Going on a mission trip is a serious, important endeavor that can change the lives of those in the community you visit. And the changes made are not for the benefit of a single group; they are changes that will affect future generations for decades—if not forever and can improve the quality of life for an entire country. While you may be focused on the goal of your mission and the importance of accomplishing it, you could be ignoring some of the steps you need to take in order to keep yourself safe on the journey—and it’s not going to help your mission if you put yourself at risk. Here are some of the things you should pay attention to if you want to ensure your safety, thereby protecting the success of the mission.
Watch State Department Travel Warnings
Some destinations, especially those that might need the help of your mission group, can be dangerous places to visit due to the political and social environment. While these risks are something that missionaries often take on bravely, it’s a good idea to still be aware of any potential escalations and new issues. The State Department issues travel warnings for areas that have become, or have potential to become, dangerous or unstable. Reading these warnings will not only help you better protect yourself when you go on your mission, they will also help you determine if a specialized kind of insurance coverage is necessary. For example, if the State Department issues a warning for an area they state is prone to suicide bombings, then a missionary might want to secure a supplemental warzone insurance policy to provide coverage for accidental death, dismemberment or disability as well as health insurance for a warzone. The State Department could warn that another country has drug cartels with a propensity to kidnap tourists and missionaries. A missionary who is aware of this risk might purchase kidnapping insurance in order to mitigate the financial risk to their family should they be kidnapped.
Monitor Travel Alerts
Like travel warnings. Travel alerts are issued by the State Department. Unlike warnings, however, alerts are for temporary, short-term risks faced by travelers. For example, in January, the State Department issued a warning for the South Pacific due to tropical cyclone season, which lasts through April. In February, they alerted travelers to a potential risk of violence and disruption during the Kenyan elections scheduled for March 4th.
Short-term risks such as these can catch missionaries by surprise if they aren’t carefully monitoring events in the areas they plan to visit. When they become aware of these possibly unexpected, short-term risks they can ensure they have the proper missionary health insurance coverage options, but also trip insurance coverages such as trip cancellation and emergency political evacuation and repatriation.
Don’t Forget to STEP Up
We’ve already mentioned a couple of ways the U.S. State Department is a great big help to missionaries trying to decide what to look out for when they travel and what kind of travel insurance to purchase, but what is something happens in the U.S. or abroad that can affect your trip or your family back home, when you no longer have computer access to find out about it? The State Department has this covered, too, with their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Through STEP, missionaries can give the Travel Department their contact information and receive travel warning and alert updates for any country they want—including their home country.
There are many considerations that a missionary must make before traveling abroad. Each of these decisions can affect his or her safety, financial security, and the success of the mission trip. While securing missionary health insurance is a no-brainer, it can be a challenge to determine what kind of coverage is necessary and will be most helpful. After following the entry requirements of the country you wish to travel to and complying with their visa requirements, a good place to go next is to the State Department website to get a feel for the various risk factors faced. While health coverage for an international trip is universally necessary, other supplementary coverage may also be needed—but you’ll only know that if you do your research.