As the month of January comes to an end (can you believe it?) I am staring out at a cold, rainy night wondering if the weather will indeed turn colder and bring yet another round of snow for west Tennessee. The snow doesn't bother me, actually, it is the possible 1,000+ snow ball hurlers that gets my attention. Life on campus is anything but boring!
However, I am quite excited about the fact that I will be in Florida this coming weekend. Margaret and I are flying into Tampa Saturday morning to meet with the new team members from the Bell Shoals church of Christ. This first time group is very excited and highly motivated. 38 strong, they sent applications, essays, letters of recommendations, and deposits to me before Thanksgiving. And they have already purchased airline tickets! I am excited to meet the team and to enjoy some warm weather and some Quaker Steak and Lube hot wings. We will be having a team meeting on Saturday night and I will be teaching the Sunday morning auditorium class and doing a question / answer period afterwards. It will be a quick trip but worth every second of it.
February will be bring a trip to middle Tennessee and the Cumberland plateau to meet with a new team from the Collegeside church of Christ in Cookville. Tim O'dell is working at this congregation and has 10 signed up and ready to go. Mobile and the Keys have all reported in with names and applications and both groups are larger than last year. As of this writing our Honduras team stands at 138 which is smaller than last year but still very much a mega team. We currently have 42 signed up for the Costa Rica trip (leaving 3 spaces still available). I have 15 signed up to serve as interns this summer that will be working with me the entire 32 days this summer.
Now that names are in, I am waiting for applications and deposits from several to finish out round 1 of the administrative stage of the trip. Round 2 will be sending out and collecting rules sheets and Spanish release forms (for those under the age of 18) which have to be notarized. Also in round 2 is photocopies of passports. During round 2 hopefully everyone will also send me their flight itinerary so that we will have accurate records of who is flying on which flight so that we will have correct transportation waiting on the receiving end.
With the cost of oil and fuel right now, the rumor mill says that airline tickets are going to start off high and remain that way this year. I am not saying that patience will bring forth a good deal, but with the way things are looking right now I would not bank on it. Watch airfares on a regular basis, communicate to others if you find a good deal, and be ready to buy your ticket when the time is right. Most airlines are also finding all kind of clever ways to get more money out of travelers this year with luggage fees, carry on fees, and even charges for selective seating (aka extra leg room seats). As you are shopping for airline tickets, be alert (the world needs more lerts ya know) concerning the additional fees. You should budget extra money for check ins at the airport going down and coming back (otherwise your spending money will become airline fee money). Depending on your choice of departure city, airline choices will be American Airlines; Continental Airlines; Delta Airlines; and TACA. Remember, departure date is June 24 and the return date is July 4 if you are going to Honduras. June 9th departure and June 19th return for Costa Rica (same airlines plus the addition of Spirit Air).
Several have been asking whether or not our team will be shipping a container this year. As of right now the answer is no, unless we come across supply donations that would warrant a 40 foot container. Shipping a container is not in our budget this year but we are certainly going to be collecting supplies and I will be posting needs very soon. I am hopeful that we will be able to piggy back supplies onto a shared container with another team leader if I can find one going down at a time that will work with us. Our other option is to use the duffel bag method we used a couple of years ago. More information will come soon concerning all of this.
Plans for the Costa rica trip are also progressing well. Minor Perez, who is one of my interns from Costa Rica, has been very active communicating with the preacher at Buenos Aires coodinating ideas and plans. Minor and I go over budgets and costs every few days as we calcualte how much food, transportation, lodging, etc will cost in Costa Rica. Even though this will be our first team to go into Costa Rica to work, a lot of time has been spent on the computer and on the phones. Our scouting trip last spring was very successful and useful to get the perameters set for this year. Minor, Margaret and I will be going down again this March to make final preperations for the trip. I feel very confident that Ben Wright and I will have most things in place when we arrive. I am pretty sure we will have to make up a new phrase while there since "Welcome to Honduras" will not work there.
The interns will be having their retreat soon. February 11th and 12th the summer interns will be going to the Mid-South Youth Camp (here in Henderson) for a weekend of planning and sharing. Besides getting to know each other, we will be eating meals that will be very similar to what we will be eating in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. We will have some information sessions and some devotional time as well. I am looking forward to working with this select group and know that this summer will be a trip that very few ever get to experience. 32 days in 3 different countries working in a variety of seetings and places. It is going to be challenging for sure but will provide opportunities for them to stretch and grow and find their ministry passions along the way. Their biggest challenge will be dealing with me everyday!
I am in communication with a lot of people each week about the trips. I know the excitement is building every week and as we talk I can just feel the ethusiasm from everyone. I am not exactly sure what is making the plans this summer so exciting, much more that in time pasts, but it is what it is. From devo ideas, new work site suggestions, to menus and t-shirt designs, things are just jumping off of the page! Everyone is asking for ways to help and to pitch in and it is just a constant reminder to me of how great it is to be involved in ministry with such a great group of people. Torch Missions is so much more than a missions organization, it is a family of believers who are truly passionate about the work and the people that we are able to serve.
Time to go, I have a power point presentation to finish. And wouldn't you know it... snow is falling. Another blanket of snow is already covering the ground. The weatherman is calling for 3"-6" tonight. This is the 6th one of the year for us. That could be a lot of snowballs.