When visiting a new location, the most important consideration is mission trip safety. At Mission Discovery, we want to make sure our volunteers feel safe and secure on their mission trip, so we take safety precautions every step of the way. This article will discuss essential travel advisories, what you can do to stay safe while serving abroad, and how Mission Discovery ensures your safety throughout the entire process.
As a missions organization, Mission Discovery is committed to a high standard of safety for all of our short term mission trips. We constantly monitor travel advisories and will not move forward with a mission trip if any dangerous conditions could jeopardize a team member’s health or well-being. We work closely together with our partners who live in the locations we serve – leveraging their first-hand expertise when making decisions about travel arrangements.
Travel Advisories Explained
First, let’s take a look at travel advisories. The Department of State issues Travel Advisories to caution travelers about the potential safety and security risks particular to any country. These advisories are categorized by travel risk level:
Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions
This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel, but the risk can be managed with common-sense precautions. Stay alert at all times and know how locals are likely to act within their cultural norms.
Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution
Be aware of heightened risks to your safety/security when traveling internationally. Travelers should always follow basic rules such as avoiding questionable destinations, carrying only what you need, and staying away from demonstrations or protests that may happen abruptly without warning.
Level 3 – Reconsider Travel
If you’re planning on traveling on a mission trip in the near future, be aware that there are serious security risks. The possibility of safety conditions changing at any time makes it important for travelers to make final decisions about their destination or route.
Level 4 – Do Not Travel
This is the highest advisory level due to the greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Travel Advisories in Context
Many of the countries we serve fluctuate between Level 2 and Level 3 travel advisories continually. To give some context, here are the travel advisories for the following countries as of January 24, 2018:
- Canada is Level 1.
- South Korea is Level 1.
- China is Level 2.
- Italy is Level 2.
- France is Level 2.
- Jamaica is Level 2.
- Cuba is Level 3.
- Guatemala is Level 3.
- Haiti is Level 3.
- Iraq is Level 4.
- Afghanistan is Level 4.
Mission Discovery Safety Precautions
Mission Discovery takes all precautions necessary to avoid any incident. We do not travel at night unless necessary, and we never venture out alone. Our team members stay close together everywhere they go so that no one gets lost or separated from the group.
Our international mission partners view safety as their number one priority. For 30 years now, Mission Discovery has created safe mission trips because of their commitment to keeping our teams safe!
Top 12 Volunteer Safety Tips
- Research the area before you go
- Stay with a group, not alone
- Don’t pack anything that is too valuable to you, or that would be hard to replace if lost
- Do not wear any jewelry or expensive clothing so that it does not attract attention
- Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place at all times (a money belt under your clothes is one option)
- Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan on coming back
- Be aware of what’s around you – don’t wear headphones while walking through busy areas, keep a distance from people you don’t know, etc…
- Stick with well-lit areas as much as possible – avoid dark areas
- Carry a photo ID at all times to show police officers if stopped
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you – use traveler’s checks instead
- Pack a photocopy of your passport, driver’s license, and credit cards in case you lose them
- Be mindful of the local customs – don’t wear revealing clothes or act inappropriately
Depend on the Spirit
Mission Discovery is a faith-based organization that aims to make Christ known throughout the world. We approach every mission trip with prayer and consultation with ministry partners before departure to ensure the safety of our teams. We rely heavily on guidance from the Holy Spirit rather than our own strength when deciding whether or not send out teams abroad.
Pay attention to travel advisories, but don’t let them stop you from serving on a mission trip. The four state department travel advisory levels are designed to warn travelers about specific safety risks as they plan their trips abroad. We take all necessary precautions when traveling internationally to stay safe.
You can rely on us for safe mission trip opportunities, as we depend on our Ministry Partners and the Holy Spirit for guidance as we serve those who need us most around the world. We hope this article has given you some insight into how we work and what it means if the country you are serving is given a heightened travel alert by State Department Travel Advisors.