International (MNN) — The airline industry has done everything possible to ease doubling jet fuel prices. They started charging for snacks, luggage, and even the headphones you use to watch movies during longs flights overseas. In part four of our series on the fuel crisis in ministry, we're talking to organizations about how it affects short-term mission trip opportunities.
Orphan Outreach sponsors trips to Guatemala, Honduras, Russia and India. The organization's president Mike Douris says volunteers are feeling the pinch already. "Those who have been going on mission trips were experiencing not only cost increases on flights going overseas, but also availability. As the airlines are cutting back on available seats and reducing routes, it's becoming more difficult to get tickets and get them at a price that makes it affordable for people to go on trips."
Since most churches plan mission trips sometimes a year ahead, the rapid rise in airline tickets makes planning difficult. "When they're putting in what they're going to pay for [airline] tickets, there's no way you could have predicted the prices would be as high as they are for tickets now. So, for churches that are raising money for trips, it makes it real difficult to keep pace."
While many of the tickets were purchased well in advance this year, Douris says it will impact trips next year. He says the increasing cost is only one factor. "They're going to have to buy their tickets earlier in order to be able to secure the seats that they need," he says. That's because of fewer flights being available.
Wycliffe Associates, the service arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators, isn't seeing a decrease in participation yet, says the organization's president Bruce Smith. "We haven't noticed any change in terms of the number of volunteers that are ready and interested to be involved. They do gulp a little bit more when they see the cost of airfare around the world, but as they look at that in terms of their own stewardship, they're still able to say yes and step forward."
Wycliffe Associates hopes to send between 1,000 and 1,500 more volunteers this year. It's not certain if the higher fuel prices will affect that goal.
Slavic Gospel Association's Vice President for Ministry Operations Eric Mock says the high cost of airline tickets may affect training in the Commonwealth of Independent States. The teachers, who are pastors from North America, may be prevented from traveling. "They may have been able to travel four times a year, financially with the increase and the cost of tickets, [they] may have to reduce that to a couple times a year."
Aviation is an integral part of missions today. Tomorrow, in part five of our series, we'll take a look a how the high fuel costs are impacting missionary aviation.