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Roger McCurry: Making travel a ministry

Roger McCurry in Venice, Italy

Delegates to Going On Faith in Richmond, Virginia, Aug. 23-25, will enjoy hearing from a speaker who comes from their ranks. Roger McCurry has traveled with groups for years as part of his work as a minister in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Very recently, he left his position with his church to follow his dream: He has started a travel company that will run faith-based tours for churches and secular groups.

“My involvement in faith-based travel came when I was a senior pastor working with activities at our church,” said McCurry. “Yes, I remember the destination; but what I remember most is the journey — lots of fun, plenty of challenges and commitments as we went along. I realized then how valuable this can be, and I’ve always told my travelers since to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.”

McCurry found his faith in service of his country.

“I became a believer when I was in the military,” he said. “I served in Vietnam. I had no direction in life and was just drifting along like a lot of young guys. We were being trained to fight. But there were two men I was around who had a joy and a purpose that I didn’t have. They opened the door for me. My conversion actually took place back home at West Point, where we were training some recruits.

“I’ve traveled in many countries with mission and leisure groups, and I just have a love for travel,” said McCurry. “My experiences with my church have motivated me to try this as a business. With churches or banks or whatever, travel makes a difference in a person’s life. It can be life-changing.

“On the road, you know pretty quickly if someone has a faith that makes them happy,” he said. “Truly happy people can enjoy a detour, I like to say.”

McCurry says faith-based travel has an added dimension.

“I try to involve daily inspirational time on trips — quotes or thoughts for the day. How much a smile or a kind word can mean to someone, how you never get a second chance to make a good first impression — that sort of thing.”

As part of his presentation, McCurry includes magic, a hobby he has used for years in speaking engagements and on trips. And he’s pretty good, so don’t miss this seminar.

“Magic has been another tool for me to use in my travel programs,” he said. “I use it frequently to have fun with the group and to help break the ice at the start of a trip. With my recreation and activities background, we do a lot of fun things. I also use a lot of music to motivate or set a mood on a trip,” he said.

McCurry has a lot of experience with mission trips, many of them sports-related.

“We took two college basketball teams, one boys team and one girls team, to Israel with Sportsreach [a sports mission organization based in Campbellsville, Kentucky].  We supported missionaries, did basketball clinics for youth, played Israeli club teams. We went into many areas of the Holy Land — Bethlehem, Galilee, Capernaum, the Dead Sea, Nazareth — and we also went into Ramallah in Palestine. I saw this trip change those players’ lives. They all came back with a recommitment to using their skills for the Lord.

“On the leisure side, I remember a trip to Alaska where everything went well — even the weather cooperated, and we had beautiful views of Mount McKinley. It was inspirational, to say the least. Just to see people have a great time and come together who didn’t know each other when we started makes it worthwhile — to see them pull together and become one. Travel does that.”

McCurry knows what he looks for in a faith-based group leader.

“One thing that make a really good group leader for these trips is the depth of their faith,” he said. “It seems like that’s a given, but it’s important. That person’s faith is very important to the success of the trip. If they truly understand that travel is a ministry, that it helps their church reach its core values, that makes my job easier. I also like group leaders who understand the value of time on the road and how to relax with their members. Let me handle the details. Someone who knows how to minister and loves to travel makes a great group leader.”

And he added this philosophical thought about the value of travel: “Worldwide travel teaches people that no matter what the culture, we’re not that different. Once you really get to know someone, we’re not that different.”