In the wake of tighter passport restrictions, thousands of jittery missionaries-to-be added something new to their prayer lists: passport delays. Passport offices have experienced a deluge of applications since new rules went into effect in January that require passports for re-entry after flights from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

For churches, delays that can exceed 12 weeks have added more headaches at the height of mission trip season. Jeremy Horneck was among the stressed. A recent graduate of Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wisconsin, Horneck learned in April that he had landed his dream job—teaching English in the steamy tropics of the South Pacific island of Saipan. Only two months from his June departure date, Horneck assumed he would be able to receive his passport within the normal six-week processing time. This year, however, normal time estimates don't apply. Between October 2006 and April 2007, the State Department issued 8.6 million passports—more passports than were issued in any single full year before 2003.

Horneck made a flurry of fruitless calls to the swamped Passport Information Center, followed by urgent calls to his representative. Four days before he left for Saipan, he arrived at a Chicago passport office at 5 a.m. Nearly 10 hours later, a relieved Horneck had the little blue booklet in his hands.

"The worst thing would be delaying my trip, which would have cost hundreds of dollars that I didn't have," Horneck said. "I knew that God had called me to Saipan, and he would get me there in plenty of time for his work."

Mission organizations have fielded many calls from anxious travelers. Lisa Countiss, an administrator for Adventures in Missions (AIM), said the number ...

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