Peoria, Illinois - Don and Mildred Dodson have been faithful churchgoers their whole lives. From the time they were both little they can recall having to attend Sunday School, and services every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. Then there were "revival Sundays" that began "revival week" which meant a full week of extra church services. They were married in a church and all their married life were active in Baker Street Baptist Church in Peoria. Now in their early 70s, after a lifetime of faithful church attendance, they've stopped going altogether.
"As we got older and retired we started touring the world together," said Don. "So we were missing church a lot anyway. There were some times when we were gone seven to eight weeks in a row."
Like many in the Dodson's position, they began to feel slightly guilty about not being involved in a church anywhere.
"I'll be honest," said Mildred, "I did start to feel a little bad about never hardly going anymore. We'd show up to church after not being there for a month or two and people would say 'Well hello there strangers!' We were just starting to feel a bit uncomfortable."
But recently the Dodson's dilemma was seemingly solved as they have discovered a new venue to fulfill their spiritual needs - ministry cruises year round.
"I was looking on the internet one day and came across this ad for a cruise to the Bahamas with some preacher named Creflo Dollar," said Mildred. "It looked interesting to me so I started to read up on it. Supposedly you go on this cruise and just have to go sit in on some seminars or something."
As the Dodsons soon learned, literally hundreds of ministries around America and the world have annual ministry cruises usually to exotic places around North and South America with a few to Europe and Asia. After putting together a list of various tours and dates they came up with enough cruses to fill almost an entire year."
"We found 46 separate ministry cruises that didn't conflict with each other," said Don. "We simply figured that during a regular church year we'd miss at least 6 weeks because of vacation or sickness, so this just worked out perfectly."
While the schedule will be tight at times and the cost expensive the Dodsons feel they can make it work out without too much trouble, as Mildred noted, "I figure the amount we'll save in tithe each week will offset the cost some."