University cancels spring break mission trips over COVID-19 concerns

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COVID-19 concerns have prompted Southern Adventist University to cancel all international spring break mission trips, according to a campus-wide email from administrators. They will meet at 9 p.m. tonight with students whose trips were cancelled.

The university’s decision came today hours after the World Health Organization (WHO)  classified the disease, better known as coronavirus, as a pandemic. In addition, some of the destination countries have started revoking visas. Earlier this afternoon, uQuest Missions Coordinator Melissa Moore, who organizes campus short-term mission trips, sent an email to the student missionaries announcing the decision.

“Today we made the difficult decision to cancel all of our Spring Break mission trips,” Moore wrote to participants. “We know you have been planning for this trip for a long time and we understand that this is disappointing. Southern Adventist University prioritizes the safety of our students.”

Mission groups headed to India, Peru and Rwanda were already at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport when they received the news. The groups had to wait for university transportation to pick them up for a return trip back to campus. 

“This is emotionally draining,” said nursing senior Jaira Luna, who was scheduled to go on the India mission trip. “My heart was so set on serving. I was so ready to go.” 
According to Director of Marketing and University Relations Isaac James, students will receive full refunds for the non-donated portions of their fees. The university also will be working with those students who need the service-learning credit.

“Ultimately, we just wanted to make sure that our students are safe and that they are not getting stranded in places,” James said. “We’re still very much a mission-oriented university, and we’re hoping to reschedule when possible or provide other trips.” 

Students received an email from administrators at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday with information about spring break, scheduled events and enhanced sanitation efforts on campus. 

According to Southern’s website, the university does not anticipate closing campus but encourages all traveling students to pack necessary textbooks and prepare for the possibility of distance learning. On Wednesday, university faculty received an email from Online Campus promoting a training session for distance-learning instruction later this week.

Earlier today, Andrews University announced that they will be dropping in-person instruction and switching to “distance education” starting March 23 for the remainder of its Spring semester. La Sierra University has also moved its classes online for the spring quarter. Pacific Union College (PUC) hasn’t cancelled any classes but has suspended all school-sponsored international travel. As of March 11, Union College, located in Lincoln, Nebraska, had no plans to transition to online learning this semester.

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