Many organizations provide training in contingency planning, evaluating security risks, and evacuation procedures. There are also many excellent counseling and member care hand-outs that provide spiritual resources for coping with crisis. This article focuses on another aspect of security issues: the interpersonal aspect.
I’d like to share with you four case scenarios to help consider the interpersonal aspects of security issues. Let me first assure you that these are composite scenarios. They do not describe you or someone you know, although they likely describe situations you and your colleagues have experienced. They are composites of the type of situations our colleagues in many areas of the world face.
Sam and Sue were living in a country that was experiencing civil war. They heard gunfire in their neighborhood periodically, couldn’t travel after dark, had been held up while at a restaurant, and had their home burglarized twice, once when they were home, at gunpoint. They made it through their four-year term, but when they arrived home for furlough Sue experienced an increasing reluctance to make plans to return. Working through this, they discovered that they both were able to deal with these issues.
However, there were two issues for Sue that needed to be resolved before she could return. One was to talk through the threat of their daughter by a national, have Sam validate that this was a real threat, and come up with different arrangements for travel to school for her that were safer. The other was the unclear triggers for a move from their village location, hibernation, and evacuation. She did not feel they as a family had the experience and expertise to make those decisions themselves, and didn’t feel that there were mechanisms in place to help them evaluate these threats and give them guidelines to follow. Sue took the time to understand these issues herself. Then she conveyed them to Sam and together they processed them and come up with realistic plans to address them as a family. Then they also met with their leadership and got clearer guidance about company strategies and planning for their location. Working through these two issues allowed Sue to return to the field with renewed vision and love for the work God had called them to.
Mike and Jan lived in a country that had in the past year become more dangerous. Jan loved her job and adjusted fairly easily to this very different culture because she found the culture within their team to be so supportive and her work valued. Mike found the constant threat of action against the foreign community, the risk that their children could experience this threat directly while at a public place, and the sense of inability to protect his family unbearable after three years.
They struggled with what to do about their call to this work, what to tell supporters, and how to resolve this as a couple in a way that validated both spouses. They decided to ask their leadership if there were assignments that fit their gifts in another location in the country or a neighboring country that had experienced less threats, and where their children could attend an international school. This solution validated both their commitments and both their security thresh holds, and they’ve continued to serve effectively.
Sally worked with national colleagues four hours from her closest company colleagues. She thought she was coping ok with the security threats but when she arrived in the stable, safe neighboring country on her way to a conference, she experienced a strong, almost overpowering, sense of relief and safety, and found her body nearly shutting down with a fatigue she didn’t know she had.
In sorting through the underlying issues, she realized she needed to find ways to visit other single colleagues in the country for holidays at least every few months. She also needed to switch from doing her annual vacation in the capital city, to the neighboring country which was much safer, to get a true break from the constant guardedness she needed to maintain in her country of assignment.
Jennifer, age 16, became increasingly quiet and withdrawn. After much good listening by her parents, she finally shared that she was having nightmares of being in a suicide bombing like her best friend had experienced while she was on furlough. As she worked through this in counseling, her parents learned that her sensitive nature was being overloaded with facts about terrorist activity in the city and she was afraid of one family member dieing alone.
After listening well to understand Jennifer’s issues the family together came up with the following plan: Her parents would watch the news after she was in bed, and not discuss incidents unless she asked about them. One parent would drive her to activities rather than having her ride with other families, so that they would be together if something happened. They also would always go to church as a family for worship together at home as a family. These interventions were the key for Jennifer, and her parents validating her fears as well as her strengths helped her overcome her nightmares and her emotional withdrawal.
How has your theology of suffering matured or deepened through this time? How specifically have you seen God sustain you, provide for you, and keep you in the midst of the threats? What area of challenge spiritually are you currently seeking to grow in as it relates to these security threats?
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