We in Interserve live and work in restricted access countries, areas of the world that are somewhat unstable in comparison to the USA. This causes us to live in areas where there is a potentially higher level of risk with regard to our personal safety than we would have here. Why then do we choose to go and live in these areas? Please feel free to interrupt us and ask any question that you may have. No question is out of line, so feel free to ask anything.
We are evangelicals. The one characteristic that differentiates evangelicals from other Christian groups is that we view the Bible as God’s authoritative Word. We see the Bible as unique, unlike any other book in the world. This is because God has supremely authorized this Book to govern our beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors. Since this is the case, we are compelled to look to the Scripture to guide us in how to approach this topic of risk and potential suffering.
So, how do the Scriptures shape our thinking? Let me point out some of the ways:
1) First, Ps. 24:1 shapes our perspective of the world:
The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.
This means that every person on this earth is the Lord’s. Many may not know the Lord or obey Him, and they may not want to. Nonetheless, they are His creation and He passionately loves them.
2) Second, we base our understanding of God’s passionate love for the many people’s of the earth on Matthew 9:35-38. This says:
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
3) Third, our perspective is shaped by Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus has asked us, His people, to go to all the peoples of the earth and disciple them.
4) Yet, as God’s people we have a significant problem. We do not appear to be taking Jesus’ command seriously. Why? Because more than one quarter of the world appear to be UNSEEN by God’s people. More than 1/4 of the world’s population do not have personal access to a follower of Christ. Most people turn to Christ due to their relationships with followers of Christ. Well, if 1/4 of the world’s population have no personal access to a follower of Christ, how will they turn to Him? This 1/4 is comprised of Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu peoples. Cut to this reality of our world, Jesus has called us in particular to focus our efforts and go and live among Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu peoples.
5) The Father’s sending of Jesus provides the context for our being sent:
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
The Father sent Jesus to the earth to become like us and live among us. Therefore, these two words shape our understanding of our being sent by Christ: live incarnationally. We are sent to live and work among people, learning their language and culture, doing life together with them, sharing their joys and sorrows.
6) God promises to be always with us as we go. Though God’s is with us and the Gospel is filled with power; we find that we live and work in weakness.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
7) Yet, even though we are called to go and live in restricted access areas, we are called to go and live– not to go and die. Consequently, wherever we live, we live wisely. This means we seek to:
- Live within the boundaries of the level of faith that God has given us.
- Minimize the risks.
- Learn from our host communities.
- Draw from the wisdom of workers who have lived there and are familiar with the context.
- Set objective, measurable guidelines to indicate to us when we are to prepare to leave or to evacuate.
The Scriptures do not make us naive. We fully realize that the promises of God do not keep us from difficulties and from suffering. However, the presence of God with us causes a confidence to arise from deep within us. He actively assures us that He will actively minimize the difficulties and suffering we encounter. And His Presence also assures us that He will carry us wherever we go and He will give us what we need to face whatever we encounter. We never are and never will be alone.