As inhabitants of a fallen world we know that tension, conflict, unrest, violence, and injustice will not truly end until Jesus returns. However, we also know that as Christians we are called to pursue reconciliation, peace, justice, forgiveness, and mercy, even now when our efforts sometimes feel futile. God doesn’t necessarily call us to comfort and safety, sometimes furthering His kingdom requires us to take tremulous steps into frightening and uncertain places.
Where is the line between trusting God even in uncertainty and recognizing when a situation is too dangerous to stay in? This is an important concern for volunteers and missionaries everywhere. For the CRC it is a greater problem for those currently in Nigeria, Israel, and Palestine.
One Global Security Advisor for an evangelical organization notes that it is important to realize that feeling concerned about safety is not unspiritual. Being conscious of security threats does not indicate a lack of trust in God. In fact, even Jesus considered his own physical security, withdrawing from the public notice when the Pharisees began plotting to capture him. Members of the early church took precautions to keep themselves safe as well.
For international missionaries, unrest around the globe is personally troublesome. A field staff missionary in Nigeria noted, “I want to stay in Nigeria, but the attacks by Boko-Haram have been very disturbing. My heart grieves for Nigeria, but if you’re a missionary you feel the call to serve despite the dangers.” For long-term missionaries who have invested years, even decades, of their lives on the field, it can be painful to contemplate leaving due to safety issues. Many choose to take things one day at a time rather than analyzing what may happen in the future. They must put all of their trust in God to guide their decisions. With short-term teams, such as the Hope Equals group currently in the Middle East, the itinerary for each day depends on the immediate climate of the region in which they’re visiting.
So what is the CRC’s response when safety becomes an issue for missionaries and volunteers? Ron Geerlings is part of the Crisis Management Team (CMT), focusing on risk management, and also the West Africa Regional Director for World Missions. Ron says that the decision to evacuate a country may be made by the missionaries and the agency. However, missionaries may have different opinions. Some may be more cautious than others. And of course, anyone may be hesitant to leave the place that has become a home. In places with several missionaries and multiple agencies, the CMT may appoint an Event Response Team to handle the issue. In these cases the Event Response Team, as they have been appointed by the CMT, has authority to make decisions about whether the missionaries should stay or go.
Evacuation is never an easy decision--often it is quite painful. That isn’t to say that only missionaries living in places with rising tensions have safety concerns--field staff around the globe, in every country, deal with security issues. Missionaries, especially those in areas with heightened safety concerns, are in desperate need of your prayers for wisdom, protection, and discernment.
For more information about the CRCNA’s security policies email Ron Geerlings at [email protected].