Dr. Mario Maxwell was preaching in New Jersey not far from Atlantic City on October 29 when Hurricane Sandy made landfall. He found himself stranded in New Jersey for a few extra days, waiting for a flight back home to Oklahoma City where he runs Mario Maxwell International Ministries. For this very busy man, the hazards and hiccups of life on the road aside, travel and meetings have played an important role in his life, career, and ministry.

Where did you grow up and how did you get started in the church?

I grew up in Oklahoma City and moved to a suburb called Edmond when I was in high school. As a kid, I was out of control and on a bad path. There was a lot going on with me and I was not respecting authority at all. It got so bad that I had to go to military school for awhile when I was in middle school.

Around the time when I went to high school, my pastor started mentoring me, and I thank God because he saved my life from a lot of bad stuff. He paid for me to go to one of T.D. Jakes’ Manpower Conferences in Florida—it was my first time ever on an airplane. I will never forget it! Jakes was preaching about how to turn a negative life into a positive. That experience catapulted me in a different direction. When I came back home, I made a complete 360.

When did you launch Mario Maxwell International Ministries?

I was 14 years old when I first got involved with the youth ministry at the church I grew up in, the Unity Christian Center in Oklahoma City. I went on to become a youth minister and started running youth conferences every year. Thinking back, I’ve been doing this [meeting planning] for quite awhile.

My pastor would have long talks with me about life, and one of the things that he impressed upon me was the importance of going to college. So, after graduating from high school, I went to college in Atlanta at Beulah Heights University.

In my last year, I had a huge opportunity to preach at a conference in Kenya. Over 20,000 people were there for four nights. The moment I took the platform it started to rain, but the people sat there in the rain for more than two hours and listened to me preach. It opened up a lot of doors and sparked a lot of invitations to preach around the world.

When I graduated I moved back home to Oklahoma and that’s when Mario Maxwell International Ministries started taking off.

What kind of conferences does your organizations do?

I preach a message of empowerment—trying to help people through any obstacle and challenge they may be facing. So, one of the things we initiated in 2010 was a Transference of Wealth conference where we teach people economic empowerment. We help people understand finance and how to overcome economic challenges. In 2013, we will launch an initiative [like this] for other countries, and we will teach people about business. We have done this already in Kenya and it was well-received.

We do three main conferences every year—the Wealth Summit, the Destiny Summit, and then we have our annual conference. We have had almost 1,000 attendees at some of our meetings. All three are based in Oklahoma City, but we are getting ready to move the Wealth Summit, possibly to the Bahamas, although we haven’t signed anything yet.

How often do you travel?

Normally, I preach at home every Sunday morning at my church in Edmond, but I’m on the road about 120 days a year preaching around the country and the world. The invitations to speak all come from relationships I’ve formed or places I’ve been. It’s been nonstop. I speak at churches in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Connecticut, three to four times a year. I’ve been to Scotland; Paris, France; Manchester, England; Ghana; Nigeria; and Kenya. In 2013, I am going to China. 

What are your biggest challenges in planning meetings?

I’ve been to a lot of different types of meetings and events and sometimes organizations or religious groups can be kind of boxed in. We’ve made it our goal to break those boxes. So we do things out of the ordinary for our meetings to change it up a little bit. Instead of having speakers and sessions all day, for example, we will build time for people to relax and enjoy themselves. We’ve brought in comedians—we try to make it fun.  

Another challenge can be working with hotels. A lot of them just don’t understand our world and the unique requirements in the religious market. So it’s important to build relationships and to understand each other so we can figure out how to work together so that everybody gets what they need. Often, it helps to tell hotels straight up: this is what we need, this is what we have, that is what we want to do—how can we make it work?

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I really like to cook, catch movies, travel, and go to plays and the philharmonic. I also like to do a little bit of acting when I can, and I’ve been in a couple of different films—local films and some Christian films. And recently I auditioned for a part in a Julia Roberts movie being filmed in Oklahoma!