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 next Spring and Summer, we can say with certainty that we will need to make changes to how we organize and run EM mission trips.
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 our 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 Protocols will be informed and abide by all federal, state, and local health guidelines, including ongoing updates from the CDC. While plans for trips in specific communities are ongoing, we have already identified the following areas that will need to 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 guidelines to protect both volunteers and community members (including wearing masks if still strongly recommended by health officials at the time of each trip). 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 still 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 will be made to housing and mealtimes to create more space for each group and to limit interactions between volunteers not coming with the same group. For meals, we anticipate eating meals outside (or in shifts) and eliminating shared-food opportunities. We are also reducing the number of volunteers we can accommodate in many communities in order to keep groups separate who are serving together. (Note: groups who serve alone on a given week will be able to bring a higher number of volunteers since group mixing will not be a concern.)
- 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” guidelines, including wearing masks in any indoor space or when present with other groups or community members. 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 or mask-wearing among the members of each mission trip group when solely interacting with each other. For this reason, it is very likely that EM will 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 minimal interaction with others (all socially distanced) 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 all 2021 Mission Trips Safety Protocols are in-process and subject to change as rapid COVID testing and potential vaccines become more readily available—and we hope they do!
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