I'm less than 2 weeks away from my third trip to Guatemala in less than a year. This trip will mark the first of what are projected to be up to 6 leadership training conferences with pastors in three western regions of the country during the next 3 years. Jim Hill, executive director for the BGCM, and I will be flying down on the 16th, spending that night at the seminary campus, before traveling the next day to Quetzaltenango for a 2-day training workshop. Convention leaders have indicated that there will be as many as 60 pastors involved in the event. We'll then travel back to Guatemala City where we will attend a meeting on the 20th of the entire executive board of the Guatemala Baptist Convention along with other key institutions involved in the missions efforts in Guatemala. This meeting is being sponsored by WorldconneX and marks the third such gathering for the purpose of information-sharing among groups ministering in Guatemala and the convention leadership.
I had initially hoped to involve several BGCM pastors in this event as workshop leaders, but a variety of health issues, previous ministry commitments, and other conflicts dictated that just Jim and I will be making the trip. I did discover something very interesting and a bit perplexing though in the process of inviting pastors to participate in the trip. Several informed me that they would have difficulty in going because they didn't have a current passport. As one who has filled the pages of a couple of U.S. passports over the years with entry stamps from immigration offices in a number of countries, I found that to be intriguing. As Baptists we have preached, prayed for, and given to missions practically since our inception as a denomination. Recent years have witnessed a huge amount of volunteers journeying to distant lands to work alongside career missionaries on short-term assignments. As they've returned with a first-hand view of what mission work looks like "up close and personal," they have become the point men and women in their churches for promoting missions causes.
All of that leads me to say that I fail to understand why any Baptist pastor would not possess a current, valid passport (excepting of course those whose health will not allow them to travel). I know we can't make that a prerequisite to ordination or anything, but it wouldn't be a bad idea (tongue-in-cheek). Nothing compares to experiencing international missions personally as a preparation for effective missions promotion at home. If you happen to have stumbled upon my blog and don't possess a passport, please accept my challenge to apply for one ASAP. The cost isn't that high and it's valid for 10 years. Maybe I'll see you on the plane next to me on a future flight to Guatemala.