To Go or Not to Go-Missions Trips and Ebola

The Bible has much to say about trusting God.  Victory is connected to trusting God (2 Chronicles 13:18).  Jesus promised that God would take care of His children (Matthew 6:28-30).  We are to trust the Lord and not our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).  And yet we are also commanded to plan and consider the cost of our endeavors (Proverbs 6:6-8; Luke 14:28).

How do we balance trusting God’s sovereignty with responsible decision making and planning mission trips in the shadow of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed nearly 5,000 people?  I would like to suggest 6 questions that will help us make wise decisions while trusting God’s sovereignty.

  1. Should you cancel all missions travel to Africa until the outbreak is over?  We should not be ruled by a spirit of fear (1 John 4:18) and we should be willing to take some risks for the cause of Christ.  How much risk?
  2. Where are you going?  Many people are unaware that Africa is the second largest continent on the planet.  It is 36% larger than all of North America (Canada, the United States and Mexico combined).  You could be be serving thousands of kilometers from an outbreak, where the outbreak could be less of a factor.
  3. Who are the participants?  This will help determine your risk tolerance, medical versus non-medical, adults versus youth, etc.  
  4. What is the purpose of the trip?  Determine if you will meet an urgent need or could fulfill the mission just as effectively another time.
  5. What alerts or warnings are in effect for the area where the team will be serving?  Check the travel alerts and warnings posted by the US State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.  Be sure to read each site’s definitions of its warnings and alerts.  Weigh the warnings and alerts against your tolerance for risk.
  6. How will you travel?  Consider the route and carriers you might use.  You may want to avoid select airport locations because of travelers or airlines using those airports. You may avoid using particular carriers because of potentially risky policies. 

Every organization participating in short term mission trips should develop risk protocols to help determine when to say no to a trip based on risk.  This article only deals with health risks, but similar protocols could be developed to prepare for threats that might pose other physical risks to travelers.  May God help us balance trust in God’s sovereignty and wise planning.

Please share your comments and questions below.

David Selvey<
David is the pastor of global outreach at Faith Church and the executive director of Faith Global Missions. He serves as a counselor in Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaches in and plans international conferences. David has served as a missionary and worked as a small business owner. He and his wife, Kathy, have lived in Indiana since 1995 and have been members of Faith Church since 1996.