A site commenter recently asked, “I would like to ask others how they involve parents in the sending out of their children, whether it be a short-term trip or a short internship? I’m sure I am not the only one who notices that the biggest thing that keeps students or young people from answering God’s call to missions, is their parents.”
This is a good observation. I am aware of more than one case when a parent canceled a trip for their adult (college student) child because of perceived danger. How can we help parents?
We let parents know that we are working with known and trusted field partners. Include a photo of the field partner and his children playing with nationals. This communicates that a family with little children feels safe and that for the most part, people of that country are people not terrorists. Let parents know that the field partner cares about the volunteers and will actively work to keep them safe.
We let them know that we are watching the situation and will cancel or shorten the trip if the situation warrants it. We also care for the people on the trip and are active in monitoring the situation and ready to act if necessary. We want parents to know that we know this isn’t a game, it is serious business.
If there has been a recent incident (i.e. a bomb) in the region, we help parents to see this in context. For example when I was in Turkey volunteers canceled because of the Iraq war. I tried to remind them that the bombing in New York was closer to their home than Iraq was to Istanbul. Ironically, we also hosted volunteer teams that were rerouted to Turkey during the Iraq war because the were afraid to go to China because of some recent unrest. Americans aren’t so great at geography. Many assume that unrest in one country has a huge effect on another country a thousand miles away.
We remind parents of the safety procedures that we have in place like asking volunteer team members to travel in pairs, be home at night, communicate their plans with their team leaders and field partners, and avoid demonstrations or other signs of trouble.
We communicate that we have contingency plans, communication plans, and evacuation insurance. In any emergency we have methods and back-up methods to communicate with the field partner and team.
When we can, we let them know of our experience with hundreds of volunteers and our safety record. We also let them know that the field partner also has similar experience.
We ask them to trust God for their child on the trip just like they do every day at home.