Often when we are in the USA, people ask us about the dangers we face by living in West Africa. It is a fair question, especially since our own United States Security Department officially warns against travel to this region. The truth is, we don’t make the decision to come here lightly. We are constantly working to combine faith in God with wisdom.
Here is a glimpse into our process – what we consider, pray over, and work through regarding our decision to live in this context year after year.
1. We look honestly at the facts. The security statistics in the Sahel region grow progressively grimmer year after year. We are now confined to our urban city setting due to the rise in terrorist attacks in the outlying areas. Travel to other parts of the country must happen by airplane since the roads are unsafe. Here is a graph that was shared last year among missionaries:
We do not attempt to look the other way or ignore the raw data, and we know that we are not protected here in the same way we would be in our passport country. We are not naïve about what is really going on around us – that would be foolish! So, we really do take a long hard look at these realities.
2. We receive regular security training from our mission agency. Every year SIM holds us accountable to complete a thorough security training that is Biblical and also very practical. We look at “theology of risk” so that we can be people who follow God while at the same time use the intelligence God has given us. Here is a page from that training:
As you can see, seeking to live and work in dangerous places is not automatically the courageous faith-filled-thing-to-do! We don’t just pack our bags and come here without thinking! Obedience to God might sometimes mean to avoid danger. We are constantly in prayer that God will give us His wisdom to avoid danger, if at all possible, but to give us courage if He wants us to go.
3. We wrestle with the reality of following Christ. We know that there is inherent risk in following Jesus Christ – suffering is part of the job description. If we live to avoid suffering, that is not obedience. In the same way, if we strive to prove how courageous we are, that is not obedience. So we are continually faced with a desperate need to be sure of our Shepherd’s voice, to make sure we aren’t doing one or the other – avoiding suffering or trying to prove ourselves.
Our life in Niger is not easy – it is hot and dusty, and like most developing countries there are myriad inconveniences. We certainly aren’t here because it makes our life better or more comfortable! But we agree that we do not want to run away from the hard things that God has for us. We will continue to seek wisdom, pray for courage, and with God’s help we will follow Him where He leads us.