Personal safety on mission trips

Half a dozen safe travel tips

Don't be vulnerable to thieves (or worse) on your short-term mission

"A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it." -- Proverbs 22:3

The excitement of being in a new place may cause you to let down your guard. At that point you can become easy prey for thieves or worse. Do not get paranoid. Just be prudent. As you prepare to hit the road on that mission trip, engrave these safe travel tips in your memory. Make them part of your safety training. Here are half a dozen ways to encourage thieves to look elsewhere for victims:

Keep your luggage nearby and within your view.
If traveling by air, check your baggage in as soon as you arrive at the airport. Only allow airline personnel and uniformed sky caps to handle your baggage.
Don't flash cash in public
When buying something at a store, don't pull out a huge wad of money (even though it may seems like "play" money to you). Wear a money belt or sack under your clothes to carry your cash and small valuables. Do not leave valuables in a car or hotel room.
Be observant
Always look around you. Be aware of what's going on. When loading or unloading vehicles, don't leave doors or the trunk open and unattended.
Keep your address somewhat private
If you're staying in a hotel, don't disclose your room number when strangers are within earshot. Be reluctant about opening your door for unexpected visitors or deliveries. If you can, call the front desk to verify the visitor's identity.
Be alert for mishaps that seem deliberate
Thieves and pickpockets distract people with ploys like bumping into someone or spilling a drink on people in a crowd.
Wedge the door shut
Take a door wedge on your trip. At night, place it under the hotel room door to prevent anyone from forcing the door open.
Lock hotel room doors and windows when you leave
Don't leave a hotel room door ajar while you run an errand. If you find your room door open after you had left it closed, go back to the hotel lobby and ask that someone return with you to your room. When you leave the hotel, drop your key at the hotel desk. That eliminates the chance you'll lose it or have it plucked from your pocket.

Safety: The first piece of the pie

nextHow important is safety on a mission trip? It needs to be the first piece of the pie! [ read more ]

Heart-warming mission trip stories

Notes about a summer of short-term mission trip experiences

Joey Cash was $300 short. Joey was one of about 30 Southern Nazarene University selected for summer short-term mission trip teams. Joey was excited about his summer, but in early May, he faced a payment deadline lacking $300.

Joey had agreed to speak on a Sunday morning in a small church about 90 miles west of his hometown of Garland, TX. He knew they might take an offering for him but he also knew that Mineola averaged just over 30 in morning worship.

That morning Joey spoke of his hopes and dreams for the summer he was hoping to spend in ministry in South Africa. When Joey finished speaking, Pastor Larry Kromer did take an offering for him. When the money was counted, the offering came to almost exactly $300.

Joey's sense of being on a faith journey as he prepared for and went on a summer mission trip reflects that of other SNU students who have spent summers on mission trip teams.

Their ministries during the summer were varied. Jessica Bohn (Pflugerville, TX) outlined a typical day for her team in the Caribbean: "Wake up, travel to the next town, arrive at a church full of children, do a children's rally (like a one-day VBS), eat lunch with a family from the local church, do friendship evangelism in the form of a trip to the beach with local youth or basketball games in the neighborhood, get cleaned up, eat supper with a local church family and then conduct seminars on youth work, Bible quizzing and local church youth evangelism teams."

The challenges her team faced included holding one district Bible quizzing tournament without electricity. "Thank goodness for flashlights and candles," said Jessica.

The routine was different in Tonga. After their first week Lacey Williams (Brentwood, TN) and her teammates reported that they had already appeared on a TV show, "Good Morning, Tonga." They had done ministry in schools, home of handicapped children and adults, a prison, hospitals and had helped in a youth event run by the Salvation Army.

From Uganda, Eric Pertl (La Porte, TX) reported preaching to a crowd of 150 under a shelter of banana leaves. Even before they got to their assignment in Brisbane, Australia Eric Godfroy (Johnson, KS) and Brent LaVigne (Adamstown, MD) got a chance to witness to fellow airplane passengers. They reveled in being a part of "God's divine appointments."

