The world today is much different than it was 10 or 20 years ago. While global traveling is much easier, it is also more difficult. Preparing our teams for traveling and serving in strange places (whether in the US or abroad) is essential.
For the protection of the team, missionaries and national partners, here are some security guidelines that will benefit the short-term team.
- Never identify people overseas by name. Sharing personal information of partners overseas while you are overseas can jeopardize the work. Do not share personal information in conversation or through social media.
- Avoid using Christian and mission terminology. Instead of using terms like “pray, missions, Bible, church, evangelism,” etc., one can say “talk with Dad, the family, the book, the work,” etc.
- Never identify yourself with a church, denomination or the IMB. Avoid clothing and hats that connect you with any of these groups.
- Do not leave written or printed information in your room that could identify local church or mission leaders. Places you go like hotels, restaurants, and airplanes have “ears.” Workers in these places may share information they overhear or see with government officials.
- Consider that all communication is being heard or read by others. Speak by phone as if you are not in a private conversation. Letters, emails, texts, etc. are very public. If names are used, only use first names and never first and last names.
- Never give the impression of being critical of local governments or religions. As an American, you will likely be viewed with suspicion in many of the places you travel to, so do not say anything negative about governments or religions that will hinder your witness.
- Avoid visiting with other Christians or missionaries while on your trip. Unless requested by the IMB staff or local partners, contact with other believers in security-sensitive areas should be guarded.
- Refuse to be photographed or interviewed by news media. Common sense must be used in these cases. You have no control how videos and pictures will be used by others to potentially harm the work of Christ.
- Always follow the leading of your host missionary and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. As a new person in a new place that is security-sensitive, listen and follow the directions of your host. Their directions for the team are not meant to hinder ministry, but to enhance long-term ministry. Further, as the Holy Spirit opens opportunities for gospel conversations, but sensitive to your situation and surrounding and tell others about the good news of Jesus.
Being security sensitive is not for the purpose of stifling gospel work, but to ensure that it continues long after your short-term team is gone. The goal in short-term missions is coming alongside long-term partners in order to advance the gospel intentionally and/or exponentially that would not occur otherwise.