Action News 5 Special Report: Praycations - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Lori Brown

Action News 5 Special Report: Praycations

While high gas prices are keeping many Americans closer to home this summer, travel by people of faith has increased by 33 percent over the past year.

They may not look like typical vacations, but for millions of travelers each year, 'praycations' are now the trip of choice.
       
"When you go on a pure vacation, it becomes all about me, said Jim Barnwell, a communications director at Bellevue Baptist Church. 

'Praycations,' he said, are different.

"It's about serving the Lord, and that's where true peace and happiness come from."

The trips come in many forms, and are quite popular.  More than 380,000 people toured Kentucky's Creation Museum last year, where bible characters frolic with dinosaurs.  Earlier this year, the Pope drew crowds of more than 100,000 during his visit to America.  Thousands more attended a recent Christian festival in Tennessee sponsored by Franklin Graham.

Back in Memphis, video provided by Bellevue Baptist Church shows dozens of members on church-sponsored mission trips.  Bellevue also books a bible study cruise.

"It's Christian entertainment," Barnwell said.  "Things you can enjoy and would not find offensive. Things that build you up."

Stacy Spencer, pastor of Memphis' New Direction Christian Church, says his congregation is planning mission trips this fall.  According to Spencer, faith vacations provide souvenirs for the soul.

"That deposit that you make in another person's life is far more rewarding than all the money we spend on DisneyLand and other places," he said.

There's also a divine discount.  Travel Agents say group travel is a better deal in tough times.
     
"Depending on the size of the group, it can mean some deep discounts," said local travel consultant Regina Bryant.

And who says you have to go far to find faith? A Christian youth group from Poplar Bluff, Missouri travels to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis each year.  It's no walk on the beach, but then again, that's not what it's really about.
 
"I think through introspection the students learn a lot about themselves, their faith, their beliefs," said group organizer Paul Conover.

It's those lessons that keep faith travel afloat, with millions of Americans soul-searching for summer fun.


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