Teams in Italy, Russia, the Balkans and a Creative Access country were involved in "prayer walks." Missionary Joel Mullen, who was planting a church in Sicily said he wanted to use the prayer walks to "surround our neighborhood with a fortress of prayer."

In Sydney, Australia, Gavin Fothergill (San Antonio, TX) and Shauna Mullins (Sand Springs, OK) helped move a Sudanese refugee family into a new home.

Sometimes the young people confessed to feeling a bit in over their heads. However, they were "willing vessels," as the team in Italy put it. In early July, Jessica Bohn wrote back from Puerto Rico: "I don't have much to offer, but God is taking my willingness and moving mightily."

From Moscow, psychology major Laura Larpenteur wrote her parents in Hamlin, TX: "Tomorrow we're going to scope out parks and see if we can sports there or take a guitar or something. We're not exactly sure what all we're going to do. Pray for us and and our non- sports-orientedness!"

Though it was a busy summer the young people also learned that effective ministry is more about relationships than it is programs. In the middle of the summer, Tiffany Schafer (Lake Charles, LA) wrote to her family and friends: "My biggest prayer is that my life and the lives of my teammates would be reflections of God's love and grace. . . . We pray that the Slovenes see our relationship with Christ lived out by the way we treat each other."

During their two months of ministry the SNU'ers and other college young people were overwhelmed by the hospitality of their hosts: "Sometimes they have very little, but they offer it freely as unto Jesus," said Alma Flores (Houston, TX). "In every town we have been made to feel as if it were our home. It has been a humbling experience for me."

Everything about the summer wasn't perfect. "Please keep us in your prayers," Alma e- mailed her friends. "Each of us on the team have at one point been discouraged and frustrated as well as disappointed in ourselves."

There were other problems too. There were bouts with dysentery. Then, the Ukraine team, which included SNU'ers Randy Stowe (Bentonville, AR) and Zina Zander (Avalon, TX) found themselves asked to leave one village where they had planned a day of ministry including the showing of the JESUS film. The village leaders "didn't want (us) talking about Jesus there." In another eastern European country, mission trip team members encountered young people who were afraid of what might happen to them if people found out they had become believers.

Tiffany Schafer was on Youth in Mission's Slovenia friendship evangelism team. Many of the Slovenians they encountered were religious relativists ("All religions are basically the same; all are striving to know the same Supreme Being"). Tiffany's desire to "communicate that Jesus is everything He says He is" led her to an intense reading and re-reading of the Gospels.

The summer had its light moments. For instance, the Moscow team went all out in a Fourth of July celebration for their Russian friends. Birthdays were also celebrated far from home.

In Slovenia, Tiffany Schafer's party included a slumber party for Slovenian girls. Alma Flores was sad about celebrating her twentieth birthday away from friends and family. The sadness disappeared, she wrote, "after seeing the beautiful cake they got me."

One of the most humorous things in Moscow came during a VBS conducted in a public school. Christyn Lauffer (Oklahoma City) described it in an e-mail: "We had our recreation time outside on the playground where cows and goats roam free. There was a cute little calf tied up near the soccer field. As Laura Larpenter and I were trying to pet it and feed it grass, I noticed one of its legs was caught in the rope. I decided to help the calf get untangled.

"I tried to be very gentle and not scare it, but it freaked out and started to run in circles around me. Before I knew it, I was on the ground with the rope wound around my ankles. My teammates like to refer to the fact that I was cowtied by a cow."

Overall, the summer was a resounding success. In one of their weekly reports sent back home, Mindy Brooks (Bethany, OK) and her teammates wrote: "The Italians' desire to know what and why we believe constantly amazes us. Their questions and their willingness to listen is clear confirmation that God is working and speaking to their hearts. Pray that we will have wisdom and that God will put the right words in our mouths."

The summer mission trip was "life-changing," said Mindy Book upon her return home. The university students had a chance, said Laura Larpenter, "to see God doing some amazing things in front of our eyes."

    -- Howard Culbertson


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