who have not yet been reached with the gospel of Jesus.”

During our nearly 12 years of service, Ministry Travel has worked with every major Christian denomination and missions agency in the U.S. as well as with a number of smaller and independent Christian missions groups. We’ve also served scores of churches taking missions trips to just about every place imaginable. We are glad to facilitate the travels of missionaries and groups engaged in missions work. If your denomination, church or organization is planning a mission trip, be sure to contact us at 1-877-541-5726 and ask about our special airfare discounts for missionaries and non-profit groups.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Helping the Mission Trip’s Bottom Line: Ministry Travel’s Social Media Month in Review

Expenses are always a factor in missions. Yes the focus is on ministry, but making the most of every dollar is critical to missionaries and those on international mission trips. This past month we highlighted several stories in our social media channels Facebook (www.facebook.com/ministrytravel) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/ministrytravel) that were relevant to finances and mission trips. Here are a couple of those items in more in depth.

The first was a fun chart created by a group of number crunchers over at The Economist (http://econ.st/q7YTnm) and put into a more visually appealing format by the folks at Credit Sesame (http://bit.ly/nKsIUL). The chart compares the value of a Big Mac in different countries. This is a guide to the purchasing power of the dollar around the world.

Why is this important to mission travel? It will help you in budgeting and could even be a factor if you are choosing between countries for your mission trip destination.

A Big Mac in China is 44% cheaper than the U.S. which implies that the Chinese currency is undervalued against the dollar. Take a missions team to Brazil and you will pay 51% more for those two all-beef patties with special sauce. The implication, at least in theory, is that you could expect your in-country expenses in Brazil to be 51% more than what you would pay for something comparable in the U.S. once you factor in exchange rates and the value of the currency.

By the way, India has the best deal on Big Macs and Norway has the worst.

Arthur Frommer, of Frommer’s Travel Guide, recently blogged that the best deals on currency exchanges are at ATMs rather than at airport or train station exchange kiosks. In Frommer’s example, he saved 15% by using an ATM. We have heard similar stories from our missionary clients.

One word of caution, however, is that not all debit or cash advance credit cards will work at all ATMs around the world. Europe seems to be the most compatible. You should, however, always do your homework before you rely solely on ATMs to get your cash.

The biggest expense for any mission trip is usually the airfare, and that’s where we work hard every day to help keep your costs down. Contact one of our missionary travel consultants for your next trip and let us stretch your international ministry dollars. You can request a no-obligation quote online at www.ministrytravel.com or by calling 1-877-541-5726.

Also, if you’re not getting our daily Facebook or Twitter updates, be sure to sign up today and we will keep you informed on all the latest travel news, stories and tips that are relevant to Christian missions and travel.