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.
This article is submitted by Rebecca Hopkins of Paraclete Mission Group. Paraclete Mission Group is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.