In July 2013, an exciting letter went out from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses to missionaries and others in special full-time foreign service. The letter told of an arrangement to assist those in foreign service to travel to regional and international conventions that were to be held in 2014 and in the early part of 2015.
The purpose of the arrangement was not just to help those in foreign service to attend a convention but also to enable them to spend time with family members or friends. The letter indicated that the organization would pay for round-trip airline tickets.
Although similar arrangements were made in the past, this year would be different. Under the direction of the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body, a newly formed department, World Headquarters (WHQ) Travel, would make the bookings.
Soon after the letter of invitation went out, requests for airline tickets started to trickle in to WHQ Travel. By January 2014, the trickle had become a flood. The group assigned to care for these travel arrangements researched and booked itineraries for special full-time servants from all over the world.
Some of the itineraries were challenging. Travelers from Reykjavík, Iceland, needed to get to Cochabamba, Bolivia. Others coming from Nouméa, New Caledonia, needed flights to Antananarivo, Madagascar. Some flew from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, to Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., and still others from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to Winnipeg, Canada.
The WHQ Travel team of five people booked about 19,000 flights. Using funds that congregations donated especially for this purpose, they purchased and sent out airline tickets to approximately 4,300 travelers in 176 countries.
This provision was deeply appreciated. One missionary couple wrote: “Today we are returning to our assignment in Southeast Asia. We are truly thankful for your helping us to get back to England, our country of birth, and to be with our families for the first time in five years. Without this provision to assist us, we could not have made it. So a heartfelt thank-you to all those who made it possible.”
A missionary who is serving in Paraguay wrote: “My wife and I want to express our deepest appreciation for the opportunity to attend the international convention in New Jersey, U.S.A. In early 2011, we began to plan a trip to the United States to see world headquarters. We had some money saved up for it. However, in June of that year, we were invited to visit the sign-language congregations in Paraguay. This involved a great deal of travel. After much thought, we decided to sacrifice our trip to the United States and instead buy a car to be more efficient in our new assignment. Then, we received the invitation to attend the international convention. Thus, our dream came true! We are very grateful to Jehovah for his goodness and affection expressed in this way.”
“We just wanted to send a little e-mail to say a big thank-you!” wrote a couple from Malawi. “We can only imagine how much work, time, and expense went into caring for so many travel itineraries. We appreciate your hard work and, above all, the generosity of Jehovah’s organization in making it possible for us to travel home to attend an international convention and to spend time with family and friends.”
Those at WHQ Travel loved the assignment. “Helping the missionaries to go back home to see their family and friends was very special,” said Mileivi. “It helped me to appreciate the great depth of love the organization has for those serving in foreign assignments,” added Dorise. And Rodney, the overseer of the department, said, “It has been a joy to be involved with this project.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe enjoyed the opportunity of contributing to this loving gift for their hardworking, self-sacrificing brothers and sisters.