EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Hedger serves as the Multiplying Churches Director for the Missouri Baptist Convention.
PUEBLA-TLAXCALA, Mexico – By the grace of God, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s partnership with the Puebla-Tlaxcala Regional Baptist Convention continues to flourish. As 2019 has progressed, additional Missouri Churches have stepped forward with a prompting of the Holy Spirit to partner with a pastor/church within the small, impoverished but faithful convention located in the southern central part of Mexico.
Nearly every week, I receive contact from pastors within the Puebla-Tlaxcala Convention requesting Missouri partners. There is no lack of vision, no lack of need. Yet, even with the faithful service of so many Missouri churches south of the border, there is a continual urgency for additional Missourians to embrace a healthy partnership with a Mexican church in order to assist them in evangelism, discipleship, church strengthening and multiplying churches.
With every partnership comes the weighty responsibility to do “good mission.” For our MBC partnerships, this embraces some basic but very important perimeters of conduct, including what we “will do” and what we “will not do” within the partnership. This code of missions is designed on both the “Convention to Convention ” level and on the “Church to Church” level. This basic agreement is designed for our service on the field to function well and avoid the formation of any dependency issues among the indigenous work.
In addition to the covenant agreement outlining those subjects, I also strongly recommend that some basic steps be taken by each Missouri church traveling internationally. One of those recommendations is the acquiring of International Travel Insurance. As a local church pastor, I began using Galligher Travel Insurance nearly two decades ago and continued that practice after coming to the MBC.
Recently, I was on a trip to Puebla to meet with local pastors. To my delight, one of our Missouri churches, Calvary of Neosho (where I formerly pastored), was on the field in the same area, lodging at the same hotel. They have embraced their partnership well, meticulously working the strategy and serving faithfully. It was during their time serving that week that the unimaginable occurred – a team member required hospitalization. I asked the serving Team Leader, Amy Dudley, to share with us some thoughts on her experience:
“Travel Insurance? We don’t need it. We’ve gone on dozens of trips and have never needed it yet.” That is a prevalent mindset when setting the mission budget. However, for international missions, I argue that it’s a non-negotiable. I don’t say this lightly. I say this as a frequent mission traveler and someone that has both had and needed international travel insurance.
In 2019, I was on a trip that was caught in political unrest and prayed for answers because emergency evacuation was out of our budget. Our team had failed to acquire the political insurance. After days of chaos and uncertainty, God absolutely covered us and provided a safe way home, but that’s not His promise to us. We were ill prepared for the situation. His kindness allowed us to eventually evacuate.
I recently was on a trip to Puebla through our MBC Partnership when a team member became ill, requiring hospitalization. Though the treatment was relatively inexpensive compared to what it would have cost in the United States, having the international medical coverage provided tremendous peace as we moved forward in the medical decisions needing to be made. We knew that in the event that a medical evacuation was needful, it would not be cost prohibitive on the team member’s family or on our local church. In our situation, our teammate received treatment and was able to be discharged after a few days, in time to travel home with us, but we are never guaranteed that it will end in a simple fashion.
In addition to acquiring our international travel insurance, our church was also trained and are now diligent in a few other preparedness steps. We keep emergency contact information, copies of passports and other necessary paperwork on file in our church office, and have a designated person at home to handle any issues that may occur. And I’m so grateful we do this. When needed, it’s a relief on the field to take care of the emergency and let someone at home begin the contact with insurance and cover the paperwork. This allows the team on the field to continue working in their area if possible, and also navigate the many details involved with decisions regarding the situation at hand.
It is also essential to establish trusted contacts in the local area. All the stateside planning you can do has to be matched by having local help. From getting safe travel and places to stay during political unrest, to having replacement interpreters when ours had to accompany a team member to the doctor/clinic. Through multiple trips to the same area, we have built relationships within our area of ministry. I was able to contact our local church members to seek trusted doctors, our interpreter literally ran to seek an open clinic.
In our recent situation, Dr. Hedger (MBC) provided escorts and interpreters for the remainder of our team to continue serving the community we were called to. Again and again on this trip I was reminded of the beauty of the global church. We had a team of 7 from the states, but our mission work was ultimately made up of at least 4 churches from 2 countries to serve in one local for one week. It was truly the Body of Christ acting as the Body of Christ to further the gospel. The Holy Spirit does the work every time, but we do have a responsibility to prepare diligently for every trip, both in prayer and paperwork. We, as Calvary of Neosho, will not leave the country without our insurance, diligent planning and much prayer.
It was a pleasure to serve the needs of the Calvary Neosho team during their time of crisis, just as it would be for any of our MBC Churches. Their planning and preparedness greatly assisted in the navigation of a few stressful days, allowing the majority of the team to continue serving their partner while a few cared for the medical needs at hand. I encourage every MBC Church to heed the advice from experience, and never fail to obtain the inexpensive but important International travelers insurance.
Note: As the MBC moves forward into 2020, new and fresh security training events will be hosted by the MBC for Pastors, Mission Pastors and volunteers to better equip them for safe and secure travel while fulfilling their part of the Great Commission.