Emergencies on the Mission Field

Emergency RoomWhile it’s not the most fun subject to talk about, it’s a fact of doing missions. At some point on some trip, something unexpected will happen. You are going to have an emergency on your hands. It might not be as extreme as getting caught in the Haitian earthquake or being held up at gunpoint, but the odds are something will happen that’s out of your control.
How the emergency affects your team and the focus of the trip will depend on your leadership.
Leadership starts at home with trip preparation. There are a few basic travel essentials you should have in place before you go.
  • Register with the U.S. State Department — if you’re traveling internationally, notify the U.S. State Department of your itinerary. It takes about five minutes, but it lets the local officials know where you’ll be in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to print out the location and contact information for the nearest consulate.
  • Travel insurance — some say it’s just an extra cost, but as a former travel agent, I believe it’s essential (especially for group travel). Find a plan that includes at least $100,000 in medical coverage and also covers medical evacuation. 
  • Vaccinations — depending on where you go, you may have to get a few extra vaccinations. Follow through with all of them (and make sure to keep taking the malaria pills!).
  • Extra documents — it’s way easier to cancel credit cards and replace a lost/stolen passport or driver’s license if you have extra copies. Keep them separate from the originals, of course!
  • Stash of cash — same deal as the extra docs. Keep spare cash stowed away in a separate bag, safe, or hidden place in case you lose your wallet.
If something does happen, stay calm and focused. Before you begin scrambling to handle the situation, take the time to pause and pray with your whole team or the other leaders. Even if you’re the only adult there, you’re not really alone. 
Keep that as your perspective and then determine your priorities — who are you going to call first? What local authorities do you need to speak to? Clearly communicate toyour team and families what happened and what you’re doing so that everyone stays informed.
There’s a great post from roundtripmissions.com that goes in depth into the specifics of surviving five different types of emergencies: theft, auto accident, sickness, arrest (don’t laugh, it happens), and assault. Again, it’s not that fun to talk about, but it’s best to be prepared.

It’s also a worth checking out some of AIM’s information for parents, particularly this article (Dealing with Risk on Your Short Term Mission), to help keep everyone informed of the risks involved.
There’s some element of risk involved in any trip anywhere. Careful preparation can help eliminate some risks, but not all of them. While only a small percentage of travelers experience an emergency, it’s important to think about how to handle those just-in-case scenarios and be ready to jump in and lead during one of them.
Safe travels!
(Image courtesy of commons.wikipedia.org)

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