Security and contingency planning for missionaries and their home churches is often only thought of in the time of crisis. Shepherd's Staff manager of ministry security and risk management gives some practical advice about why now may be the time to consider contingency plans and safety practices.
From Joseph to Nehemiah to Paul, the great pillars of faith and our Lord Jesus evaded danger, opted for safe personal practices, and planned ahead in the interest of establishing, preserving, and practicing ministry stewardship.
Psalm 91 is one of the most poignant prophetic scriptures with regard to God’s protection and provision.
Verse 7 says "A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near to you.” And verse 9 says “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”
Prior to beginning His public ministry, the Holy Spirit led Jesus in to the wilderness to be tempted by satan. The second temptation he put before Jesus was an attempt to entice Him to be reckless with HIs physical safety and ultimately His ministry. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11,12 For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone, to provoke Him to do so.
Jesus’ response was “Though shall not “tempt” the Lord thy God.” (Matthew 4:7). The word used for “tempt” in this context means to “put to the test” or to challenge God’s promise of protection and provision.
If Jesus did not feel that he had the liberty to be reckless with His life and ministry, putting His Father’s promise to the test, what right do we have to act in this manner?
Scores of missionaries have made statements like, "we don’t need to purchase medical evacuation insurance, God will protect us.” Or, “I know that there is a typhoon brewing, but Jesus calmed the seas and He will do it again.”
It is as though some missionaries use God’s promise of provision as an excuse to be lazy and sometimes downright reckless with their lives and the ministry and associated resources he has blessed them with.
There are only three ways to deal with risk:
- Avoid it
- Ignore it
- Accommodate it.
Time and again, biblical patriarchs accommodated risk and practiced personal safety while displaying their faith and developing contingency plans as a practice in stewardship.
GOOD STEWARDSHIP – IT’S ABOUT THE MINISTRY
- Being responsible with God’s resources enhances the Reputation of the Gospel. As in the parable of the talents, accommodating risk does not mean avoiding or ignoring it but thoughtfully investing with God’s resources.
- Accommodating risk enhances the reputation of your ministry. Recklessness may offend those you are trying to reach. Sometimes missionaries insert themselves or remain in dangerous situations that place those they are serving in jeopardy. Thoughtful and considerate planning is appreciated.
- It is smart ministry. Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself. But the simple pass on and are punished. Good stewardship over the life, resources and ministry you have been given glorifies God!
GOOD WITNESS TO UNBELIEVERS – IT’S ABOUT THE GOSPEL
- If you are prepared to meet and mitigate a crisis, you not only set a good example, but you will also be prepared to serve others who were not prepared.
- When you mitigate risk, local authorities see you and your ministry as a partner to be called upon in times of crisis, as opposed to being the ones who always need to be rescued because they are unprepared.
CARING FOR YOUR FAMILY
- When a missionary is in a crisis it is often the family back home that suffers the most. Unfamiliarity with the conditions in the country of service, communication issues, confusion with local governments and inability to predict the next course of action in an emergency places tremendous stress on family “back home.” Written contingency plans for accidents, significant illness, criminal acts, natural disasters and regime change establish predictability and alleviate stress when missionaries are incapacitated or unable to communicate.
- Although third culture kids are known to be resilient, having emergency plans in place, and communicating those plans regularly can enhance missionary kid’s safety and relieve the stress associated with crisis.
- Missionaries that have been detained by hostile governments or kidnapped by rogue elements have expressed a bit of relief when they had planned ahead for their families in the event of just such an occurrence. If the isolated missionary knows that their family will leave the country for a safe location, it removes a bargaining chip for the captors and inspires confidence in the person being held captive.
Contingency planning for ministry is part of “counting the cost" for the follower of Jesus called to serve in countries outside of the U.S. Taking some time to think through personal safety and threats to ministry will instill confidence, help to establish and maintain a preparedness posture and serve as a testimony of stewardship.
If you haven't viewed contingency planning in this light before, please consider the fact it is a "good work", done before men, that has the capacity to glorify your Father in heaven.
Matt 5:16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven."
Tim Dabney is the former chief of police in Lompoc, CA and serves at the manager of ministry security and risk management here at Shepherd's Staff.