Sunday, March 10, 2013

Travel Tips for the Mission Field

For over a dozen years now I’ve mostly lived out of a suitcase as a missionary. I often traveled with all my personal belongings since I haven’t owned my own home (à la Corrie ten Boom). Along the way, I’ve learned a few things that I want to pass on to you. These tips should be beneficial whether you go on a short-term missionary trip or out of the country for an extended period of time.

For any trip it is wise to pack lightly. How many times have you brought things that weren’t needed at all? In July 1997 I flew from Minneapolis to Chicago with other evangelists for a weekend City Blitz. The pastor organizing the trip asked us to use only a carry-on bag so we wouldn’t have to wait for our stuff in the baggage claim area. Since it was summertime, I got along fine using a backpack containing necessary toiletries and very light clothing. Other advantages to using only a carryon bag is that it eliminates the possibility of lost luggage by the airline plus it can help you avoid baggage fees.

Speaking of which, baggage fees has become my biggest pet peeve when using public transportation. Most American airlines now charge $20 or more just for checking a suitcase. Allegiant and Spirit Airlines also charge money for carry-on bags! Fortunately, Southwest Airlines still allow customers two free checked bags. Therefore I fly only on Southwest whenever possible.

It’s wise to weigh and measure your luggage before leaving the house. Extra baggage fees will be accessed if a suitcase is too heavy or too big. I learned this the hard way in 2006 after a man in Virginia blessed me with a large suitcase and a plane ticket to Tampa. Before boarding that flight, AirTran weighed my large suitcase and I discovered it was sixteen pounds overweight. Because I didn’t have time to repack my belongings, I had to pay an extra $25. 

Another time, AirTran tried to charge me extra money for a suitcase that was “too heavy” (personally I believe their scale’s reading was fudged). To reduce the weight, I put on an extra coat and a pair of heavier shoes. Doing this can also help one save valuable luggage space for things such as Bibles and gospel tracts. Still I got hit with a $49 oversize baggage fee due to a recent change in AirTran’s size restrictions.

If you ever need to ride the bus, be aware their overhead bins are very small compared to those on trains and planes. Last year I took a Greyhound bus to Burlington, Vermont. My carry-on luggage included a gym bag given to me a few weeks before. I had a hard time fitting that gym bag in the overhead bin above me. Three days later before leaving Vermont, I placed some of my stuff into a backpack that fit inside my gym bag. Then when I boarded the bus, I removed the backpack from the gym bag and was able to fit both of them in the overhead bin without any problems.

Whenever leaving your home country, you may need to bring a voltage adapter kit if you plan to use electronic devices such as a laptop computer. One time in Germany, I accidentally used a battery charger from home but forgot to connect the voltage converter in between the plug-in adapters. My battery charger became permanently damaged.

Last but not least, always pack a roll of toilet paper in your luggage.  One of the worst situations to be in is going to the bathroom somewhere and there’s no toilet paper available. This has happened to me many times. I’ve learned to become prepared for such emergencies.

By being obedient to the Great Commission, you will not only learn how to be a more effective soul winner, but also gain wisdom to help you with practical things.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” - Proverbs 11:30

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