NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–For years, Jeannine K. Carter had searched for a book on a topic near to her heart: volunteer missions trips.
She searched in Christian book stores and even hoped a book might be recommended during orientation meetings for her numerous volunteer mission trips.
Undaunted, Carter pressed on, participating in a wide variety of volunteer missions projects. Her heart for international outreach prompted many invitations to talk about her experiences overseas.
“In speaking to different groups about all these years of my trips, I’ve had many people say to me, ‘You should write a book,'” Carter said.
So she did.
In fact, Carter spent $10,000 of her own money made from substitute teaching to self-publish “Have Heart, Will Travel: Personal Experiences and Practical Guidelines for Volunteer Mission Trips” (Franklin, Tenn.: Providence House Publishers, 1996).
But imagine her surprise when she learned her book’s topic was also the subject of another new book — published by Woman’s Missionary Union — “Successful Mission Teams: A Guide for Volunteers” (Birmingham: New Hope, 1996) by Florida author Martha VanCise.
“I had checked with some bookstores,” Carter said, “before I ever started this book to see if there was another book available like this.”
But she expressed no regrets about publishing her new book. “I am a very frugal person, but I really didn’t bat an eye when I was told how much it was going to cost. I wanted to do it when the Lord told me to do it — and I
Whereas VanCise wrote from the vantage point of a longtime overseas missionary who hosted many volunteer teams, Carter’s book provides perspective from a veteran missions volunteer who has taken 17 trips to 13 countries on six continents.
Both books are available through Baptist Book Store or, by phone, 1-800-968-7301 for “Successful Mission Teams” and 1-800- 321-5692 for “Have Heart, Will Travel.”
The chapters in VanCise’s book deal extensively and systematically with topics such as: what to carry, what to leave at home, practical and spiritual preparations for travel, wardrobe, security concerns, cultural issues, food safety and the importance of teamwork and love.
Carter’s book provides a few similar lists — mostly in five appendices — but primarily her book is written in narrative fashion.
“I’ve had so many funny and not-so-funny things happen to me on these trips,” said Carter, who is a member of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn. “I’m praying the Lord will use it to encourage others to take partnership mission trips.”
Throughout the book, Carter intersperses advice to potential missions volunteers along with the stories of her personal experiences.
She especially cautions others against repeating mistakes made by other volunteer missionaries.
“In the United States, it is common to say flippantly, ‘Come see me sometime,'” Carter writes. “We may or may not intend for the person to take us seriously.
“Don’t ever say that in a foreign country unless you truly mean it. You may have many guests. There are true stories about a person showing up on the doorstep of a ‘flippant inviter’ with no advance notice and staying six months at the home.”
Carter notes some countries have sharply differing standards for wardrobe and personal appearance. She and other missions volunteers discovered this firsthand during a trip to Russia.
“We could use no makeup or jewelry on this crusade,” she wrote. “Our heads had to be covered inside the church. Russian Christians do not wear makeup. It is the ‘mark of the world’ to them.'”
But not all team members respected the local taboo, Carter continued. “Some refused to remove their makeup. It created quite a stir, ruining the reputation of us all. Perhaps they forgot Paul’s admonition to become all things to all men in order to save some.”
Another key topic of concern to volunteer missionaries is food, Carter noted.
During a trip to Italy, Carter had the opportunity to sample the local cuisine prepared by the host family. “I ate my first rabbit on this trip. I was excited. I had always been told it tasted like chicken. Was I ever disappointed! It was tough and had no flavor. We soon learned the reason. We had eaten the family rabbit, and it was very old.”
Some experiences abroad can be startling, even shocking, Carter indicated.
During a trip to Brazil, she and other team members were dining outdoors on a restaurant balcony when they saw a car strike a pedestrian.
“The pedestrian was killed,” Carter recounted. “Someone
just walked out into the street, picked up the body and threw it on the curb. Others simply went about their business. Some put no value on human lives, people for whom Christ died.”
Carter said she hopes the book will motivate other Christians to become involved in sharing the gospel through volunteer missions, because the world is in need of Christ.
O.S. Hawkins, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, wrote for the cover of Carter’s book that it should challenge Christians to realize the world is ready for the gospel.
“I am confident (readers) will join Jeannine in seeing more clearly the multitudes — and thus be moved with compassion upon them — and be moved into the harvest that is ripe and ready,” wrote Hawkins, who was Carter’s pastor before she moved to Nashville where her husband, Jimmie, is a vice president at the Baptist Sunday School Board.