When Ben is booking meetings, he tries to schedule churches in a reasonable proximity to each other to minimize travel. At the beginning we stayed in New England so we could travel there on the weekends and Ben could still work his job during the week. Since February we have been in the Midwest, west, and Great Lakes states.
When it comes to lodging, many churches have a “Prophet’s Chamber” or guest house/apartment in their church. This is helpful to us with small children because it leaves us free to set our own schedule and routine. Other times a family in the church hosts us for the night(s) and provides our meals and lodging. We usually have very good times of fellowship with our host families, and it allows us to get to know the church people much better. However, it does limit our options with schedule and meals which can be more challenging with the kids. Sometimes a church puts us in a hotel. This is probably my least favorite option, because we are usually all in one room, and there are lots of expensive things for the kids to mess up or break.
We have stayed in all kinds of places! We don’t have anything to complain about, but some stops have been better than others. Sometimes we are all in the same room. This is challenging to put the kids to bed and not disturb them when we go to bed. It’s also hard to get up before the kids and have devotional time. Sometimes a family gives us the entire basement or another section of their home. This allows us to spread out a bit and settle in. We have stayed in church basements with lots of spiders, and very nice apartments. I have learned a few things about what makes a good guest room, and I hope to write on that sometime soon.
Once we get to a church (or sometimes the week ahead), we ask the pastor what he would like us to do and what order of service to follow. This means we have to be flexible – because again, every church handles their services differently! Usually, Ben begins by showing our 8.5 minute DVD. He follows it up with a short time of Q&A. Some churches use the whole time period with questions, others hardly make a peep during this time! I usually give a short testimony as well.
Ben usually preaches at least once at each church, but sometimes it is more of a devotional thought depending on how much time he has left in the service. Some churches have him teach Sunday School and preach the AM and PM services, other churches only have us participate in one service period.
We fill in other gaps as needed – I can play the piano or do a special music/offertory number. I teach Children’s Church if the pastor wants us to. If the church has a Christian School, Ben is usually asked to speak in a chapel period.
The church wants to get to know us as well as possible if they are considering partnering with us in the ministry. If we are at a church during a mission’s conference, we often eat with several different families, speak to several different classes or group within the church, and spend as much time with the church people as possible. This is the best part about deputation – getting to know other people, and make valuable friendships around the country. It helps us because we know they will be praying for us, and it helps them to better know their missionaries in a personal way.
The point of all of this is to help other people get a feel for our field of service, and to catch a glimpse of our burden for New York City. We ask people to take a prayer card and sign up for our quarterly update letters so they can stay connected with us and pray for our ministry. Many times the Lord has led someone to donate specifically to a need we have. The church usually gives us an honorarium for speaking, or takes up a special “love offering” to help meet our travel expenses.
When our travels take us farther away from a center base, we fill in the gaps on our own. We stay in hotels or with friends. We eat in a lot of restaurants, or pack a PBJ “picnic”. Eating out used to be a treat – it is now closer to a drudgery. I look forward to the home cooked meals loaded with vegetables! The Lord has always been good to provide our needs, and we haven’t lacked anything!