Waterford Mennonite Church’s “Benin Bible Institute Planning Group” has delegated Lynda and Rod Hollinger-Janzen to organize a larger group visit to Benin in 2015. This one-time opportunity is an attempt to strengthen our North American congregational connections with BBI.
We are planning a 16 day trip, leaving from Chicago on February 4, 2015, and returning to Chicago on February 19. Maximum group size will be 16 people, including Lynda and Rod. Currently we have 13 participants, and are looking for 3 more people to travel with us.
We will be traveling with Turkish Air, routed from Chicago through Istanbul (where there will be a layover of approximately 24 hours with an opportunity to visit some historic attractions, with hotel costs covered by Turkish Air), and then on to Cotonou. Flying with Turkish Air will save us around $500 per ticket. Our itinerary will allow us a full 11 days in Benin.
Total costs, including the contribution to the group leaders’ travel, are estimated at $3,500 U.S. per person. This pays for a return air ticket from Chicago ($1300); visa costs ($150); food, lodging (modest, but with air conditioning- $960); transportation costs within Benin ($400); temporary emergency medical insurance – including evacuation coverage ($100); miscellaneous ($90); and group leaders’ travel costs ($500). Costs do NOT include establishing a passport, mandatory yellow fever vaccination, malaria prevention medication, tourist items, and personal communications from Benin (telephone calls or email access). A savings of more than $200 is possible if choosing a room with ceiling fan rather than air-conditioning.
The trip will focus on visiting our BBI friends and their ministries, including the Bible Institute campus in Cotonou, and the agricultural training farm at Oumako. Additional experiences will include interaction with other Mennonite-related ministry partners – Bethesda Hospital and participating in their 25th anniversary gala; Bethesda Hospital‘s community development programs (garbage collection and recycling, community banks, community awareness); and La Casa Grande Children’s Village. We will participate in dynamic worship in African congregations and visit sites which provide glimpses into Benin’s history and culture, such as Ouidah, a former slave port with its Tree of No Return; Abomey, the palace of the most powerful kingdom in Benin; and Ganvié, the “African Venice” – a fishing village built on stilts in the water.
There will also be an optional “add on” in the form of a four day safari trip to visit the Pendjari Game Park in northern Benin. This option would have participants returning to Chicago on Monday February 23. This will add an additional cost of $600 U.S.
Persons seriously interested in being a part of this adventure are encouraged to contact Rod (cell phone 574-612-6091; email email@example.com). Places will be allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis. Commitments will be expected by October 20, 2014. This will include an initial $500 down payment on trip costs.
February has been chosen as an ideal time for this visit for several reasons. It is a cooler time of year (temperatures are not expected to exceed 33 degrees Celsius) and provides an escape from a North American winter. It coincides with Bethesda Hospital’s anniversary gala. It allows us to take advantage of reduced air fares.
~ Rod Hollinger-Janzen, for the BBI Planning Group