Southern Baptist Mission Volunteers Urged to Postpone Overseas Travel Plans
In response to growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) released a statement on Monday, Mar. 9, recommending that churches hold off on any overseas mission trip plans through April 30.
The IMB noted the recommendation will be reevaluated by April 15. In its statement, the IMB urged mission volunteers to postpone their travel and suggested that those who have not yet purchased tickets “wait and monitor continued risks of travel before buying tickets.” Individuals with pre-existing conditions or immunocompromised health issues, they said, are “encouraged not to travel.”
Meanwhile the SBC Executive Committee issued its own statement on the coronavirus over the weekend noting that its staff are monitoring news related to the virus and are assessing “any potential impact” it might have on the convention’s annual meeting scheduled for June 9-10 in Orlando. The Executive Committee had planned a conference call with SBC entity representatives for Monday to discuss “best practices and prevention strategies as well as to join in prayer for our churches, communities and country.”
“With less than 100 days until the SBC Annual Meeting, we are pressing forward with our plans to meet in Orlando,” the statement said. “However, should conditions escalate to unprecedented levels, there is a provision in the SBC Constitution that allows for us to cancel or change the place of meeting. This provision would only be considered in an extreme circumstance.”
“Prayer, precaution, planning and preparation are the order of the day,” the statement continued.
The IMB announced on February 28 it had formed a task force to address the potential impact of the virus on its personnel, church volunteer mission teams and other partners.
The task force noted on Monday that its travel recommendation is based on “personal health risks, risks of spreading the virus, and the possibility of quarantine or delay by local governments including the U.S.”
IMB President Paul Chitwood said the IMB has had to cancel several overseas meetings due to sudden travel bans and challenges associated with government-imposed quarantines.
“This situation is changing moment-by-moment,” he said. “We just don’t know where a group might be delayed or which countries may not allow international travelers to enter or exit.”
While the recommendation for delayed mission-trip travel is temporary, he said, “we believe it is necessary at this time.”
Chitwood noted, “This is an unusual time for all of us, but we know that God is sovereign and that His work will not be stopped by this virus.”