On a Mission

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

This past June, a federal jury convicted Matthew Lane Durham, a 20-year-old, of illicit conduct with children at a Kenyan orphanage that specializes in caring for neglected children. The Edmond, Okla., resident had served as a volunteer at the Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi since 2012. He was convicted on charges involving girls ranging from 5 to 15 years old and a 12-year-old boy.

Many churches serve populations in other countries by providing meaningful service work and volunteer opportunities, as well as exciting adventures. Does your church send its congregants on mission trips? If so, this may be a good time to review some best practices when serving on these trips, which often take people out of their country and comfort zones:

  • Adult team members serving on mission trips should be approved through Safe Gatherings.
  • The team leader and members should be deliberate in researching cultural differences regarding boundary and touching issues, in order to be sensitive and respectful to heritage and traditions in the host country.
  • During trips, sometimes a youth or adviser needs to break off from the main group. If only one adult can break off the main group, he or she should take several young people, even if there is just one who has the need to leave the main group.
  • When a single youth is part of the group, the youth should either have his or her own room or two adults (not related to one another) in the room.
  • If open showers are the only facilities, separate shower times for youth and adults should be designated. Youth and adults should not shower together, and there should be shower monitors. Swimsuits may be required for showers in some instances.
  • Two adults should be present at each work site at all times.
  • No youth should be alone with an adult from the host mission, including leaders or homeowners, etc.
  • Mission team members should not be alone with a youth from the host mission.
  • The same boundary guidelines apply to young persons from host teams, consistent with those for the mission team members.
  • When traveling internationally, use the same common sense that you would when traveling within the United States.

Mission trips can be a rewarding experience, but it is important to be cognizant that you may come across many situations where you aren’t quite sure what to do. You should be concerned about protecting yourself, as well as the children or youth with whom you are going there to serve. When in doubt about a specific situation, consult your team leader.