Hope. Uncertainty. Caution. Excitement.
There are a lot of emotions our team at Experience Mission is facing as we plan and prepare for mission trips in 2021. Though no one can know the exact details of what COVID-19 will look like next Spring and Summer, we know EM mission trips will need to look a little differently this next year.
As we formulate our plan for Spring and Summer 2021 Mission Trips, we are carefully looking at everything through the primary lens of keeping both local communities and volunteers safe, while providing meaningful and life-changing opportunities for cross-cultural service and mutual impact for all involved. We believe it’s not only possible but that it will be worth the effort more than ever before!
Our 2021 Mission Trip Safety Plan will be informed and abide by all federal, state, and local health guidelines, including ongoing updates from the CDC. Much is unknown about what risk the coronavirus will pose in Summer 2021, so we're setting a baseline as if those trips were taking place right now. If the state of the virus remains similar to what it looks like today, the following areas will look different next year*:
- Projects & Ministry Focus
EM mission trips in 2021 will most likely focus on work project-based ministry. Smaller groups of volunteers will be placed at given homes and worksites, and all contact with local people and homeowners will abide by appropriate social distancing and safety guidelines to protect both volunteers and community members. This means that trips may not include some of the same relational ministry opportunities as they have in past years, such as serving at nursing homes or directly with people who are considered higher risk. We ask for your flexibility and understanding with these changes. We believe doing our part to keep each mission trip community safe from COVID-19 will be a great way to honor and respect the dignity of those we serve while showing up to care for people who are often overlooked.
- Kids Ministry
EM Kids Club is typically a large component of mission trips in many communities. In 2021, whether or not Kids Club is part of each trip will vary by community and is subject to change as trips get closer and real-time updates from each community are available. Before committing to running Kids Club, we will consult with each local partner to carefully assess the community's comfort level with volunteers interacting with local children in order to ensure that it will be a safe and beneficial activity for all. Some factors related to the viability of Kids Club in 2021 may be the effectiveness and familiarity of virus safety protocols in local schools and church communities.
- Lodging & Food
EM mission trips often include groups from different parts of the country serving together during a given week. In order to accommodate this, appropriate adjustments may need to be made to sleeping arrangements and mealtimes to create more space for each group and to limit interactions between volunteers not coming with the same group. We may also need to reduce the number of volunteers we can accommodate in many communities in order to help keep groups separate who are serving together.
- Social Distancing
As mentioned above, EM mission trips will require volunteers and those they interact with to abide by all federal, state, and local social distancing and public health guidelines, including wearing masks when interacting in close proximity with community members and volunteers from other mission trip groups. As these guidelines are subject to change, they will be explicitly outlined and updated by EM well before the start of each trip. This is first and foremost to do everything we can to keep local communities and volunteers safe. Many EM mission trips bring volunteers into contact with communities at a higher risk of contracting the virus due to a variety of challenges. Teams who come to serve in 2021 will have the honor and privilege of taking on the personal responsibility to care for these communities by abiding by public health guidelines—to “consider others as more important than ourselves.” **
- Pre-Trip Health Precautions
Due to the nature of traveling together, sleeping in the same rooms, and working alongside each other at worksites, we understand it is not reasonable to enforce social distancing measures among the members of each mission trip group when solely interacting with each other. For this reason, EM may require teams to commit to pre-trip health precautions in order to not spread the virus among team members in a way that could be detrimental to the goals of the trip (ie. having to sideline or quarantine a large number of team members who get sick). These pre-trip precautions may include committing to 2 weeks of socially distanced interaction with others before the beginning of your trip and/or proof of a negative COVID-19 test for each team member from the final days before the trip.
* The exact details of EM's 2021 Mission Trips Safety Plan are in-process and subject to change as rapid COVID testing and potential vaccines become more readily available—and we hope they do!
** We understand it may be frustrating to think about social distancing or wearing masks in a highly relational and exciting environment where these things are not typically the norm. In this season, we are doing these things out of love for the people we come to serve. “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13) We believe it sends a powerful message of love to sacrifice a little of our personal freedom for the safety and health of others.
We can be certain that many things will change between now and Spring and Summer 2021, but we want to assure you, your team, and the families of your team members that we are making the necessary changes to create the safest environment for both your team and the community you come to serve.
We are excited and ready for the challenge of continuing to make mission trips a reality in 2021, and we will be blessed by each and every team who takes on this challenge with us. God is going to do great things in and through each mission trip next year. We humbly thank you for putting your trust in our team at EM.
Interested in bringing your group on a 2021 mission trip? Fill Out an Interest Form today! We would love to start a conversation with you about when and where you might serve together next year.
Fill Out an Interest Form