by Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
This issue of Missions on the Web focuses on practical resources and services that cater to the needs of international missionaries.
It remains one of the great ironies of Christian ministry: the moment we dedicate our lives to long-term missions, we find ourselves bombarded with material concerns. Whether searching for affordable plane tickets and long-distance phone service or obsessing over vaccinations and visas, few other points in our lives make it so difficult to set our minds on things above, and beyond earthly concerns.
This issue of Missions on the Web focuses on practical resources and services that cater to the needs of international missionaries. We’ll cover such topics as Resource Directories, Travel and Shipping, Finance, Communications and Technology, Health and Safety and Advice from experienced missionaries. In our limited space, we certainly can’t do justice to all the providers of practical helps for missions, so we focus on pointing you to a few key resources in each area. Links to all the websites mentioned below—and numerous additional sites—can be found on the MisLinks.2
A missionary’s needs are as diverse as they are specific. Whether you’re looking for Sunday school curriculum or 220-volt appliances, the web is a great place to begin your search.
The Mission Resource Directory serves as an “information lobby”—an overarching registry of available missions resources on the web. It includes more than a hundred links to specialized resource directories hosted by other organizations. The site also includes a “Yellow Pages” of resources, conveniently sorted by subject.
Mission Finder.org has excellent links to the most common missionary needs in its “Missionary Helps” window. Categories include Travel, Insurance, Shipping and Resources (from appliances to medical equipment).
Missionary Resources.org directs the user to articles, links and phone numbers for a variety of missionary resources sorted by category. A web-based control panel allows missionaries from around the world to contribute resources to the site. You can download a PDF version of The Missionary Resources Handbook, a practical eighty-page booklet covering much of the material on the website.
The World Christian Resource Directory offers straightforward information on products and services in many different languages. The resources are listed by subject and the majority of the links include brief annotation.
OSCAR, a resource directory based in the UK, features a Service Index that includes information on a wide array of resources for missionaries and overseas workers. Major categories include Logistics, Finance, Health, Training and Communications.
Back issues of Brigada Today can point you to valuable resources and services. This popular, weekly e-mail newsletter reviews and promotes the latest offerings for missionaries, in addition to analyzing missions trends and highlighting specific needs. Check out their extensive list of “Resources for Missionaries”.
The growing needs of missionaries worldwide have prompted hundreds of other resource websites. Consult the Mission Resource Directory or consider using a search engine such as Yahoo or Google to find particular service providers. In addition, many mission agencies offer excellent resource pages on their own websites to meet the specific needs of their missionaries.
TRAVEL AND SHIPPING
Once a missionary knows where he or she is going, the question of travel becomes an immediate preoccupation. Airline tickets to foreign countries can cost thousands of dollars and possibly exceed the budget of a church-supported missionary.
So YouWanna.com outlines strategies for finding reasonably priced airfare. This secular website3 explains how airlines set their prices, outlines the benefits of online booking and travel agencies, and includes several excellent links to service providers.
The web is a valuable resource for locating travel agencies that specialize in missionary travel.
MTS Travel is the largest mission-related travel firm in the US and uses its size to negotiate special-fare contracts with numerous airlines.
Similarly, the sole mission of Raptim International Travel is “to facilitate and coordinate travel arrangements for church and humanitarian workers.” The Raptim subsidiary, Overseas Express focuses on providing wholesale travel arrangements for international missions needs.
The membership-based SIAMA World Mission Travel is headquartered in The Netherlands, and has been providing travel services to missionaries and development workers since 1970.
Golden Rule Travel offers special rates for missionaries, focusing on creative ways of getting you the lowest prices, including using coupons and routing through alternative airports.
After you’ve booked your flight, consult the Transportation Security Administration for luggage restrictions. Their “Air Travel” page thoroughly explains airport security procedures and includes an updated list of prohibited carry-on items for US airports.
For further packing advice, Accu Weather offers a fifteen-day forecast4 for an impressive number of locations worldwide, with links to hourly predictions, maps and satellite information.
Likewise, Weather.com gives you local weather for thousands of cities around the world.
Of course, international travel doesn’t end at the baggage claim.
The World Airport Guide provides detailed information on the facilities offered by the world’s major airports, including public transportation options.
If you intend to drive a vehicle on the mission field, you may want to obtain an International Driving Permit, recognized worldwide as valid identification for a licensed resident of the US—in many countries, you cannot rent a car unless you have an IDP.
If you need accommodations near the airport for a few days, check out Hostels.com and use the Map Search to find a quality hostel in your region.
Or, if you’re looking for a bit more privacy, TravelHero.com can point you to hotels in the area. Both sites allow you to compare prices and even make advanced bookings online.
The US Department of State has links to important documents on its Travel and Living Abroad as well as The Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Embassy World connects you to all of the world’s embassies via a searchable database, along with advice, maps and more.
Contact the US US Embassy nearest your mission field for more information about specific visa requirements, international relations and US-sponsored services in other countries.
