By Peter Blackaby
What happens if your church’s mission team is caught in an earthquake? What happens if a team member falls ill and the hospital only accepts cash? What happens if a team member gets separated and is having difficulty reconnecting with the group? As your church sends out volunteers, are you safe?
There are some intentional measures that your church can implement to enable you to respond effectively and efficiently to many of the emergencies that mission teams may face – whether they are deployed in Canada or abroad.
HAVE AN AT-HOME POINT PERSON
Designate an at-home point person (“Joe”). This person will be the first call should the mission team face an emergency. Should a serious situation occur on the field, this person will serve as the communication link and will take the lead in dealing with any logistics.
Both the team members and the family at home should have this person’s cell phone number and other contact information readily at hand. Likewise, “Joe” should have emergency contacts, travel itineraries, insurance details, and personal information (including passport numbers for international trips) for each team member.
Imagine that your church has a mission team in another country when a hurricane hits their location. “Joe” will be the information hub for family at home, will handle evacuation logistics, and will deal with the insurance company* on behalf of the entire team.
HAVE A CODE WORD
What happens if a third party needs to contact “Joe” to ask for funds for medical expenses? What happens if a family member back home receives an email asking for money? How will the parties involved be able to discern between legitimate correspondence and scams?
One way is to have a “code word” that would be used only in such emergencies. If an emergency arises, each team member should have the contact information for “Joe” and know the team’s code word. A good code word is easy to remember without writing down, is not obvious to outsiders, and should only be used in emergencies.
REGISTER WITH FOREIGN AFFAIRS
It is a good idea to require all team members to register with Canadian Foreign Affairs prior travelling outside the country – including trips to the United States. In the event of a natural disaster or civil unrest, you will want to be sure that the local consulate knows to look for you! Non-Canadian citizens will need to register with their nation’s respective consulate. Information about how to register is available here.