“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
“Please pray for us! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us.”
This call for help was posted in a WhatsApp group Saturday as seventeen missionaries and family members were being kidnapped by a street gang in Haiti. The group included sixteen Americans and one Canadian and was made up of five men, seven women, and five children.
The missionaries work with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries and were returning from a site visit to an orphanage when they were abducted. Authorities believe the “400 Mawozo” gang, one of the most powerful in Haiti, is behind the kidnapping. As of this morning, no ransom demands have yet been made public.
The Washington Post notes that Haiti is reeling from a power vacuum following the assassination of its president earlier this year and the August earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people and left tens of thousands homeless. One result is that Haiti has the highest per-capita kidnapping rate on earth; recorded kidnappings so far this year have spiked sixfold over the same period last year. Doctors, preachers, entire busloads of people, and even police on patrol have been kidnapped by criminals.
Why would missionaries risk themselves and their children to serve in such a dangerous place? Assuming their answer is that God called them there, why would he? As we will see, these questions are relevant not just to missionaries in dangerous countries but to every Christian on earth.
Let’s consider three biblical facts.
One: No place is safe
Last Friday, a member of the British parliament was stabbed to death inside a church where he was meeting with constituents. The next day, a deputy was killed and two others were injured in what authorities described as an ambush outside a Houston bar.
In other news, floods in India have killed at least twenty-six people. Meanwhile, authorities are warning that flooding could shut down a quarter of all critical US infrastructure in the future.
Last Wednesday, the largest cyberattack on an Israeli health system in its history forced it to shut down its technology network and caused delays in care. Understandably, a new poll shows that nine in ten Americans are concerned about hacking that involves their personal information, financial institution, government agencies, or utilities.
I placed these stories next to each other to illustrate the fact that no place on our fallen planet is truly safe. What happens overseas can happen in the US and vice versa. This is even more true for Christians: Jesus bluntly stated that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). He warned us: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20).
If you’re looking for a way to live free from all temptation, problems, and pain, you’ll have to wait until heaven (Revelation 21:4). There is no such place in this broken world.
Two: God sometimes calls us into or away from danger
God sometimes calls his people headlong into the dangers of their day. He led the nation of Israel into Canaan despite the challenges they would face (Numbers 13:28–29) with the assurance: “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Peter and the apostles refused to stop preaching even at the peril of their lives (Acts 4:5–12, 19–20). Paul insisted on returning to Jerusalem even after he was warned of the danger that awaited him (Acts 21:11–14). Jesus warned his disciples three times that he would die in the Holy City (Matthew 16:21–23; 17:22–23; 20:17–19).
However, earlier in his ministry, “when he heard that John had been arrested, Jesus withdrew into Galilee” (Matthew 4:12). When the Jews in Damascus plotted to kill Paul after his conversion, “his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket” (Acts 9:25).
Clearly, there are times God calls us to serve him in dangerous places and times he leads us from danger to safety. How can we know which is true for us?
Three: We must follow his Spirit to fulfill his purpose
In the book Great Thinkers, we are introduced to the Stoics and told that their philosophy remains “immediately relevant and useful for our uncertain and panicky times.” This worldview is described as asserting the fact that we can and will cope with the worst life can bring us; we must learn to expect less from life so that we are not angry when our hopes are unfulfilled; and we should abandon faith that there is a providential purpose in a world dominated by unpredictable fortune.
By contrast, Jesus prayed at the start of the day (Mark 1:35) and all through the day. Paul taught us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and to surrender our lives continually to God as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The key is that we must follow him—not just believe in him, read articles about him, or even write such articles. If you’re in a dark cave and the tour guide has the only flashlight, the closer you follow the guide, the more you’ll walk in the light.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s profound prayer
Please join me in praying fervently for the kidnapped missionaries in Haiti and their families. As we pray for their safety, let’s also join their organization’s call to “pray that the gang members will come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.”
And let’s emulate the missionaries’ courage with our obedience. When last did God call you to pay a price for your faith? Will you follow his light today wherever he leads, whatever it takes, whatever the cost?
Martin Luther King Jr. prayed, “Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”
What purpose will your life serve today?
NOTE: If we’re asking “How can I do more? Make more? Have more? Be more?”, we’re asking the wrong questions. And if we ask the wrong questions, we get the wrong answers about how to live life well. That’s why I’ve written the tenth and latest volume in my Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series of books — and it’s why I want to invite you to request your copy* today.
*You can also pre-order the entire 10-volume set of Biblical Insight to Tough Questions. In it you’ll find dozens of our culture’s toughest questions — all answered, without apology, with Scripture.