For those who serve overseas, crossing barriers into less friendly contexts often means living with risks that constantly need to be reassessed. Old tensions get overtaken by new dangers. Risks, including health hazards, political unrest or random violence are a reality SIM has lived with since its earliest pioneers, but it seems that globally the potential for instability is on the rise. Thus SIM is currently putting effort into reflecting on a theology of risk so that as a mission those serving, those supporting and those recruiting new mission partners have clarity in responding to this.
Some principles are worth thinking about:
- We serve a faithful God who is our security, and promised to be with us always. David said in Psalm 11: “I trust the Lord for protection. So why do you say to me, ‘Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!’…”
- We shouldn’t be surprised by suffering or opposition; Jesus told us to expect it. This applies to every believer, not just those who serve overseas — being a follower of Jesus involves a risk-taking attitude expressed in faith and obedience.
- Prayer should be our response to crisis
- Decisions should be made in community, as the body of Christ, rather than by individuals. In the New Testament, the first missionaries regularly debated levels of risk and appropriate responses to them.
- The Spirit should rule our actions, not fear or foolhardiness
There is no glib answer to handling danger in mission. Jesus and Paul often left an area where there was a specific threat, yet when they were convinced that God’s will for them in something meant suffering they both continued on despite opposition. In today’s world where SIM has partners of many ethnicities and backgrounds, what is a threat or a challenge to one may be routine life for another. Being prepared, having contingency plans is a given, but this can’t guarantee safety. In the end, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21)