Courtesy of SMU
Four Biolans quarantined in Mexico for a week after testing positive for COVID-19 while on a mission trip with the Student Missionary Union. According to Chief of Campus Safety John Ojeisekhoba, three students serving in Puebla tested positive and quarantined at the compound where local mission organization Base Ministry housed them. Ojeisekhoba said one student serving in Yucatan stayed at an Airbnb close to the local missionary’s home after testing positive.
BEFORE THE TRIP
According to SMU communications coordinator Ashley Chang, students on the global missions team were required to be fully vaccinated to travel internationally. She explained that every student on the team passed a mandatory health check at Biola’s Health Center and met with staff at the Biola Counseling Center prior to departure.
STUDENTS TEST POSITIVE
Chang said students were required to take a COVID-19 test 48 hours prior to their flight back to the United States—upon doing so, four group members tested positive. Chang explained that Biola’s Travel Safety and Risk Mitigation team worked with Base Ministry, the local missions organization in Mexico, to ensure students had a safe place to quarantine. Ojeisekhoba said the COVID-19 positive students completed further testing five days later and returned to California after testing negative.
Ojeisekhoba explained that Director of Student Led Ministries and Spiritual Formation Chad Miller kept in contact with students and supported them emotionally through prayer and communication. Beyond Biola’s intervention, Ojeisekhoba said Base Ministry worked with the local missionary in Puebla to make sure the COVID-19 positive students were well cared for and sent a staff member to be with the student quarantining in Yucatan.
“Overall, the excellent external partnership our Biola teams cultivated with Base Ministry made both situations manageable,” Ojeisekhoba said. “We could not have asked for a better partner. They went above and beyond.”
Sophomore elementary education major Hannah Mahony was one of the students who tested positive for COVID-19 while in Mexico. Mahony’s team worked on service projects and children’s ministry in small towns surrounding the city of Yucatan.
When the team members tested to return to the U.S., Mahony’s result came back positive and she was moved to an Airbnb, where she stayed alone for a night after the team returned to California. The following night, Base Ministry sent a representative to stay with her. After testing negative, Mahony flew back to California. Mahony’s experience in quarantine did not dampen her excitement for future mission trips.
“I was scared at points, but I never felt unsafe,” Mahony said. “I really just loved the people we got to work with, the camp and the heart they have for kids. Next semester I’m sure SMU will run this trip again. I’d love to go back.”
AFTER THE TRIP
Biola implemented new standards to streamline the process should more students test positive while traveling abroad. Ojeisekhoba explained that Biola now requires students to take a COVID-19 test before departure and bring self test kits with them on university trips. Students will also need to purchase flexible air travel so they can change or cancel flights without additional fees in case they need to quarantine.
Ojeisekhoba said students will now have extended housing plans for over seven days in case they need to quarantine. He explained Biola’s Travel Safety and Risk Mitigation team will continue to assess the safety of each trip location and meet with each mission team prior to departure to outline steps to take in the instance they test positive for COVID-19.