Thursday, January 14, 2010

Team Leaders

Warning: This is A LOT of information!!

There is no way we can realistically package what it would take to prepare you and your team for the experience of living and working with the Songhai people, but we are giving it our best shot! 

Hosting volunteer teams is a welcomed part of our job that is made easier with your help. Please come along side of us in preparing your team to be able to minister in the most effective way possible.
Be a Responsible Leader
It is your responsibility to make sure your team is prepared, as much as possible, for what lies ahead as you travel to your destination, sojourn in West Africa, and minister to the Songhai people.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared!! In fact, we feel so strongly about this preparation, that anyone who comes without reading and studying the pre-field orientation materials will be required to do so before beginning ministry once on the field. We do not want to appear harsh, however, we have seen time and time again how even one member of the team who is not physically, mentally and spiritually prepared can negatively affect the whole team’s outcome.
Your team’s goals will be developed as you dialog with your Songhai Team Host. Please make sure each person on the team has an assigned job that fulfills part of these goals; volunteers will be more content and fulfilled knowing they have a purpose. They should understand their job description and come to the field organized and ready.

A team member may have personal goals as well. Team goals will not be sacrificed to accomplish personal goals.

Churches are beginning to deal with liability connected with volunteer trips. Be in-the-know for what your church requires in this area.

Current events have lead to increasing security issues within the Songhai homeland. After you have registered with the American Embassy, the consular office will inform you if there are current concerns.

They advise: “For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet Web site where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free within the U.S. and Canada or, for callers from other countries, by calling a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).”

We know what it takes to plan to make a trip overseas, so we want you to know that we truly appreciate the time and energy it has taken you to prepare in many ways, both yourself and your team. With this in mind, we know that the unexpected can occur and that cancellations might happen. We are hoping that kind of situation will rarely present itself.

In short, if you do not come, it is more than disappointing for everyone involved, and it can get very complicated, especially at the village level. If you or your team cancels, and expenses are incurred, you will be responsible to cover these expenses.
Be a Paper Manager
Your Songhai Team Host will fill out a volunteer request and send it through the proper channels. Your volunteer team will then be assigned a project number (RVA Number) when the volunteer request is approved in the Richmond, VA office of the International Mission Board (IMB).
As the Volunteer Team Leader, you will begin receiving a series of automated e-mails from the IMB. Please read these carefully and respond to each in a timely fashion.
Be a Resource
You are the first link in the chain. You will be the one receiving information and communications. Be informative; share what you learn with your team.
Be a Link
We will gladly answer any and all questions; however, to facilitate this process, it would be easier to have one person on the team e-mail or phone us to communicate your team’s questions and then share the response with the others.
Be a Pastor
Volunteer teams that have been meeting regularly one to six months in advance for spiritual preparation function more effectively on the field. There are some excellent resources out there. Some suggestions are:
Be a Builder
We encourage you to build your team carefully and prayerfully.
Your team will need to develop its own support group who will be fasting and praying for your journey and ministry, as well as holding the ropes at home by encouraging and helping your team members’ families.
Be a Friend and Counselor
You will lead daily devotionals and debriefing with the team on the field. You are also responsible for dealing with any interpersonal problems within the group. Dessert and coffee after the evening meal provide an excellent, non-threatening time to debrief, deal with stressful issues, answer questions, and re-group for the following day.
Be the Command Center
It is not unheard of to have various unplanned needs during your visit with us. Please be prepared to handle such emergencies as medical care / evacuation, lost passports, lost airline ticket, luggage that arrives late or never, delayed flights, etc.
For example: A medical emergency/evacuation may require the purchase of or up-grade to first class seating for a return flight home.  Up-grades cost around $3,000, while a ticket will cost around $7,000.  The cost of medical care and prescriptions must also be covered.  These expenses are usually later reimbursed by insurance, but are initially out-of-pocket.  Make arrangements for emergency funds for flights to be available through your credit card company.  Cash or a check from your church can be used for other medical emergency expenses.  You must notify your credit card company BEFORE coming that you are traveling in Niger or they WILL BLOCK your account. 
Be an Intercessor
For the month following your team’s return, we ask that each volunteer participate in "30 Days of Prayer for the Songhai People". This short devotional will be included in the orientation book you receive on the field. Unless someone returns to the field, never again will their hearts be so very in tune with what God is doing among the Songhai people … consider it a prolonged prayer walk.
Be an Attentive Listener
Post-trip we ask you to make contact with everyone on your team, at least by phone, within the first two weeks after you return, especially those who traveled outside of the States for the first time or those that may have experienced some special challenge during the trip. Re-entry can be difficult, and no one except those on the team can really understand. If you make a date to share photos or have dinner together as a group, this is a great time to check up on everyone spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Be a PR Person
There will be many who would like to hear your team’s stories and see their photos. Seek out opportunities for each person to share what God is doing in individual hearts and in West Africa among the Songhai people.

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