DMS Visa International, “the leading company in obtaining travel documents through the passport office, US Secretary of State and the foreign consular offices,” offers a wealth of downloadable forms.
The web can also help you arrange shipping services.
If you have large amounts of printed material such as books or magazines, consider purchasing M-Bags from the US Postal Service. An M-Bag allows you to send up to sixty-six pounds of mail to a single address in any country.
For more complex shipping needs, a freight service might be your best option.
Missionary Expediters specializes in freight forwarding for Christian missionaries who want to ship personal effects and household goods overseas.
InterMove Global, a secular shipping service with 236 offices worldwide, is committed to offering the lowest price quote online. Their services include international shipping and overseas moving.
For further links to missionary travel and shipping services, consult Mission Finder.org.
FINANCE AND INSURANCE
A commitment to missions overseas requires a whole new outlook on finance. While the web cannot prevent the culture shock of foreign business practices, it can help you prepare to deal with multiple currencies nestled in multiple bank accounts in multiple countries.
Reserve-Bank.com is a directory of thousands of reputable banks around the world, with links to their contact information and websites where available.
For the latest information on exchange rates, check out the Universal Currency Converter, which features up-to-the-minute rates5 on every known world currency.
The web also allows you to search for ATM machines in the region, whether you use Visa or MasterCard.
If your home bank doesn’t have a remote branch near the mission field, consider joining a credit union.
Evangelical Christian Credit Union is a financial institution working exclusively with non-profit evangelical organizations around the world.
For a better understanding of how to apply Christian principles in a foreign business market, check out SCRUPLES. This online forum is dedicated to equipping Christians in the marketplace with helpful information, biblical principles and business skills.
Before you leave for the mission field, you might consider hiring a lawyer to oversee your assets back home.
The American Bar Association website includes a Lawyer Referral Directory that can help you find a certified attorney in the area.
Do your health and life insurance plans cover international travel? If not, the web has dozens of insurance providers who specialize in missionary health plans.
Missionary Health.com represents several of the largest missionary-sending organizations in America.
Brotherhood Mutual offers the Passport to Ministry policy for excellent short-term protection overseas.
Community Insurance Agency represents several insurance providers who specialize in the international market.
The Good Neighbor Insurance website includes several excellent resources for understanding international health insurance.
Adams & Associates is dedicated exclusively to providing complete insurance services for international missionaries and mission sending agencies.
GoMissionTrip.com features a variety of international medical plans to tailor-fit your specific needs.
All Aboard Benefits offers insurance with coverage both at home and abroad for customer ease during furlough.
Serving Abroad is “an informative, interactive and trusted internet site maintained by Educator Resources, to provide global medical solutions to the international traveler(s)” with an emphasis on serving missionaries. Regardless of the plan you choose, quality overseas insurance is a matter of good stewardship, taking the financial burden off of supporters if an accident should arise.
COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY
As Westerners, it’s easy to forget that much of the world considers functioning communications technology a luxury.
Steve Kropla has developed a website to help travelers adjust to varying technology standards around the world. Contents include information on electrical systems (voltage standards and acceptable plugs), hooking up your modem to various telephone jacks (or hard-wired phone systems), television standards, mobile phone use overseas and links to various technology merchants.
Tele-adapt is a great place to find and buy communications and computer adapters, converters and gadgets.
For tech support on the field, contact
MissionaryTechSupport.com, a site committed to providing free computer and technology services to evangelical missionaries. Services include e-mail consultation, remote access, phone support and the PC Manual for Missionaries.
Global Resources for Computing was founded in 1999 “with the purpose to bring the best in technology to the Faith Based, Missions, Non-profit Humani-tarian organizations.” They provide specialized information technology consulting, including secure e-mail, networking and data security services for international missions.
Make sure to visit the Missionary TECH Team website. They offer an impressive variety of technical services exclusively for Christian ministries, including website design and maintenance, construction and landscape design, networking and server configuration, civil and mechanical engineering, graphics design, custom software development and vehicle-acquisition assistance.
Country Calling Codes is a user-friendly reference that explains how to make long-distance telephone calls outside the United States. However, knowing how to make a call doesn’t really prepare you for the erratic price of international long-distance.
Consequently, SpeedyPin.com offers a variety of phone card recommendations based on your location.
Before you call, you also might want to check out TimeTicker, a helpful reference for determining time difference. We also like The Personal World Clock at TimeAndDate.com, a customizable online world clock allowing you to instantly see the current time for your selected cities.
The questionable status of phone service in many parts of the world makes personal internet access a real challenge. As a result, internet cafes have seen tremendous growth in the past few years.
Cybercafes contains a database of over 4,000 internet cafes around the world, searchable by country.
A website is a great way to keep in touch with your supporters, as long as you have the ability to update it from the field.
For those who are uncomfortable with web page design, Cast Your Vision can create high-quality Flash presentations using your information in text format. Updates are simple and “Vision Codes” ensure that visitors access the correct page.
WebMissions offers website design, maintenance and hosting services for Christian missionaries.
