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Consider Missionary Travel Insurance
By: Dave Wyrwas

Few scenarios are more frightening than being injured far from home, in a place where you do not natively speak the language. This is exactly what happened recently to an American missionary who was severely injured when a rock fell on his leg. Fortunately, he was able to receive medical evacuation to get help for his injuries.

This kind of medical evacuation requires access to resources and organizational capabilities that far exceed what most religious organizations have access to or can afford on their own.

With their expertise in risk management, insurance providers are responding to increased global travel and the threats of terrorism and social unrest by providing missionary travel insurance. This insurance helps mitigate the high costs of evacuation, repatriation and medical care for foreign workers, travelers, volunteers and missionaries.

Surprising Challenges and Risks
If your church is sending your congregation members abroad with a mission of service, they are probably traveling to underdeveloped countries or regions.

Even with training, preparation and education available, many missionary travelers are surprised at the challenges, dangers and risks they face. Many of these risks involve things we take for granted in the United States, like clean water, good sanitation, adequate health care, safe neighborhoods and vehicle safety standards.

A typical missionary insurance program will cover medical and emergency medical care, as well as medical evacuation when a serious emergency requires transport to a medical facility. Though some forgo health coverage at home, medical insurance is essential abroad where the risks of illness and injury are higher.

For example, a missionary was recently hit by a bus while crossing a street in a developing country and sustained severe injuries. Missionary medical insurance covers your volunteers in an instance like this, when they are hurt and far from home.

In another recent instance, a missionary was critically wounded when two gunmen shot her on her way home from work. Fortunately, she was able to fly home for medical treatment via medical ambulance.

Repatriation and Evacuation
Beyond medical coverage, missionary insurance also covers repatriation, evacuation and emergency reunion benefits to get a missionary home safe in the event of a tragedy.

Unfortunately, these types of accidents do happen. Recently, six missionaries were killed when the brakes on their SUV failed. Six days later, their bodies were returned to their homes. In the tragic event that a missionary is injured or killed while abroad, disability and accidental death and dismemberment coverage will pay benefits to the missionary or their survivors.

If your congregation is involved in mission, humanitarian or religious travel, it will be exposed to far greater risks than the typical business or leisure traveler. But these travelers usually are focused on the excitement of their mission. The furthest thing from their minds may be the risks associated with their service.

Peace of Mind
Church leaders and their congregation members involved in mission, humanitarian or religious travel can enjoy piece of mind and protection by securing appropriate insurance coverage.

If something goes wrong, missionary travel insurance can help them more quickly get back on their feet and doing what they love.

Before you consider forming a religious travel group or sending a mission abroad, consult with your insurance agent or broker to learn more about the options you can offer your congregation.

Missionary travel is just one area of insurance coverage that serves the unique needs of religious organizations nationwide. Other coverage to consider is Property, General Liability, Pastoral & Counseling Liability, Sexual Abuse and Molestation Liability, Umbrella and Excess Liability and Directors & Officers, as well as specialized risk management services.

Dave Wyrwas is president of Glatfelter Specialty Benefits, which provides a wide range of benefit solutions for non-profit organizations across the country, including a missionary travel accident program for religious organizations, www.glatfelters.com.

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