Mission trip out $20,000 for fares

 

Tom Adair has two days left to find $20,000.

But he's not desperate.

"One thing is not going to change what God's doing," he said.

Adair, of Trenton, S.C., had $20,000 last month. It was the result of fundraisers, sponsorships and hard work put toward raising money for a mission trip to Zimbabwe. The money would have bought 11 airplane tickets.

Adair has been making the trip for 13 years with Revival Action Ministries International of Anderson, S.C., about 90 miles north of Augusta.

His usual ticket-buying method was derailed when South African Airlines changed its ticket policy and Adair needed a travel agent. Someone suggested Lynnette Johnson, of Memory Makers in Augusta.

He met with Johnson earlier this year. She had a nice office, professed to be a Christian and said she was licensed, Adair said. He trusted her. Adair made the final $20,000 deposit a month ago. Johnson said at the time it would take about three weeks for the tickets to arrive, Adair said.

Adair followed up this week and visited Johnson's office. It was closed, according to Adair and a police report filed Thursday.

Adair called South African Airlines. The flights had been booked but never paid for, Adair said. He was out $20,000.

Barry Davis founded the ministries 20 years ago and serves as its president. It operates a Bible institute that teaches locals how to minister to the rural people of Zimbabwe. The four full-time staff members in Africa are supplemented at least once a year by mission groups from the Carolinas. Besides teaching classes, the groups distribute Bibles, work in orphanages and preach.

Memory Makers has had several locations since it opened shop in 2005, records show. It received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau in July for failure to provide a refund, said Kelvin Collins, the president of the BBB office in Macon, Ga.

Neither of two phone numbers listed on the Memory Makers Web site nor the phone number listed for Johnson in a police report were working Thursday.

Collins urges travelers to do their homework before booking with a travel agency. He said they should get recommendations and check the background of a company through the BBB.

In Perry, Ga., on Thursday, a travel agent named Sara Betty Bearden was ordered to pay $59,000 in restitution and sentenced to six months' probation for taking money for trips that never materialized, according to a report in The Macon Telegraph .

The victims included members of a high school senior class who showed up at a dock expecting to take a cruise to the Bahamas.

Adair is still confident that the mission trip will go on somehow. But he doesn't disguise his disappointment.

"People worked hard and trusted God," he said. "That's what makes it so tough."