Dr. Joseph McRae Mellichamp is Emeritus Professor of Management Science in the Manderson Graduate School of Business at the University of Alabama and National Faculty Representative for Christian Leadership Ministries. For 25 years, Dr. Mellichamp combined successful academic pursuits with effective Christian ministry activities.
I want to challenge you to change your mindset about travel. As I have mentioned, university and college people travel a lot, both within the U.S. and internationally. Whenever you make a work-related trip, think of it in terms of a possible ministry trip. Even if you are only going across the state to visit a neighboring campus, fruitful ministry opportunities might await you. Just put one additional item in your travel preparation checklist. Sometime in advance of your trip, call our Dallas office, inform them of your plans, and discuss with our headquarters staff how you might turn your business trip into a trip with eternal significance.
If your trip is within the U.S., ask the Christian Leadership Ministries staff whether there is a faculty/staff ministry in place where you are going. If not, you should go with the idea of trying to get something started as we have suggested. If there is already a Christian faculty/staff ministry in place, you should contact the leaders of the group to see whether there might be an opportunity for you to minister with them in some way. If you have developed a ministry talk (or talks), you probably will be in business. They might even be able to set you up with some professional appointments or speaking opportunities through local contacts in your academic discipline. At the very least, you could meet with the fellowship there and share with them your experience with the fellowship at your own university. You might share some innovative ideas you have tried at your school and you might learn some things from your hosts that you can take back to your group. I think there is a huge potential for this type of cross-fertilization and encouragement. It is certainly scriptural -- this is the focus of much of the book of Acts. We need to capitalize on opportunities we have in this regard. It won’t happen if we don’t become much more intentional.
If your trip is an international trip, our staff will very likely work with you to arrange local contacts and ministry opportunities. Several years ago, Phil Bishop arranged to accompany one of his doctoral students to Quito, Ecuador, to help him collect data for his dissertation on altitude training of swimmers. Before he left, he contacted our Christian Leadership Ministries staff who coordinate our international ministry efforts, to let them know of his plans. Our staff contacted Campus Crusade for Christ’s Latin American ministry headquarters, which quickly set Phil up with seven speaking engagements during his visit. Here is Phil’s description of the trip.
"It was a wonderful ministry opportunity. The universities appeared Marxist-socialist in philosophy, but were quite willing to tolerate a succinct Gospel message in exchange for scientific lectures on metabolism, physiological psychology, and others. Many students I spoke to showed spiritual interest, and those attending filled out comment cards after each lecture. One of the attendees sent me this poignant message, ‘... thanks for giving me confidence that spiritual matters are more important. ... I will seek to walk the God road now.’ One sows, another waters, and God causes the increase. It’s always nice to do a little sowing."
"Incidental to a professional trip, I was able to participate in something eternally significant. God was able to use me to give Gospel presentations and encourage the Campus Crusade for Christ team in Quito. He also used the team to encourage me, and He strengthened my faith as well. ... As always, I gained more from the experience than those I went to help. Every trip we as Christian faculty make has the potential of reaping eternal benefits. God can use a small effort on our part to produce great results on His part."
In addition to professional trips that we initiate, we also have the opportunity to participate in international trips that are initiated by Christian Leadership Ministries. Since 1984, Christian Leadership Ministries has been sending teams of Christian professors and academic staff along with Christian Leadership Ministries staff on ministry/professional trips to other countries. The idea is to use professional-speaking opportunities as an entree to ministry. In the summer of 1984, Peggy and I along with Stan Oakes (the director of Christian Leadership), Mike Duggins (the Christian Leadership staff representative in Texas), Walter and Ann Bradley, Jim Stock (University of South Florida), Duane Keilstrup (University of Texas Arlington), Jim Henderson (Baylor), Bob McGowan (Memphis State University), Dick Stealey (Ball State University), and Bill Floyd (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse) made that first trip to South Africa. For many of us, it was our first international experience. For the country of South Africa, it was the beginning of a faculty ministry movement that is still in existence. Jim Stock has returned regularly to South Africa since then using professional contacts he established to fund ongoing ministry involvement in the country.
Since that first trip, Christian Leadership Ministries has sent dozens of teams into many countries including: Kenya, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, the former Soviet Union, Poland, Latvia, Romania, and a host of others. Let me share with you the kind of impact we as professors and academic staff can have if we are willing to travel professionally and let the Lord use us in ministry activity as we go. Some years ago on a trip to Europe, Peggy and I met a young missionary couple from a closed country. The man was interested to learn that our ministry frequently sends university professors on international trips to open ministry doors, and he promptly invited us to bring a team to his country. Frankly, we hadn’t thought at all about visiting that country, and it really wasn’t very high on our list of travel places, but he was so sincerely interested in having us come and so optimistic about what such a trip might do for his ministry, we agreed to bring a team. We asked around our Christian Leadership Ministries contacts to see whether any other professors or staff would be willing to accompany us. Apparently, they all felt the same way we did because there were no takers.
So the following summer, Peggy and I set out to spend 10 days with him in his country. He had set me up with two professional talks in two different universities in the country, and we had one meeting with several government officials. That was it, not very much in comparison with some of the trips we have made where we are speaking several times a day. We had a wonderful time in the country. It was beautiful; quite different from our American idea of what we would find. The presentations went well, and so did the meeting. But there was no spiritual content whatsoever to anything I said or did. There could not be. I remember remarking to Peggy on the way home that we had wasted a lot of our time and money and didn’t really have too much to show for our efforts. That was before we heard back from our missionary.
He wrote me later that he had been able to use the contacts he had made at my presentations and the meeting with the officials to develop a ministry focus that has connected him at the very highest levels of the leadership of the country. When I read the letter, the details of which I can’t disclose, I saw the sovereign hand of God working through our feeble efforts to accomplish His desired ends in that land. It was absolutely miraculous. Never in my wildest imaginations could I have pictured what He was able to accomplish from our visit. And it is a good thing. I would have been so proud of myself! As it turned out, all I could do was shake my head and say, "God did it all and to Him be the glory!" Our responsibility in all of this is to go; God is entirely responsible for the results.
One final comment on this. We originally started international trips with a view toward training and equipping Christian professors and staff within countries to carry on ministry activity after we left. When the former Soviet Union began to open up, we moved more to using professional-speaking opportunities to generate evangelistic contacts for Christian ministry workers within the country. More recently, we have moved back closer to our original objective. What is exciting about this, however, is the opportunity for long-term relationships in a particular country and something we are just starting to see -- the opportunity for a Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship in the U.S. to focus on a long-term relationship with a particular country. Mike Sorgius, our Christian Leadership Ministries representative at the University of Florida, has been leading faculty/staff teams to Mongolia for several years. This spring, Mike took a team of six or seven University of Florida faculty and staff to Mongolia. This is exciting. This is intentional. This will accelerate Christian efforts in Mongolia and encourage the fellowship at the University of Florida.
Change your mindset about travel. Every time you start packing your bags for a professional trip, think ministry.
"They traveled to and fro across the land, and knowledge increased." Did you get the message? There are unparalleled ministry opportunities waiting for you just beyond the boundaries of your university. If you are not already participating with us nationally and internationally, pray as Jabez did saying, "Oh, that You would bless me, and enlarge my border." 1 Chronicles 4:10 And then start looking for ways you can help us establish faculty/staff ministries in other universities and in other lands.
© Copyright 1997, Joseph McRae Mellichamp
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