COVID-19 FAQs for Potential Student Missionaries (SMs)
Preface: Adventist Frontier Missions is dedicated to taking the Gospel to those who would otherwise have no chance to hear it. In the midst of the current pandemic, AFM is taking every precaution to preserve the safety of our missionaries, both long-term and short-term, while still endeavoring to share God’s love and peace with people who are struggling through life without Him. The following are some answers to questions we have received concerning Student Missionary service in light of COVID-19.
1. Is AFM still sending out SMs?
Answer: Yes, AFM is still recruiting and sending out SMs. The uncertainty of these times has made people around the world more eager for the Truth. The Gospel must go to every nation, tribe, language and people.
2. Does AFM have SMs in the field during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Answer: Yes, there are many SMs from the US, South Africa and Brazil currently serving at AFM projects around the world.
3. What happened to all the SMs who were in the field when the COVID-19 pandemic began?
Everyone was offered the option to return home. Most have chosen to remain in the field at their projects. AFM worked hard to bring everyone home that wanted to come back, and, with a lot of prayer and a few small miracles at airports, this was accomplished.
4. Is AFM still recruiting SMs who can launch in August-September 2020?
Answer: Yes, God willing. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting flights and visas worldwide, but AFM is still recruiting SMs to launch in August-September 2020. Training is due to begin in Berrien Springs, MI, on Monday 20th July 2020.
5. How will training work?
Our hope is that training will take place in Michigan as normal, and that all SMs will be able to attend in person. However, we recognize that the COVID-19 situation is ever-changing. Should in-person training be impossible, an alternative curriculum will be held online via Zoom.
6. What will happen if I can’t launch in August-September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Answer: you will have a number of options.
- A. You can re-enroll in your regular college classes for another full academic year. If you take this option, AFM will hold your funds so you can launch in August-September 2021 as a regular SM, only 1 year later than planned.
- B. You could re-enroll in your regular college classes through December 2020, and assuming global travel is functional again, attend SM training in S Africa in January 2021, and launch to your chosen project in early February 2021. You can stay at this project through June, August or December 2021, depending on when you need to return to re-enroll in your college classes.
- C. You could decide to re-enroll in your regular college classes, and let AFM know that you will not be able to launch in the future due to personal commitments and plans. AFM will utilize the funds you have raised to support other SMs who are seeking to launch, but will not divert those funds to another ministry.
7. Can I expect to serve at one of my desired AFM projects?
Answer: Most likely. Every year, AFM does its best to ensure you can serve at one of the 3 projects you listed on your application. Most SMs do serve at one of their 3 preferred projects. However, there are a wide variety of relevant factors that are beyond our control, e.g. sudden political instability in a country, unexpected visa restrictions, or local disease outbreaks (e.g. the Ebola outbreak in Guinea in 2014). If a change needs to be made, the final decision will be made in consultation with you during your training program.
8. I am struggling to make a decision whether to serve or not. What should I do?
Answer: pray. When Jesus gave the Gospel Commission, He knew that His disciples would be sent into a world hostile to the Gospel. He knew the Gospel would go forth to places of the world where there would be profound personal hardship, war, poverty, social distress, disease outbreaks, political breakdown and religious hostility. Yet, the Gospel Commission was still given. If you never attempt great things for God, you can never expect great things from God. So, prayerfully consider the matter, apply in faith, and see how God works for you and through you in ways that you have never experienced before.
To better assist you, use the DECISION TREE presented in the following PDF:
If you have more questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFM Mission Service FAQs
Can my friend come with me?
Yes, so long as both you and your friend apply with AFM and are accepted to serve as SMs. However, we cannot guarantee that you will both be sent to the same location.
What would I be doing on a day to day basis?
That depends on where you go! We have a list of calls for a wide range of jobs and skill sets. However, your primary goal is to make friends for the Kingdom and share the Good News with the people around you, so your job will be geared toward facilitating those opportunities.
How much will it cost me to go?
We at AFM recognize that the cost of being a missionary often entails sacrifices of time and value that aren’t easily quantifiable. Those costs are out of our hands. In monetary terms, the cost depends on how long you plan to serve. If you are applying as a Career Missionary, your monetary launch goal varies depending on location. If you are applying as a Student or Short-term Missionary, the costs are fixed according to the following scale (these costs are for those applying for their first service cycle with AFM. Costs are reduced for individuals applying for a 2nd service cycle, and those costs will be shared upon request for those who are apply for their 2nd service cycle):
- NAD SM: $5,500
- Non-NAD SM: $6,500
- NAD STM: $12,500
- Non-NAD STM: $13,500
You would fundraise to cover these costs, and no donor is permitted to donate more than 40% of the total goal. The launch goal covers essential travel, training, and living costs while you serve with AFM.
