Volcano Halts Some Missionary Work in Europe

Correction Appended

The huge volcanic ash cloud over Europe has not only left thousands of travelers stranded worldwide, but it has also frustrated the travel plans of some mission workers.

Greater Europe Mission, a group with about 300 people serving throughout Europe, said a number of its people were affected by the volcano. But for the most part, GEM missionaries traveling within Europe were able to find alternative ways using ground transportation to reach their destination, said the mission group's president, Henry Deneen, on Monday.

Still, the ash cloud proved more troublesome for mission workers trying to get into Europe. As of Monday, a team of 26 short-term missionaries in Chicago could not find a flight into Romania.

Deneen said the eruption of the Icelandic volcano also thwarted his own plan to fly to Europe. He was supposed to visit Sweden on Sunday and travel to a number of European countries, including Latvia and Kosovo, to meet with colleagues this week.

"It is an interesting reminder to the world that there is something bigger than our plans and there is a God in charge," said Steve Martens, who is part of the leadership team at GEM, to The Christian Post. "Just one simple volcano can throw everything we're doing upside down."

The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland erupted Thursday spewing ash into Europe's air space. Airlines have canceled or delayed flights for days because of the danger posed by flying through volcanic ash. The ash cloud looks similar to a normal cloud but its particles are finer and could cause engine problems.

More than 6.8 million airline travelers were affected by the Icelandic volcano. It is estimated that the delay of flights flying over Europe air space is costing the five largest U.S.-based airlines $21.9 million per day, said Robert Herbst, analyst and founder of AirlineFinancials.com, to CNN.

On Tuesday, about half of all Europe's flight resumed. But the still erupting volcano threatens to spew more ash that could cause further delays.

World Gospel Mission, a 100-year-old mission group with missionaries in 23 areas of the world, said it has not been greatly affected by the volcano. WGM mostly works in South America, Africa and Japan.

Tim Rickel, vice president of communications at WGM, said one of the group's short-term missionaries was stranded in Kenya for a few days before finding a flight back to the United States on Monday. He also shared that a couple serving as missionary pastors who were in Kenya and Uganda for a retreat were still unable to find a flight back to the United States as of Monday.

But other than a few cases of flight delays, WGM missionaries have not been affected by the volcano.

Similarly, Mission Aviation Fellowship's mission work was not directly affected by the ash cloud because it focuses on Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Yet despite none of MAF flights being affected by the volcano, the Europe air space restrictions did disrupt the travel plans of the group's leaders. Ron Wismer, manager of research and operations support, said he and some of the mission group's staff were scheduled to attend an Africa manager's conference in Kenya this week but had to cancel the trip because they could not fly through Europe.

About 14,000 flights are scheduled to operate in Europe's air space Tuesday. But the huge backlog of passengers trying to catch a flight might take days to clear.

Correction: Tuesday, April 20, 2010:

An article on April 20, 2010, about how the Icelandic volcano has affected mission work in Europe incorrectly reported on the name of one of the mission groups. The group is called Greater Europe Mission, not Global Europe Mission.