Over the past month, many churches, universities, and schools have had to wrestle with what the COVID-19 pandemic means for almost all their activities, including planned mission trips. The rapid pace of the continuous updates from news agencies and governments in early March meant that organizations were forced to make decisions regarding their trips and events in a short time frame.
Gateway Community Christian Reformed Church in Abbotsford, B.C., was one of the many churches that decided to postpone their annual youth mission trip to Mexico. The seven trip leaders made the unanimous decision March 12, two days ahead of their planned departure with 23 students. Marcel Deregt, executive pastor at Gateway CRC, and member of the Mexico mission team said,“The process was done through much prayer, wise counsel, and discernment.”
Ted Harris, the administrator for Smithville (Ont.) Christian High School, said the school had two trips planned for March. There was a trip to France that was canceled and a trip to South Africa that went ahead. The learning trip to France was canceled once the U.S. issued a ban on travel to and from Europe. “The decision to go ahead with the South Africa trip was a tough one,” said Harris. “While ultimately the decision to proceed was made by the school administration, we found we had great support from the parents of students in that decision as well. The show of unity surrounding this decision was huge in confirming our choice.”
While in South Africa the students were able to partner with local ministries and a partner school, continuing the annual work of the past 12 years. The team returned home March 26. They were able to catch one of the last flights back. “All of the students and leaders are healthy and safe and now in self isolation” said Harris.
At The King’s University in Edmonton, Alta., all travel, including their yearly Honduras development trip was canceled. President Melanie Humphreys said the school has been following very closely the directives of the Alberta Government and keeping their community updated. “The direction King’s has taken has not been an easy one, and choices have been made in coordination with the board of directors and the pandemic response team. This truly has been a team effort.”
A Dordt University Putting Love into Action trip to New Mexico, which began March 6, did go ahead, but the COVID-19 reaction caused it to be extended. Tabatha DeGroot was one of seven students participating. “It was weird how when we left Dordt for our trip, everything was completely normal. Things went from zero to 100 while we were away, however, and we feared many things, one of which was being quarantined in New Mexico.” Despite the setback, the team was able to return to Dordt, in Sioux Center, Iowa, by March 14.
When asked about the surge of closures, postponements and cancelations, Dr. Robert Huizinga, a clinical epidemiologist who sits on the board of governors for The King's University said this, “If we overreact to this global pandemic and we are wrong, very little infection will result and no one will know the scale of our miscalculation. If on the other hand we underreact, the world will know the scale of our miscalculation in relatively short order.”