For a more detailed and personalized explanation, please contact our office at email@example.com.
I don’t know how to be a missionary. Is there training?
Yes! AFM provides training at our training center in Berrien Springs Michigan. For Student and Short Term Missionaries, this is a 4-week intensive from mid-July to mid-August. For Career Missionaries, training lasts 3 months beginning in mid-May. Visit our training section for more information, or contact our training director.
How can I get my school loan deferred for the year?
If you are attending an SDA university, you should enroll in their SM program in addition to applying through AFM. Your school will help you with loan deferment. If you are attending another university, AFM would be happy to provide you the necessary letter to get your loan deferred while you serve with us. If you do not qualify for loan deferment and are worried about what to do with your school loans while serving, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org for a more personalized answer.
We are more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com.
Questions that Parents Commonly Ask
Thank you for lending your child to the Lord for frontier mission service. We are very grateful for the commitment that you and your child have made in taking the gospel to the unreached people. We know that this represents a sacrifice for you and them, and we want to acknowledge that this is in response to the sacrifice made by Jesus on Calvary.
Below are some questions that parents often ask. We hope they will help encourage as you pray for your child and the people that they are serving in the coming service term.
If you have any questions or if there is something we can do to help you, please do not hesitate to contact me or my colleague, Caitlyn Babienco. Please know that your child is in our prayers.
Father of two student missionaries and director of Human Resources
When will my child be leaving and for how long?
All SM/STMs (Student Missionaries/Short-term Missionaries) are required to attend a month-long, cross-cultural training here at the AFM Training Center in Berrien Springs, Michigan, from mid-July to mid-August. They will return home, generally for 2-3 weeks, before launching to the field. Depending on the call, they return from the field nine to twelve months later.
Will my child be able to come home for Christmas or any other special event, such as a wedding or the death of a grandparent?
SM/STMs spend the entire term in the field, including the holiday season. If some emergency requires a trip home, the SM/STM should seek permission from their supervising missionaries before making travel arrangements. Any such travel is considered personal expense.
Who is watching out for my child while they are overseas?
All of our SM/STMs are sent to places where Career Missionaries are serving. While the SM/STM will be living on their own, or with other SM/STMs of the same gender, or with a trusted national family, the Career Missionaries closely oversee their work and are available for counsel. Additionally, Field Directors live in the same country or a neighboring country and oversee the Career Missionaries, making a trip to their project at least once each term and dealing with any issues that may arise. Of course, we are thankful that God Himself watches over each of us.
Will I be able to communicate with my child while they are overseas?
In most locations cell phone service and internet is available and affordable. Because of the remoteness of one of our projects, cell phone reception is only randomly available at a certain spot on a hill of the mission station, and internet is only available once every other month while visiting the lowlands. This project also has a radio for emergency use.
Can I send care packages to my child while they are overseas?
By all means, please send letters and gifts to your child while they are serving on the frontiers. The SM/STM has been given the mailing address for their location with mailing instructions specific to that project. Letters are most likely to arrive at their destination, and in most locations carefully planned packages will arrive intact, although at times packages might not make it to the project. If your child is serving in a “creative access” location, we may have specific, cautionary counsel for you when sending parcels. Please contact the office if you need a copy of these instructions.
What happens if my child becomes seriously ill or is injured while overseas?
In the rare event that an SM/STM becomes seriously ill or injured, they would be taken to the appropriate hospital for treatment. Suitable hospitals have already been identified. If more extensive treatment is required, they would be flown home.
I heard that many AFM missionaries get malaria. Isn’t malaria deadly?
With modern medicine, malaria is not a life-threatening disease. SM/STMs going to locations where malaria is common have been instructed on precautionary measures and told which preventative medications to use, greatly reducing the severity and duration of the disease should they become ill.
Are immunizations absolutely required for missionaries going out with AFM?
AFM requires certain immunizations for every missionary and each project has their own list of required immunizations based on CDC recommendations. These required immunizations are non-negotiable for service with AFM.
What kind of insurance does AFM have?
AFM provides health insurance for SM/STMs while in the field, beginning the day they launch up until they time they leave the project and return home. This accident/illness policy has a $2,500 deductible and AFM covers an additional 75% beyond what the health insurance policy covers. Dental and optical are not covered.
Can I go visit my child while they are overseas?
Parents are welcome to visit their child overseas. We ask that you adhere to the following guidelines:
- The SM/STM must discuss the plans and receive approval from their supervising Career Missionaries before making arrangements. The SM/STM would be expected to take vacation days while their parents visit them.
