RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptists who want to help the people of Iraq recover from the war should start getting ready to go, an International Mission Board leader says.
“When the door opens for relief efforts, we want everyone to be ready to go immediately,” said Bill Cashion, who directs the IMB’s volunteer missions efforts. “But there are lots of details to take care of ahead of time, especially if you have never traveled overseas before.”
A list of all those details, plus a host of other helpful ideas, can be found on the IMB’s website at http://going.imb.org/vim/main/default.asp.
From specifics to “big picture” issues, the site has useful information and web links on everything you need to get ready for overseas volunteer service, including:
— PASSPORT: Processing a new or renewal passport request generally takes six to eight weeks. Winter and spring are peak times for people to request passports because summer is peak travel season, with passport processing taking eight to 12 weeks. Allow plenty of time for your passport to be processed so that you receive your passport back several months before you leave for your project.
— VISA: Some countries require a visa in order to enter the country. Your travel agent will help you acquire a visa or will give you further instructions about what to do if your country of service requires a visa. A visa requires about six to eight weeks to process, so plan accordingly, especially if you have to apply for or renew your passport.
— TRAVEL: Volunteers are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. You are free to use any travel agency that you find helpful. The International Mission Board can put you in contact with a travel agent experienced in working with IMB volunteers.
— IMMUNIZATIONS: The cost of immunizations can vary widely. Shop around for the best price on immunizations. County health clinics and doctors you know personally may be good options. Specific immunizations required and recommended for your country of service are listed on the website.
— INSURANCE: All volunteers involved in an IMB volunteer project are required to purchase insurance at their own expense. The board has an official carrier that provides low-cost medical, accidental death, medical evacuation, disability and many other benefits. For more information, visit www.aaintl.com.
— CROSS-CULTURAL TRAINING: Serving in another culture presents certain challenges to the volunteer. In cooperation with the IMB, many state conventions and other entities offer specific training for volunteers in how to minister in another culture.
— TEAM LEADER TRAINING: In addition to cross-cultural training for volunteers, special training also is available for people who will lead teams. A schedule of team leader and cross-cultural training events is available on the website.
The IMB has compiled a free, 38-page guide that covers everything volunteers need to know, from spiritual preparation to how to pack a suitcase. The book can be downloaded or printed from the website, going.imb.org/vim/main/default.asp.
— Pray for Iraq’s people: www.imb.org/CompassionNet.
— For information on how to respond to the Iraq crisis, call the International Mission Board’s Iraq Response Desk at 1-800-999-3113 ext. 1641.
— Churches or individuals who would prefer to make a donation toward the cost of the project can designate checks to “Iraq Response – General Relief” and mail them to: Iraq Response, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230-0767. Make checks payable to International Mission Board and designate “Iraq Response – General Relief.” Contribute to relief efforts online at resources.imb.org/index.cfm/fa/prod/ProdID/961.htm. Every dollar given goes 100 percent to relief ministries.
— IMB challenging churches to send ‘love gift’ to hungry Iraqis: www.imb.org/urgent/articledetail.asp?urgentID=30.