Missionaries in Dangerous Situations

For the past weeks the TV news has been showing refugee men and women and children fleeing their war torn countries. The heart rending scenes of desperate families, exhausted children, worried mothers and frustrated fathers risking their lives and sometimes losing them while trying to escape danger and death reminded me of a story I heard about one of our Wycliffe missionaries.

Dangerous Mission Fields
He and his family were living in Colombia during an especially dangerous time. One Wycliffe missionary had already been kidnapped and killed while others were threatened by the terrorist drug gangs because of Wycliffe’s work with indigenous people in the jungle.

When this family came home on furlough someone asked him,

“When did you first realize that you were living in a dangerous situation?”

He thought for a minute and then told this story:

The Story
bearsOur family lives in Loma Linda and we had gotten used to hearing nightly gunfire. One evening, as I took my young son to his bedroom and tucked him into bed, I noticed that none of his teddy bears were in bed with him. They were all lined up on the dresser along the wall between the window and the bed. So I asked him,

“Which teddy bears would you like to sleep with tonight?”

“None of them, Daddy. I want them all to sit there on the dresser.”

I said, “Okay,” and prayed with him, then kissed him goodnight and turned to leave. As I was opening the door I heard his little voice call,

“Daddy!”

“Yes?”

“Daddy, if a bullet comes through the window and goes through all my teddy bears, will it still kill me?”

That’s when it hit me. We were living in a dangerous location!

Restricted Access Countries
This missionary family is not the only one who live and work and raise their families in perilous places. Many mission agencies, including Wycliffe and its field partner organizations, have workers in what are called restricted access countries.

Although they are legal residents of the country with full authority from the government to do their work, there are terrorist groups that would kill them if they knew what they were doing. So they live under assumed names, can’t have a website, a blog, or a Facebook page. They can’t even tell their supporting partners the name of the country in which they live and work.

A Closing Story
In the last century a missionary named James Calvert led a group to work among the cannibals of the Fiji Islands. The ship captain tried to turn him back, saying,

“You will lose your life, and the lives of those with you, if you go among such savages.”

“We died before we came here,” James responded.

That’s the very attitude today’s missionaries have when they travel to live and work in these dangerous situations.

2 thoughts on “Missionaries in Dangerous Situations

  1. Thank you so much for this article. My daughter and her family work in a restricted access country. Since people don’t know what country they live in, every time something happens in any restricted country, I’m asked, “When are they moving home? It is not safe.” Do we only follow Jesus into the “safe” areas of the world? As followers of Jesus, are we willing to go wherever He sends us regardless of safety.

  2. Jack,

    Nice to be able to read one of your posts again.

    In Cameroon Africa, we heard that the old time missionaries came to Cameroon to die; they actually packed their goods in coffins. (I don’t have a source that I can put my fingers on to document the coffins. It seems to be common knowledge among missionaries.) All I do know is that we visited a cemetery in Kribi on the Cameroon coast where many of the early missionaries landed. In the small overgrown cemetery were tomb stones of several missionaries in their twenties. They died early deaths from maleria. There were two precious babies of missionaries buried there as well.

    I deeply admire these early missionaries. I wonder, would I have gone under those conditions?

    And then there is the dilemma, it is one thing to put ourselves in danger, it is quite another to put our own children in danger.

    It occurs to me, if mission organizations had waited until it was safe for their missionaries to go, how much worse off would the world be today?

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