Recognizing shared values and an overlap between TourMagination travellers and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) donors, the for-profit business and non-profit organization recently signed a memorandum of understanding signaling their desire to collaborate more closely for mutual benefit.
TourMagination is a travel company that has led faith-based group tours in more than 50 countries and to every continent. MCC is a worldwide ministry that responds to basic human needs and works for peace and justice in more than 50 countries.
“During our 48 years of operation, we have intersected with MCC informally through financial support and visiting with their staff in various countries. We are pleased to pursue a more intentional working relationship that will benefit both organizations,” says TourMagination President Audrey Voth Petkau.
In an effort to make group tours more culturally respectful and environmentally responsible, TourMagination invited MCC leaders to share their organizational learnings gained over the last 98 years. With input from MCC, TourMagination refined their travel guidelines, which are given to tour participants and tour leaders to inform their interactions on group excursions. (See guidelines at https://www.tourmagination.com/general-travel-information/.)
One of TourMagination’s distinctive features is offering group tours with a strong learning component. “We encourage our travellers to have an attitude of open-hearted curiosity as they visit other cultures,” says Voth Petkau.
For example, one of their tours takes mostly U.S. travellers to Cuba to reconsider what they “know” about this country. They interact with Cuban church leaders, worship with a local congregation, and hear about the historic Cuban missile crisis from another perspective. Though the focus is leisure travel, many TourMagination excursions have some aspects in common with MCC’s learning tours.
In addition, TourMagination is seeking to support the work of Mennonite Central Committee by visiting MCC projects on tours when possible. For example, on a Holy Land tour with Mennonite World Conference President Nelson J. Kraybill, travellers will spend an afternoon with MCC workers in Jerusalem, hearing about their work with both Palestinian and Israeli organizations in the area. Tour participants will have an opportunity to give financially to MCC.
As well, TourMagination has begun to make their clients aware of MCC’s international service worker opportunities. MCC will also recommend current and former MCC staff, with lived experience in a particular country, to TourMagination as expert tour leaders. Former MCC workers or volunteers are among TourMagination’s current knowledgeable tour leaders including Jim and Goldine Pankratz, Fred and Shirley Redekop, Jack and Irene Suderman, Bert and Martha Lobe, and Bob and Margaret Nally.
“MCC is pleased to enter into this new agreement with TourMagination,” says Mark Epp, director of programs for MCC Canada. “Our experience has taught us that face-to-face encounters with other people and cultures is foundational to peacebuilding. We welcome the opportunity for more of those encounters between our programs, partners and TourMagination travellers.”
In 2017, a group of North American travellers on a TourMagination tour of India joined the MCC team in Kolkata for morning devotions. Later in the day, the travellers visited several MCC projects. Whenever possible, TourMagination tour groups connect with MCC staff in countries they are touring. (TourMagination photo)