Many people ask if mission work is safe.
I've served as a Resonate Global Mission partner missionary at Nicaragua Christian Academy (NCA) in Managua, Nicaragua, for 18 years. Located in the heart of Central America, Nicaragua has enjoyed decades of peace and has often been considered the safest of Central American nations. However, the country has experienced massive civil unrest in the past few months. There are reports of demonstrations, road blockades, violence against protesters, killings, and waves of crime throughout the capital city of Managua and the outlying cities around the country on a daily basis. Almost 450 lives have been lost and an estimated 250 thousand jobs have been dissolved—plunging this poverty-stricken country even further into despair.
It’s natural for missionaries, sending organizations, and supporters to think about safety.
The question of safety is answered differently by each of us, and in the midst of diverse responses to the current crisis, it’s clear that God makes people differently. Some are more given to fear of the unknown and worst possible outcomes, while others seem to find peace or even energy in the midst of an unpredictable climate. We’ve seen missionaries and sending organizations make decisions to evacuate very quickly, some through a more deliberate process, and some with clear intentionality to stay in the midst of the unrest. I’ve had to learn not to judge people or their sending organizations, tempting as it sometimes is. God is the master designer and uses people and circumstances in different ways to accomplish his purposes. Even in the same country, differing mission objectives, geographical target areas, and support networks bring people to different conclusions. As a result, we’ve had to say goodbye to many colleagues and friends.
So, why are we still here?
Safety is never guaranteed anywhere.
Safety often becomes the primary—or even singular—consideration in decisions surrounding the present circumstances, but it’s worth recognizing that the Bible does not promise or guarantee personal or physical safety to Christians (or anyone, for that matter). Our desire to be safe is an innate human characteristic and part of how God created us, but the Bible clearly places our eternal salvation and involvement in God’s Kingdom work and the Great Commission at a much higher level than our personal safety. In fact, the general slant of the New Testament calls Christians into unsafe situations for the sake of the Gospel message. Certainly, no ministry or mission organization should place the guarantee of personal safety on a pedestal above the calling to serve in God’s Kingdom (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:12-13, Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:18).
We have a calling to ministry.
Being part of a Christian organization, our central focus and motivator is our calling from God and subsequent mission, which for NCA is to assist families in forming active disciples of Jesus Christ. This calling is different than the motivator and objectives of many other secular organizations and should be based on what God is specifically calling us to do according to His purposes and not what the physical surrounding circumstances are. It’s true that God may use difficult situations to redirect individuals and organizations, and we must be continually listening to the Holy Spirit. While it’s important to be wise and assess situations and make discerning decisions and adjustments, the decision to stay or leave should be based on a calling from God (Romans 8:28, Ephesians 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Continued ministry is important for our relationship with the Nicaraguan community.
If we abandon Nicaragua during this time of need, it severely undermines everything we stand for. We preach a Gospel that teaches that our hope and security are found in the Lord, not in man or our own systems of safety. This means that if it’s at all possible for us to continue to live in Nicaragua, and yet the missionary community pulls out due to fear of what might happen, it appears to be strongly inconsistent with what we say we stand for. For any ministry that works directly with Nicaraguans (including NCA), it’s very important to press forward, especially during times like this when the need is clearly great. As one of our school directors shared, “Dark times make people yearn for the light, and we are called to BE the light!” We have heard from many of our school families that are extremely grateful for our decision to continue to provide Christian education this coming school year.
By Liam Starkenburg