Preparing to travel

It is not surprising that an organisation with the word World in its name has a lot of people who travel.
For World Vision, the number of people who travel has increased amazingly in the last ten years.
Ten years ago, the only person who travelled regularly was the boss. One or two other communications people might travel on film or writing assignments. And maybe the Finance Director would go to a conference every couple of years.
This month more than a dozen people will be on overseas trips, and around 15-20 will be travelling within Australia.
Why the change? And, more importantly, is all this travel necessary?
Frankly, I was shocked when I saw the number of travellers for the month of August. So I looked carefully at the reasons for the trips.
I want to report that I am satisfied that each of these trips will contribute in important ways to our task of empowering people to transform their worlds.
For example, Paul Nichols went to Thailand. He went to assist the Thai office to design an AIDS project which the Australian government will fund. Two years ago there was hardly a trace of AIDS in Asia. Now, more than half of all the prostitutes in Bangkok are HIV positive.
Not surprisingly, our people in Thailand have no idea how even to start to design a project. When you are at the cutting edge of new ways of helping the poor, sometimes it is important to walk along together. That's why Paul went. Learning is shared. Excellent feedback is provided to one of our major donors (the Australian government).
Likewise, Ian Wishart lobbed into the Philippines. After the earthquake they needed all hands on deck. The extra help Ian could provide in project design was very welcome. The result is an important learning experience for Ian which will enhance his work in the future. Learning on the job of the most intensive and productive kind. You can't get that experience in Melbourne!
But what about the people who go and sit in meetings? Quite a few went to the partnership meetings last week in Los Angeles.
Once again, I believe this is an investment in good partnership and we are partners.
Sometimes we wonder whether a lot of this work we do in international meetings could not be done as effectively by phone or fax. The truth is that a lot more is done by phone and fax than used to be the case. (Have you seen our international phone bill lately? That's another story.)
But sometimes, face-to-face is the only way to deal with more complex issues. Communications is enhanced by having the freedom of sharing body language, of talking in corridors between meetings, of simple Christian fellowship.
A case in point was the meetings that Mark Emerson set up earlier this year to sort out issues in our new International Diskette Transfer system. Faxes and phones left some fundamental questions unanswered. Trouble was, no-one outside of Australia seemed to think these questions were important. Finally, the decision was made to get in a plane and go to the U.S.A.
The result, after a couple of days discussion, was a realisation that these questions were important. That some things had been overlooked because people in one place did not see the bigger picture. Indeed, the big picture only came into focus as the partnership gathered in a single place.
On Friday, I will fly out too. I will attend, as your representative, the meetings of the senior leadership of the WVI partnership. It's called the IAC (that stands for International Affairs Committee, but no-one ever calls it by its full name any more). This is a twice a year opportunity to bring the big picture into focus.
I have to say I think we do not always do this as well as we might. Nevertheless it is essential for a truly international organisation to keep our heads up and our eyes focussed on the distant goals of our mission together.
After the partnership meetings, Geoff Renner will join me in Guatemala where we are adventuring together in shaping new ways of doing ministry with the field. We will discuss our vision of empowering people to transform their worlds. And find ways to earth that vision in the realities of communities we will visit in an area called Huehuetenango (pronounced way-way-te-nango, rhymes with mango).
No sooner do I get back at the end of the month but John Rose has commanded me to join the January TV special film unit in Vietnam, where I shall be for a week. It will be my first visit to Vietnam. It is a critical time in our history there.
I covet your prayers. Many of you do not enjoy the privilege of travel, and some of you perhaps do not understand that it is also a burden (a 747 is just a big bus in the sky). I hope you will share the prayer that God will honour and bless every investment we make in this area for His glory to enhance our ministry.