Swine flu may impact countless mission trips

By May 1, 2009

Mexico (MNN) — Mexican authorities says the number of confirmed swine flu infections in Mexico climbed from 49 to 91. Eight deaths have been caused by the new strain, says Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova. However, there are more than 2,000 unconfirmed cases.

The latest figures came shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva raised the pandemic alert for swine flu by one level to phase 5.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan says this is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent, but not inevitable. The second-highest phase is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus in at least two countries in one WHO region.

Youth For Christ sends dozens of young people every year to Mexico for short-term missions work. Ministry Advancement Coordinator Jerry Johnson recruits and coordinates for the trips. "We've been talking to the Youth For Christ Mexico, based in Monterey, very closely, as well as our hosts along the border, and they're watching it as well. Right now we're really in a 'wait and see' mode as far as what this is actually going to do to our trips."

YFC plans to send a little over 100 people to Mexico this summer. Johnson says, "We're really thinking that in the next 10 to 14 days we [will understand] what the true impact of this is on Mexico."

Mexico has been one of the most popular destinations for U.S. based short-term mission trips. Johnson says, "This year, not only because of the flu, but the violence as well as the situation with the economy, that standing has really taken a hit." 

Johnson is talking about the drug violence that's been widely reported. He says, "Deadline for our trips was April 1, and we had a lot of people that were making significant moves away from Mexico before that time."

Spiritually speaking, he says this couldn't come at a worse time. "It's our closest neighbor, and their need for the Gospel is incredible, specifically youth who are not being targeted by the churches there."

While being faced with canceling the trips is a reality, Johnson says it's also forcing the hand of Mexican young people. "There are a lot of young people who are standing up and filling the gap, if you will. They have many volunteers — youth and adults who are standing up and are filling in where our team may have met that need."

In the meantime, pray that God would give them wisdom as YFC and other ministries make the decision about trips to Mexico. We'll have more information about the Swine Flu outbreak and how it affects outreach in the days ahead.

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