A Reason to Celebrate

The approach of Wonder Voyage’s 25th birthday has me sentimental. Nostalgia takes over my mind as I reflect on where we came from at the turn of the century. We founded Wonder Voyage with next to nothing: no money, no technology, no website, no supporters, no way to promote, and very little business experience. 

We understood that sacred travel was big business, more tourist-focused than sacred. By the late 1990s, most large youth mission trip organizations focused on stats (salvations, hours serving, etc.), ultimately leading to unsustainable practices and negative impact in the places groups traveled to. Groups either went as tourists in the name of God, unable to recognize the holy moments travel provides, or, on the mission trip side, American saviors with specific agendas for the people they were visiting. 

I was full of idealism, passion, energy, and a holy call to do things differently. Wonder Voyage is truly unique among the pilgrimage and mission organizations. We are constantly striving for a holistic approach to sacred travel. With over 550 churches partnering with us in 130 locations throughout every continent, we are awestruck by the people and places we’ve encountered. Wonder changes everything.

There is so much to be thankful for, but there is one thing I hold precious above all else. Our leadership team of ten gifted individuals recently gathered. We looked at the future of Wonder Voyage and where we can grow and invite others into the adventure.  

At the beginning of the weekend, I asked everyone to write the vision of Wonder Voyage in as few words as possible. In any average business, ministry, or church, this exercise reveals the health of an organization. In most cases

  • 70% of employees will write something unrelated to the organization’s mission
  • 20% will be close but focused on their duties within the organization
  • 10% will line up with the mission of the organization

Pens scrawled answers on slips of white paper for a couple of minutes, and then I gathered them up. No names written down, just honest thoughts. Before I reveal their answers, let me tell you what we define as the vision of Wonder Voyage, and it may surprise you. Although we excel at pilgrimage, educational, adventure, and service travel, that is only what we do, not who we are. Here is how we define the call of Wonder Voyage: 

We are doorkeepers of wonder.

Our call is to invite others into experiences of wonder which we, in fact, cannot produce. That’s where the Spirit intercedes, and holy moments happen. We stand at the door and say, “Come in! Wonder awaits for your participation.” That evening, as I unfolded their answers, I began to read out loud.

“We create unique opportunities to experience wonder.”

“We are curators of wonder.”

“We facilitate encounters with wonder.”

“Wonder is the engine of transformation.”

“We are guides through wonder.”

“Connect people to wonder.”

“Help others experience wonder.”

“We are gatekeepers of wonder.”

Halfway through, I began to cry. The call of Wonder Voyage was deeply embedded in those leading us to the future. 

I can quote all sorts of cool stats and figures over the last 25 years. Still, to me, the greatest reason to celebrate is to know we have a faith community of like-minded people dedicated as doorkeepers of wonder, committed to each other and God, and excited about the thousands who have already and will continue to discover wonder in the years to come.

After a decade working in parish youth ministry Shawn started Wonder Voyage Missions. Over the last 15 years, WVM has led thousands of pilgrims to over forty countries. Shawn is a storyteller and an award winning filmmaker. He is an author who brings the gift of engaging narrative to our journeys. Shawn is dedicated to creating voyages that give people abundant opportunities to encounter God.


  1. Avatar ken on October 27, 2023 at 4:00 pm

    Powerful. Thanks for this blog post.

  2. Avatar Cesar on November 14, 2023 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing, inspiring!

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