Seven Safety Measures for Missionaries in These Days of Uprisings

January 30, 2011

Churches, crisis, Missionaries, safety

I’ve spent much of the weekend in front of the television and online watching the uprising in Egypt unfold.  I am grateful that these turbulent times did not occur when my family and I lived in Egypt.  Many times I reflected over the city of Cairo and prayed for God’s Spirit to be poured out into the hearts of Egyptians.  Are these uprisings an answer to my prayers?

Egypt is not the only nation in turmoil.  Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Thailand, Venezuela, Mexico, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus are a mere handful of nations off the top of my head that have experienced significant trouble in recent months.  Political crisis, civil war, drug wars, “natural disasters”, abductions and kidnappings, and economic distress are common forms of instability that threaten the lives and work of missionaries.

We need systems in place, critical thinking, and wisdom to enable missionaries to stay safe and continue their ministry.  Here are six safety measures that the mission, the church, and the missionary need in place.

Have a plan – A contingency plan prepares a missionary for almost any eventuality.  It addresses level of crisis; evacuation criteria, routes, and destinations; transportation options; important documents needed to be kept on hand; runaway bags; contact information, and the like.  If you don’t have a contingency plan, you need one, wherever you live, and whatever your circumstances.  Check with your leader to put a plan of preparedness together.  Be ready when the crisis hits.  If you wait, it may be too late.

Get good counsel – Talk with your leaders, your churches, your co-workers, other expatriates, and local friends and contacts about situations, events, crises that are developing, and eventualities.  Don’t trust in your own judgments alone.  You need others.

Watch the news – Be informed of your surroundings, elections, turmoil, disasters, weather forecasts, foreign intrusions, civil disobedience, in short, anything that might cause an uprising or disruption in daily life.  Preparedness is key.

In 2004 I lived through three hurricanes in the Orlando area, in part because we tried to be prepared (and we called out to our Savior).

Befriend locals – Local friends and contacts are your best sources of safety.  They will protect you from the bad guys, keep you in the scuttle loop, and stick up for you in front of the authorities.

My neighbors went with me to the police station when I was called to it in Macedonia and their credible testimony showed the authorities that we were legitimate.

Stay away from trouble – Stay away from demonstrations, shady dealings, and characters that might try to take advantage of you.  If I were in Cairo right now, the last place I would be is on the street.  As a foreigner, you are only asking for trouble if you get too involved.  Be selective and wise in the situations you choose to encounter.

When I was in Afghanistan, I visited a marijuana and poppy field and ended up being chased by an automatic weapon.  That was about half smart.

Stay in touch – When turmoil begins, stay in touch with your leader and a friend, pastor, or family member in the US.  Let people know what is happening so they can pray for you and provide for your needs.

When I lived in Macedonia, my pregnant wife and two sons and I fled anti-American sentiment to Greece.  We needed extra money to stay there for what turned out to be three weeks.  Letting people know where we were, what our plans were, and what our needs were helped us to survive that evacuation.

Consider these six safety measures to stay safe and continue on in the ministry the Lord has called you to.  Number seven is to trust in the Lord during each step of the process for “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry…” (Psalm 34:15a, NIV).  Memorize Psalm 34 for the day of trouble.

One last word.  The goal is to prevent or avoid trouble.  These seven measures combine to form what is called risk assessment.  Risk assessment is the preventive side of crisis management.  Once an event begins, crisis management takes over.

Is this helpful to you?  What issues didn’t I address?  What other measures have you taken to provide for safety?

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