You're traveling on a short-term mission trip in Mexico when your van suddenly swerves, crashes into another vehicle and rolls over. Several members of your team are visibly injured by the collision and rollover. They need immediate assistance. Are you prepared to handle this emergency?
This is the type of situation a mission team leader hopes never to confront. However, it's one of the scenarios church leaders must consider before sending people on a mission trip for any length of time.
They need to know how to contact emergency medical services, how to perform first aid, and how to summon help in a non-English speaking country, among other things.
While it's not possible to anticipate every potential crisis on a short-term mission trip, thinking through some of the risks can help you prepare for emergency situations. Here are some guidelines for preparing a successful and safe short-term mission trip.
Recruit Experienced Leaders
You'll want the people leading your mission trip to be experienced in mission travel and familiar with the locale where you will be traveling. You'll also need enough of them to adequately supervise your group, especially when traveling with minors.
Leadership screening requirements should include a criminal background check, reference checks, cross-cultural "sensitivity" training, participation in previous ministry trips, and familiarity with the project locale.
Develop a thorough screening procedure for people who want to participate on your short-term mission trip. Some eligibility requirements to consider include: good health, verification of personal health, life, and property insurance; parental approval for minors, and a willingness to assume the risks associated with a mission trip. If a significant amount of your trip involves work with minors, such as running a Vacation Bible School or ministering to children (as opposed to construction work), additional background screening would be recommended. Such screening typically includes an application noting prior work with children, reference checks, and a criminal history review.
Thoroughly explain the known risks to all participants and the parents of minors involved with the project. Legally document each participant's assumption of risk. You can obtain sample forms from a number of sources, including your insurance agent. However, don't use any forms until your church attorney has reviewed and approved them.