With travel at the center of overseas missions work, the pandemic’s continued certainty is raising questions about when and whether to cross borders to continue the work. Whether you’re planning a short-term missions trip or returning to the field, you may feel the tension between calling and risk. The following set of questions can provide a guide for stewarding our responsibility to do kingdom work as we make decisions in international ministry.
For travel to a given location, ask…
- Do I sense a particular call or leading from God about this travel?
- What are my best advisors saying about my travel plans?
- What do my closest contacts (there) say about my travel plans?
- What is the sentiment in the community (there) about visitors at this time?
- What other questions might God be asking me to consider about this travel?
- How might this trip bring glory to God and cause God’s kingdom to flourish?
Lost Opportunity Cost
- What might not be accomplished if this trip is delay or cancelled?
- Could the kingdom be damaged by delaying or cancelling this travel?
- Do the governments involved recommend travel between the various locations?
- Are there any new visa requirements?
- Are airlines offering service? Are there other travel options?
- How much do I need to have in reserve if my ticket is cancelled?
- Will there be a mandatory quarantine there? When I return home?
- Is there a cost associated with isolation or quarantine there? Upon return?
- How will I communicate my travel decisions to supporters, given a wide range of opinions about the pandemic?
Likelihood of an Adverse Outcome
- What is the status of public health where I want to go? See https://covid19.who.int/
Has the risk of an adverse impact from not traveling risen to an unacceptable level?
- Is the health risk higher or lower there? Here?
- Can I get tested before I go? When I get there? After I get back?
- Have public health issues led to a rise in crime there? Does that create additional risk?
Severity of an Adverse Outcome
- Do I or the people I live with have any underlying conditions that add to the risk of travel?
- Do the people I want to see have any underlying conditions that add to the risk of travel?
- If, due to COVID, I am unable to care for myself, who will help me? Does that person agree to this role? (To go shopping, to prepare meals, to consult about medical needs, to offer transportation.)
- If there were a severe outbreak in the community, would I be able to shelter in place an additional 3-8 weeks? What would need to be in place for this to be possible?
- If, due to COVID, I require medical care, what is the availability and quality of that care? (If it is an underserved location and there is limited health care, how likely is it that I would take the bed of a local person?
Closing thoughts from the year 1527:
From “God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath” by N. T. Wright – quoting Martin Luther
“With God’s permission the enemy has sent poison and deadly dung among us, and so I will pray to God that he may be gracious and preserve us. Then I will fumigate to purify the air, give and take medicine, and avoid places and persons where I am not needed in order that I may not abuse myself and that through me others may not be infected and inflamed with the result that I become the cause of their death through my negligence. If God wishes to take me, he will be able to find me. At least I have done what he gave me to do and am responsible neither for my own death nor for the death of others. But if my neighbour needs me, I shall avoid neither person nor place but feel free to visit and help him.
Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, ed. T. G. Tappert (London: SCM Press, 1955), 242, from a letter of 1527.”
Glen Volkhardt is the CEO of Paraclete Mission Group, which comes alongside mission agencies, churches and church planting movements involved in expanding the Kingdom of God around the world.
Are you looking for a mission support organization? Want to learn more about serving with Paraclete? Visit: https://www.paraclete.net/serve/learn-more/