The Evangelistic Resource Center (ERC) and Humanitarian Engagement continue to plan for possible mission and vision trips that students can participate in during the summer. However, both ERC Coordinator Raul Rivero and Humanitarian Engagement Director Melissa Moore said this year has presented new obstacles, including the jeopardy of the trips themselves.
As of Jan. 25, organizers have listed trips to six locations abroad and two in the United States. ERC is offering mission trips to Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Kenya and New Jersey. The Humanitarian Engagement office is planning vision trips, previously called uQuest mission trips, to Peru, North Africa and Atlanta.
As a COVID-19 precaution, organizers keep track of the locations’ safety statuses in the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories, the CDC Travel Advisories and the International SOS. The suggestions by these organizations are then presented to Southern’s administration which will make the final approval of the trips.
“Southern is committed to prioritizing students’ safety,” Rivero said. “I know it’s a hard decision to make but if [administration] feels that [a trip] is going to compromise students’ safety, then we’re going to cancel the trip.”
The typical authorization process requires that administration approves the trips six months in advance and then again, one month before the trip. This year, ERC and Humanitarian Engagement will go through an additional check-in point with administration in February.
If a trip is cancelled, students can use the funds that they raised to participate in another mission or vision trip at a later time, according to Rivero and Moore. However, due to IRS rules, donations made through Advancement are nonrefundable.
According to Moore, Humanitarian Engagement is currently working with Information Technology (IT) to create a new platform for students to make non-tax deductible payments that would be eligible for refund. The platform is expected to launch later in the semester.
“[The process] is fairly low risk for students to start an application, do their interviews, and pay their application fees,” Moore said. “If the trip gets canceled, any payments would be eligible for refund; and any donations, you’d be able to use for any future missions experience.”
Currently, there are more than 70 students signed up for the ERC mission trips and 45 students signed up for the Humanitarian Resources vision trips. Though Rivero reports that this is the average number of students that sign up for ERC, Moore said the number has dropped by more than half for Humanitarian Engagement.
“Of course, we would love to have more students, but I think it’s definitely a personal decision,” Moore said. “There will always be opportunities to serve. … I don’t want students to feel like they have to go if they are unsure about their safety, or if they’re going against the will of their family.”