On safety and missions

There are some pretty high-profile mommy-bloggers on a missions trip to Uganda right now – like BooMama and Rocks In My Dryer, along with several others in their team. I’ve been reading through their posts about their time on the mission field, and the comments people are leaving on their blogs.

I won’t go into the amazing things God is doing through them – you’ll have to go read about it yourself on their blogs, and I do encourage you to do so.  What struck me though – other than the awesome stories they share – is how many commenters insist on calling these men and women ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ for what they’re doing (or in other words, for letting God do things through them). You can see Shanon’s take on it here, and then even after she admits that it doesn’t have a lot to do with courage, commenters continue to call her courageous and brave.

So what’s the problem with that? She left everything to go on a brief trip around the world, leave behind everything familiar, and entrust her children to be looked after while she was gone. That sounds courageous, doesn’t it? But let me ask you this. What’s really courageous about it? She’s facing her fears first of all. But that’s about it. And really, that just amounts to choosing to place her faith in Someone she can trust, rather than in worries and changing circumstances.

There’s a misconception that home is synonymous with safe, and Uganda (or Moldova or Bangladesh or anything else foreign) is synonymous with danger. After all, lions and tigers and bears – oh my! We’re afraid of what we don’t know, and that fear translates into an assumption of danger. But the fact is, safety is an illusion. There is nowhere our safety is guaranteed. There is nowhere we can feel sure of our safety. I could just as easily keel over from a brain aneurysm at home in front of my TV or get hit by a drunk driver and never make it home, as anyone else on the mission field could be overtaken by some unexpected tragedy. Safety is actually no more than God giving you one more breath to breathe. One more day to enjoy His creation. And He’s just as likely to provide it at home as He is somewhere else.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He is the same in the US, Uruguay, and Uganda.  Safety is an illusion we give ourselves in an effort to feel self-sufficient, independent. There’s less need for faith when we believe in an illusion of safety.

As for this team serving in Uganda, what they really have doesn’t have a lot to do with bravery or courage. It’s faith (or at least it seems that way from what they’ve been writing). They have faith that God will protect their families while they’re away. They have faith that God will keep their puddle-jumping airplanes in the air. They have faith that He will give them safety in the midst of vipers, unclean water supplies, and a host of other concerns. They have that faith because they know Him for who He is – the ultimate provider of their safety. The Creator of the heavens and the earth. The all-powerful, ever loving Healer, Sustainer, and Lord of all creation.

It irks me when people comment about the immense ‘courage’ of missionaries.  It’s not about courage. It’s about a conscious decision to place your faith in the One you know will not disappoint. It’s about choosing to have faith in the most Faithful One. And it’s about knowing that in all reality, He is sovereign, regardless of where you are.  After all, is anything too hard for the Lord?

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3 thoughts on “On safety and missions

  1. True, Amy Jane. Courage can signify different things to different people. But commending them for something that God has really done in them, and He is responsible for doesn’t really hit the mark. Look at 1 Cor. 4:7 – “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

    Sure, these folks stepped out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar, and that does take a bit of courage. But more than that, it takes faith. And you’ll find precious few commenters to the blogs above that give credit to God or to faith. I wouldn’t say that they – or any other missionary – lack courage or bravery. But that should never be the focus.

    Missionaries are too often seen as super-Christians or spiritual giants. But in reality, they’re just regular folks who have made a choice to be available to God’s purposes, to put their trust in Him, to take the first step of faith and see where it leads. Exalting them as overly courageous makes it easier for others to stay home with the excuse of “I’m just not that brave.” But worse, it takes credit away from God, who drew them to the mission field, and gives His rightful credit to them.

    Sure, we do that everyday when we thank someone for a compliment about our eyes or anything else. But it’s become almost a mantra among those who stay home that those who ‘risk it all’ and go on missions are somehow braver and more courageous (and therefore it’s easier for them to go). I just want to challenge the notion. And really, Shannon from Rocks in My Dryer challenged it herself in a post. And somehow that made her readers commend her even more for being brave AND humble.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response Amy Jane – it’s always fun to throw ideas back and forth with you!

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  2. I have to both agree and disagree.

    Yes, I think people are focused on the wrong thing when they call these people “brave,” or, at least, they’re not giving any genuine complement.

    What they are trying to say is, “We commend you for doing something we don’t have the courage/resources/confidence to do ourselves.” To say “You’re so brave” is to me the equivalent of, “Wow, your baby’s eyes are really blue.”

    I take it as a complement and smile, but I have no voluntary part in eye color selection, and it’s really no more than a statement to describe the way things are.

    But “courageous,” for even the scant reasons you offer is a reasonably apt term.

    It takes courage to do things that force you to change or do things outside your familiarity-zone.

    At this moment it would be an act of courage for me to take up a new novel to read. (pathetic as that would sound to my 23-year-old self)

    I expect so much from my limited recreational reading, and have so many demands on both my life and my mind that I haven’t entrusted myself to a new novel in (I think) over a year.

    As a writer this is probably a bad thing.

    But I think it is kind thing to call someone courageous, of the doing-despite-fear kind of courage. I think we should commend more people that way.

    Though that could take knowing some of them better than we do now. (e.g., I don’t think anyone would have guessed the novel-thing about me.)

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  3. Brillantly stated. People assumed they are safe because they are home. But you aren’t. Safety is only God – He is our refuge and strong tower. And since He is everywhere, we are safe where ever we go. And since these moms are going to where God wants them to, all the better. Well said! ~ L

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