ServantSite6 offers free web hosting for missionaries.
Prayer letters remain a popular method of communication from the mission field. A letter service based in the US can print and ship your prayer letters for you at a fraction of the cost of mailing them from overseas.
BMC Letter Service uses an automated mailing system to offer a turn-around of four to five days.
Mission Center International is a professional printing and mailing service, offering bulk rate postage regardless of the size of your mailing list.
You can also find quality prayer card services on the web.
Discount Photographic Imagination features an online “Design Room” that helps you create high-quality prayer cards, bookmarks and business cards.
Innovative Graphics specializes in traditional prayer cards and brochures, with an emphasis on personal service.
The Creative Plus website offers photocards (one-sided), postcards (printed back) and useful tips on taking the perfect photograph.
Evangel Press and The Howard Print Shop also specialize in preparing custom prayer cards. Prices vary by quantity and design complexity, but most organizations set their rates with a missionary’s salary in mind.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
As missionaries, we are called to be fearless, but not foolish. A thorough investigation of imminent health and security issues can help to avert dangerous setbacks.
The Center for Disease Control website details health concerns and vaccination recommendations for eighteen world regions, with links to further information online.
Many governments require proof of adequate vaccination before you can enter the country.
If your local doctor cannot provide the recommended medications, contact the public health department in your area.
For the latest updates on epidemics around the world, consult Disease Outbreak News, sponsored by the World Health Organization.
Medical doctor William T. Close‘s site has links to dozens of web-based health sites and online medical directories.
If your mission field is in Africa, visit the Water in Africa site; this Peace Corps project features personal accounts of daily water usage and sanitation concerns throughout the continent.
Hot Spots is a daily update (Monday through Friday) of political crisis developments around the world. Users can visit the website or request Hot Spots by e-mail.
The U.S. State Department issues Consular Information Sheets for every country that include information on unusual immigration practices, health conditions, minor political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security information and drug penalties.
For more general information, the CIA’s World Factbook, updated annually, features Communication, Transportation, Economic, Government, Geographic and People statistics for every nation.
CountryWatch, “a world leader in providing country specific geopolitical intelligence on each of the 192 countries of the world,” provides a number of high quality, continuously updated, online information services.
Country at a Glance, hosted by The World Bank, provides a list of financial and social statistics indicating the economic trends of the country overall.
Despite every precaution, many missionaries will still have to deal with sickness and political turmoil.
The State Department website has an in-depth description of emergency services the US government provides its citizens while they travel abroad (including financial, medical and legal assistance).
International SOS offers a variety of services to its members, particularly evacuation assistance for medical and political purposes.
Crisis Consulting International provides crisis assistance to international Christian organizations encountering terrorist threats and other emergencies. They also offer consulting and training services in the United States.
Entering a foreign mission field brings you face to face with questions you never even thought to ask. Thankfully, the web allows you to access one of the most important missionary resources: the voice of experience.
Askamissionary.com hosts an online forum and distributes a monthly e-mail newsletter enabling you to consult experienced missionaries worldwide for advice on Support-Raising, Tentmak-ing, Family Concerns, Training or any other questions you have regarding long-term missions.
The Virtual Tourist website features travel advice provided by visitors and locals on a variety of topics, including Local Customs, Shopping and Transportation.
The web also houses articles on preparing for long-term mission, such as Roy Dearmore’s “Biblical Missions: Practical & Technical Considerations”.
Global Economic Outreach offers information on health, education, agriculture, technology, construction and business. This non-profit organization connects missionaries with skilled workers of every imaginable profession for advice over the telephone or via the internet.
American Citizens Abroad provides a variety of helpful documents online, focusing on legal and financial issues faced by American citizens living overseas.
For further practical resources, the MisLinks website explores such topics as Church Planting, Evangelism, Fundraising, Member Care, MK Web Links, News Sources and Short Term Missions. A site like this can only benefit missionaries as long as it contains up-to-date information, so we welcome any corrections and additions you might have for MisLinks; please use the “Contact Us” link at the bottom of our home page.
1. Our thanks to Wheaton College student Stephen O’Rear for his help on this issue of Missions on the Web.
2. All URLs, unless otherwise noted, start with http://
3. Many of the topics at SoYouWanna. com reflect a non-Christian outlook toward life. However, the practical benefits of this particular page merit mention.
4. By default, many parts of the world report temperature in metric units. For Fahrenheit units, click the “English” link near the top of the page.
5. XE.com uses mid-market rates on all conversions. Expect slightly different rates when exchanging on the street, where the parallel rate is typically used.
6. At the time of this writing, Servant-Site is still in Beta testing.
A. Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and chair of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.).
His e-mail address is < A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department Web address is www.wheaton.edu/intr.
Mike O’Rear (right) is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the two-thirds world. He also serves as Lausanne senior associate for information technology. His e-mail address is email@example.com, and the GMI Web address is www.gmi.org/.
EMQ, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 516-523. Copyright © 2004 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.