Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and missions. Welcome to episode 115 of Missions on Point. This is the last in a series of 14 episodes on contemporary issues in missions. This episode will deal with security and contingency issues. I do want to give you a heads-up. I would like to do a very quick overview of this series at the end of this episode. We have spoken about this issue tangentially in a couple of other episodes regarding missionary training and the missionary's church and family needing to maintain security. However, in this episode we'll go into just a little bit more detail. The things in this episode, every missionary candidate needs to know, certainly family members of the missionary candidate need to know, and the church mission's leadership, including pastors and missions team need to know these things at least by way of awareness because we live in a world that is riskier and has more threats against missionaries and Westerners in particular overseas.

Though the missionary might not be going into what we used to call closed countries, there's certainly more at risk and high-security situations, and you don't want to put your missionary or missionary family or ministry at risk by having something slip in your communication with them or about them that others can see and discover what's going on, and figure out some way to minimize or threaten the effectiveness long term of your missionary in that situation.

In general, the communication restriction levels for different kinds of countries or environments go like this. There's non-restricted kind of areas, where everything is pretty Westernized or international in flavor. Communication with the missionary or the team can remain completely open and there's no problem using all the terms that we would in normal everyday life with no restriction. But there are some places that require a low level of restriction in communication with the missionary or the ministries involved. It means that there must be some discretion in using the name of, say, the mission agency or specifying particular spiritual purposes in their being there. While it's okay to talk about their spiritual life and dependency on God in general and to encourage them spiritually, you might not want to be saying things that indicate that their whole purpose for being there is for presenting the gospel with a view toward conversion and establishing of a national church.

A moderate level of communication restriction would have to do with not using those terms at all. And often missionaries then use substitute terms, which could be understood. Certainly, they have to be aware of encrypting their digital data and maybe even using encrypted or secured email services instead of the publicly accessible ones. Then there are places in which high level of communication restriction is necessary, and it's known that messages of any kind by phone, by text, by email are almost certainly being monitored, and those kind of situations mean that there has to be a much higher level of restriction in freedom of communication.

Then finally, there are instances perhaps especially when traveling through or in particular areas where there is specific threat against Christians in which there's an order to do not contact at all. Going in, coming out, no communication during that limited amount of time. But let's take a step back and race through some general topics that your people need to be aware of as you go to a field. And in some cases, I would say it's great to have a level of awareness even if the field is not specifically a threatening one or one in which there's high security danger involved, and the first area is just personal things. Every missionary ought to have figured out their banking arrangements and ability to transfer funds. They need to have a will. They need to have notarized copies of legal documents in hand. They need to have arrangements to have someone who is their agent to be able to do financial things for them while at home, including filing their IRS income tax forms.

The missionary should be aware that their living arrangements are a choice regarding security as well. They need to live on a street or a neighborhood in which there is some sense of security and not isolation. Of course, the capacity to make good national friends among your neighbors is an important security bonus. Some missionaries or candidates may need to take a little bit of training to have a better sense of personal situational awareness. In other words, street smarts, knowing what's going on, knowing how to read a map. And then there's just the issues of household security. There are places in the world where even inside your house you need to have locked doors or even padlock doors. We don't like to think of it, but every member of the household needs to follow a certain kind of protocol to not allow strangers inside.

Another intangible aspect may seem small, but it's not, and that is that a missionary needs to conduct themselves to be a harder target rather than a soft target. What does that mean? It's simple decisions like walking in a group instead of walking alone on a dark street at night, trying to be aware of what's going on around you, carrying yourself and the stuff you have in a guarded kind of a way, not exhibiting a fearful attitude, but simply taking care of what you are and who you are, where you are and what you have. Learning the language well plays into this. Avoiding unnecessarily offensive behavior in your speech or your attire.

No one likes to think of kidnap or violent crime scenarios, but it's something that should be at least in the back of your mind that this is a possibility and you're trying to avoid those situations that puts you at higher risk of that. Even having a plan for that is important. So if the wife or the husband is missing for an extended period of time, you don't know where they are, don't panic. You should automatically know the next steps you do in order to recoup or to figure out where they might be. A very practical application of good theology makes a huge difference in our capacity to survive. Trust in God, pray with faith. He is sovereign. There are specific missionary training courses just for these kinds of things. Everything from finance to communication, to personal security, to the possibility of violent crime are included in these kinds of training sequences. And many mission boards who are sending missionaries into those situations have at least some kind of training and orientation for their people on these matters. If you know you're going into a high-security area of the world for ministry, you need to at least ask your mission agency whether or not they include this kind of training in their curriculum for you before you go.

Besides personally, there's the whole issue of the team that you're on or the greater team within the country, and having the right means of communication and means of even determining of something as a crisis is important. Usually, there is some kind of team response or behavior in a crisis. There needs to be a commonly understood assessment process to figure out what's going on and if you need to escape or evacuate. Evacuation isn't necessarily evacuation of the whole country, but evacuation from the hotspot.

One of the little keys for everyone to keep levelheaded on this is some means or objective way of looking at evaluation of rumors, because when something bad starts happening in a broad way in the country, there are all kinds of rumors circulating and missionaries can be thrown here and there all over the place by wild rumors, many of which may not have any bit of truth to them at all. That applies to people at home here who are hearing news of these kinds of things going on because the TV news may project one thing and the actual fact on the ground where your missionary is may be something completely different. So you need to pray and judge the rumor mill, even the TV reporting mill differently.

Now, all of this is not intended to scare you, but these things actually do happen, and it's better to be prepared. It's better to be wise and thoughtful about it before the time of crisis, during the time of crisis, if you don't have good thoughts or good training to prepare you, you're likely to do something that may be foolish or even put you at greater risk. So friends, be aware that these are contemporary issues and missions for your missionary. You need to be sympathetic and helpful to them and try not to do something that would be harmful to their ministry.

Please allow me to take just a couple of minutes and recap this series on contemporary issues and missions. We first talked about business as missions, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We talked about what is and what is not business as missions. Then we talked about contextualization and how, in modern times, there's been something of a hijacking of this term to mean something different than what it originally meant. We talked about the importance of orality, and some means and methods that are being used today to minister the gospel through oral means. We talked about discipleship-making movements or disciple making movements and church-planting movements, and exposed some of the fallacies and poor definitions that are being used today. We revisited biblical ecclesiology and looked at, again, the biblical definition of a local church, which in part is a prescription for solving some of the excesses of the earlier contemporary issues.

We talked about the church-planting process and evangelism even in a resistant culture. We talked about limitations of institutional ministry and what a difference it can make in your outlook and in the actual ministry on the ground. We talked about contract employment and how to utilize that in a good way. We talked about language learning proficiency and how significant and important that is in ministry no matter where you are. We also talked about weak mission agency partnership, and what a difference it makes when the church has an actual partnership with the mission agency to continue to shepherd the missionary whom they have sent.

We talked about long-term commitment and what a difference that makes and how hard it is today to sustain long-term commitment on the field. And then lastly, we talked about security and contingency issues. As I have done before, I want to encourage you to send comments or questions through email to If you have ideas for future episodes of Missions on Point, let me know them by emailing

Thanks so much for following or subscribing to Missions on Point. Please let your friends and church leaders know about Missions on Point. Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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