On April 15, 2021, the North American Division (NAD) administration voted to reinstate mission deployments through the NAD Office of Volunteers Ministries (OVM).
This reinstatement includes long-term missionary volunteers (two months or longer) from North America who serve around the world. In October 2020, OVM was able to deploy volunteers only inside the U.S. and to virtual teaching assignments in the Guam-Micronesia Mission.
“It’s been a year since the impact of COVID-19 has made it necessary for our office to suspend deployments into the foreign mission field,” Ernest Hernandez, director of OVM, said in a letter to church leaders and volunteers in the division. “Much has changed since then with the development of vaccines, airline travel policies, and other safety protocols, and we are pleased that the NAD administration has voted to reinstate deployments into Adventist Volunteer Services-approved mission locations worldwide,” he added, referencing the Adventist Church entity that manages volunteers around the world.
Hernandez shared that with the reinstatement comes an increased caution amid the pandemic. “The safety of our volunteers remains the highest priority; this approval is contingent on satisfying the conditions as stated by NAD Secretariat,” he said, adding that an additional risk awareness form will need to be signed by volunteers before they can go to their assignments.
The 10 prerequisites identified for providing clearance for a volunteer to travel follow the recommended guidelines and COVID-19 risk ratings provided by International SOS, a logistical company focused on global health and security situations. Some of these conditions include making sure the host country can treat COVID-19 or evacuate the volunteer to an alternate treatment facility; that the host country organization will pay expenses for quarantine, if necessary; the volunteer must be fully vaccinated before deployment; and the volunteer complies with COVID-19 testing requirements for each country.
“There are still many places around the world that are not open for travel,” Elden Ramirez, NAD undersecretary, said in a letter to volunteers and church leaders. “Please know that our prayers are with you, and we continue to partner with you to find ways to serve the mission field during these uncertain times. May God bless you and keep you.”