So you are all ready to go:
- your personal and team supply bags are all packed and properly weighted
- team members have been briefed what to do and what not to do to be culturally sensitive
- Google translate and currency conversion apps installed on your smartphones
- specific mosquito repellants and wet wipes securely tucked in the luggage inner compartments
After months of prayerful planning and organizing, your team is all set to depart for the host country!
Before you leave, there are a couple important details that your team should consider having in place.
- Team Plan for Emergencies/Unexpected Changes; and
- Team Travel Insurance that should include medical evacuation
Over the years, my husband and I have had the privilege to lead several medical mission teams to Asia. We have learned the importance of these two items through personal experiences. During one short-term mission in Thailand a few years ago, right before we were supposed to leave the town of Mae Sot. We were going to head out to the rural mountain villages when my husband fell sick and had to be treated immediately. Not only that, my husband had to be urgently evacuated to Bangkok for treatment. Being his wife, naturally I was the default travel companion in this situation. Mind you, we were the leaders on this trip. Though we have had some experience leading teams prior to this incident, we suddenly felt helpless and directionless during this emergency because we did not have a detailed emergency plan in place for this type of situation. Up until that point, we had not even considered leaving the team behind to continue the ministry without a leader. Thankfully, God had positioned an experienced and capable member on this team who promptly assumed the leadership role to continue the mission. I had a file with all the essential information in “one packet” allowing us to quickly hand-off to the new leader. We then were able to leave on the first flight out. Because of this arrangement, the team could continue with the planned ministry without disruption. Praise be to God, it turned out to be a fruitful mission!!
On that day, we learned some very important lessons that we still implement till this day with our teams.
Lesson 1: Always develop and discuss with the team an emergency plan as to who is to do what when unexpected events like this one takes place.
- Who will take over the leadership?
- Who is the emergency contact in the host country?
- Who will be in charge of the team funds and accounting?
- Who is to accompany the sick member during evacuation and hospitalization?
- Does the new leader-in-charge have all the essential information to lead the team well?
- Do you have a “packet” where all the essential information is kept so that it can just be a quick hand-off?
When we arrived in Bangkok, the Senior Missionary in the host country met us at the airport and zoomed us down the quieter-than-normal Sunday roadways in Bangkok and rushed us to the emergency room.
After my husband was stabilized and in the process of receiving the essential treatment and procedures, I was helped by an admission staff who would be my “case manager.” After the admission paperwork was completed, I sent an email to the travel insurance company whom we had the team policy with along with the details of the emergency incident. I got a response almost immediately with a claim number assigned right away. The insurance company then gave me step-by-step instructions to start collecting the essential information such as diagnosis, test results, medical reports and invoices/receipts while we were still on site, to ease the filing for the claim down the road. We obtained all these
documents on site prior to leaving the country. Eventually, all the medical expenses and evacuation expenses were reimbursed to us back in USA under that insurance policy.
Lesson 2: Always purchase travel insurance for the team.
Each team member (not just the team leader) needs to have quick access to the name, policy number and contact phone number/email of the insurance carrier. When a visit to the doctor or hospital is made, make every attempt to contact the insurance company and obtain the claim-filing directives soon as possible.
Through this unexpected event, we also experienced God’s favor, grace and provision beyond our expectation and imagination.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
We learned that with some intentional and proactive preparation, the team can still be effective instead of being distracted under the stress of unexpected events.