Wednesday, December 29, 2004


In our role as pastors, shepherds, mission team leaders, whatever, there are going to be instances when we need to abort. This past summer, the night before I was to lead a student team to NYC, the city was placed under an elevated terror alert. I was put into the same kind of situation - proceed or abort? For good or bad, the decision was solely mine.
I believed that I had heard the call to go to NYC, and that every person on my team was committed to our work there. We had done significant preparation, raised the required funds, come together as a team. It was important work, and yet, could this last minute alert be a sign from the Lord. Not only that, but I was taking students with me. This trip was not just about me being responsible for me, parents were entrusting their children to me. That kind of thing is a big deal.
I'm left with the same questions tonight, although, thankfully, I don't have to make those decisions. I ran into a parent tonight of a college student, her daughter is on the GCC team that leaves for Banagalore and Chennai, India on January 8. The mother is obviously very concerned. Not only for the health of her daughter, but for the actual work they are tasked to be doing, for the conditions they will meet, probably for her daughter seeing what is unthinkable.
Aborting is a real possibility. We need to take into consideration all the people involved collectively: the students we serve, the parents who entrust us, the communities of faith that encourage us to risk as we follow Christ, the cultures that we travel to and come to love.
With this case, as a parent and as a mission coordinator, I would say abort. (Even though I have nothing to do with it.)
Here is why:
- Conditions are going to get a lot worse. Based on locations and ministries of the trip right now, including health and safety conditions. The lack of clean water, sanitation and spread of disease would be undue risk.
- The whole region is in upheaval. We are seeing 11 nations that are going to be maxed out with regard to disaster relief, distribution of food and water, finding and restoring local housing. Do we really want to burden them with a team of Western 20-somethings and are they really realistically going to be able to help?
- I'm not sure I would want my college age student exposed first hand to what is really going on there right now. Thousands of corpses on the beach, mass graves, families weeping when they collect their dead? It's one thing to expose a kid to reality in the third world, it's another realm when it comes to disasters of this magnitude. When they are older, they can make that choice for themselves.
Oh and just to follow up, this summer, we went to NYC and it was awesome. First, we listened to press conferences on the drive up, where we found out the alert was only for Wall Street instead of city-wide (and we were in Times Square.) Secondly, our backup plan was to stay at my mother-in-laws' house an hour north of the city, and to wait it out if we needed to. Both were viable alternatives that gave us confidence in delaying having to make a major decision if we needed to.
If we are going to do missions better, making the right decisions at the right time is integral. The right decision, in many cases, does not have to only do with the trip itself.

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