- The Career Missionary should not be expected to make any of the travel or boarding arrangements.
- The family member should not stay more than a few days at the project site, and the timing should be such as to disrupt the project as little as possible.
What do the terms Student Missionary (SM) and Short-term Missionary (STM) mean?
- Student Missionary (SM) – Anyone who has been a student within the past twelve months.
- Short-term Missionary (STM) – Singles or married couples without children who are not students and who will serve 1-2 years at a project.
My child is going to a “creative access” project. Why is a pen name needed?
Anyone serving at a “creative access” project is required to choose a pen name for use in our magazine and online. The missionary will use their own name in the country where they serve, but when their articles are printed in the magazine or on the internet, they will be listed by their pen name. This preserves the project’s private nature and allows us to report missionary activity without associating it with the project (which also goes by a pen name) or with the SM/STM directly.
What can I say or what shouldn’t I say when communicating with my child in a “creative access country”?
The SM/STMs at “creative access” projects are known to the nationals as Volunteer Teachers. You may freely refer to their work as teachers, but you should avoid all words referring to specific Christian jargon, missions, or evangelistic activity. You may contact the office for further instructions regarding appropriate words to use.
My child is going to work among Muslims. What about terrorism?
SM/STMs are not sent to areas deemed risky. Generally speaking, terrorism poses more danger in our country than in most places where our missionaries serve.
What if it becomes unsafe in the area where my child is serving?
In the event that the area where an SM/STM is serving becomes seriously unstable, the Career Missionaries would notify the office. You would then be notified of the possibility of danger. In the event an area was known to be dangerous, all SM/STMs would be evacuated immediately. All of our projects have emergency evacuation plans developed for their location.
How much will this cost? What are the out-of-pocket expenses for our family?
The fundraising goals cover every part of training and service except the following:
- Such immunizations as are required here in the States (i.e. Tetanus, etc.) are also required by AFM and are the SM/STMs personal expense. Such immunizations that apply to the project specifically (i.e. Yellow Fever) are covered by AFM. (Please refer to the Info Guide).
- A health clearance must be performed and signed by the SM/STMs doctor, and fees incurred will be the responsibility of the SM/STM.
- The cost of obtaining a passport is the responsibility of the SM/STM. The cost of the immigration documents required by the SM/STM for there project (visa, etc.) are considered AFM’s responsibility.
- Their stipend is adequate to cover all necessities, and some SM/STMs find the poverty such in their country that they voluntarily live on less, in order to personally help the truly needy. Any money for souvenirs or additional spending money would be the responsibility of the SM/STM.
If I can cover the entire cost myself, why does my child have to fundraise?
Fundraising is not merely for monetary support; supporters are asked to pray for the SM/STM and the people they will serve. This prayer support is crucial for the success of the mission. The process of fundraising is also a lesson in faith to the outgoing SM/STMs preparing them for subsequent experiences in the field which will require faith in God’s provision.
All AFM Missionaries must raise their own funds. No one party, including parents, is allowed to provide more than 40% of the SM/STMs total fundraising goal.
What if my child has student loans?
Most student loans may be deferred (put on hold) for a year while the “student” is overseas for humanitarian purposes. If the SM/STM attends an NAD SDA College, they should talk to the Student Services Department at their school. We are happy to write a letter on behalf of the SM/STM to ensure that their loans are deferred during their term of service.
Won’t my child get behind in their studies and suffer academically because of a missed school year?
Living in another country and serving cross-culturally is an education that cannot be gained any other way. We in the office have often said, “We send them out boys and girls, and they come back men and women.” Your child will still have to complete the year of school they put on hold in order to go overseas, but this will not reduce the amount of education received.
What if my child “falls in love” with a national or fellow student missionary and I do not approve?
AFM has a strict “no dating” policy for all SM/STMs in their first year of service. The Career Missionaries monitor this, and the SM/STMs know they will be sent home if non-compliant. Unfortunately, we have had to send a few young people home. For the safety of the projects with various cultural differences to consider, the distraction to the ministry and the SM/STMs themselves, and the impossibility of policing “innocent relationships” at all times, the policy is strictly enforced.
If my child backs out of their commitment, can we get the money back?
We ask all SM/STMs in the application process to make a commitment before God and to AFM before their acceptance as missionaries. If for some reason an SM/STM backs out of this commitment after they have been voted by the HRC and have started fundraising, we cannot legally refund any of the funds to the SM/STM due to IRS regulations and our status as a not-for-profit organization.