safety on the mission field

by Sarah Goodfellow on October 13, 2014

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A few weeks ago we were robbed. The men came while we were sleeping and stole our tv, computer, and some cash. Thankfully no one encountered them and we are all safe. We were most disappointed to lose some of the pictures on our computer because we hadn’t backed it up in 3 months, but overall we were very fortunate that not much was stolen. What really rattled us all, though, is the fact that strange men with malicious intentions were in our house while we were here.

We have been robbed a few times before. First, we had friends have their phones stolen while out and about. So being out in crowds started making my kids nervous. Then we had two incidents where we were robbed in our car (including a window being smashed). So the car immediately became an unsafe place. And now, with this robbery in our home, the one place left that was safe for my kids is no longer safe. And we are all feeling it.

Obviously my instinct as a mother is to protect and shield my kids from all things dangerous. Living in Peru, though, has taken away most of my ability to do that. We are vulnerable here, not only because we live in a developing country, but because of the color of our skin and the neighborhood that we have chosen to live in. We have a lot going against us in terms of safety and sometimes I wonder how we can put our kids in this situation.

We do what we can to make things more safe for them. We put non-breakable laminate on our car windows and we are getting bars on the windows of our house installed this week. But we can’t pretend that we’re safe. We can’t say to our kids, “I promise that you are safe.” They know the reality of our situation and, honesty, if they could choose, the majority of them would want to move back to the US.

One of our kids especially has PTSD symptoms and we wonder how much more he can take. When we take the bus he has to be on the inside seat away from everyone. When he’s in the car he has to sit in the middle seat away from the window. He makes us wake him up in the middle of the night so that he knows he hasn’t been kidnapped. Really anytime we are out in public he is visibly nervous. It is heartbreaking.

But we have chosen to stay where we are. My husband and I have weighed it all out, prayed about it, and we will stay. We love what we do, we have amazing housemates, and we’re just not done yet. Our kids are having a hard time (heck, we’re all having a hard time), but we haven’t hit the place yet where we feel it is too much for them. We would leave in a minute if we ever thought the damage to our kids was too high.

Plus there is much to love about where we live. To experience not only the culture of Peru, but also to live among the poor is powerful. My kids’ neighborhood friends consist of kids without bathrooms and running water. Living here, doing life among the poor, gives us life. It connects us with God in ways we have never known before. So, we continue our life here in Peru and do the best we can with what we have.

How do you handle the lack of safety on the mission field? Especially with kids?

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About Sarah Goodfellow

After only having traveled outside of North America once, Sarah and her husband, Blake, decided to move their family of 6 to Lima, Peru in 2011. They work for Krochet Kids International, a NGO that works with highly vulnerable women to empower them to rise above poverty through jobs, education, and mentorship. You can read more about Sarah and her family's journey in Peru at http://www.goodfellowfamily.blogspot.com.
  • Cassie

    Thanks for sharing your experience. This is so tough… We live in Nicaragua and unfortunately have experienced more times than we had hoped. As you shared, I think it is key to be aware of your feelings and responses following the events. We have found therapy, talking with other expats and taking measures to be more secure to be super helpful. Blessings in your healing!

    • tlcollazo1230

      Cassie do you have a blog I could check out? We are currently living in the Dominican Republic but are most likely transitioning to Nicaragua next year. Trying to learn as much as we can about whats already going on there!

    • I’m so sorry that you’ve experienced this too Cassie. Thanks for sharing.

  • ELH

    I think it is also helpful to acknowledge that no where on earth is 100% ‘safe’….things can happen in any country. Sure, risks are elevated in certain places and we take sensible steps to prevent crime but you can be a victim of violence anywhere.

    It is tragic to me to think of someone staying in the perceived safety of the US out of fear, and therefore missing out on a fulfilling, worthwhile, and yes, dangerous life because they are futilely trying to protect their lives (which are in God’s hands anyway).

    These are hard decisions to make. I hope your family finds peace and healing – regardless of where you end up for the long term. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Jenny G

      That is a very good point–there is no truly “safe” place any more. When we were funding for our first term in Mexico, we encountered many individuals (even some family members) who would shake their heads at us and say, “How can you take your children to that country? Don’t you watch TV and see what’s going on?!” Well, of course we did. But it is our firm belief that there is nowhere safer than in the presence of God’s will. And if He calls you, you must obey. The worst thing to happen to us in our two years away was the theft of a rubber hose from our courtyard while we were away.

      However, the heartrendingly tragic Sandy Hill school shooting occurred during our first Christmas on the field. We grieved for the parents who believed they not only lived in a safe place but were sending their children *to* a safe place. When violence strikes us where we feel the safest, it is so devastating.

      Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. I echo the above prayer for your family’s peace and healing.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      I appreciate this comment – we’ve lived on 3 different continents and the only one where we have been robbed is North America in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And yes, to this day it affects our view of the neighborhood and our feelings of safety. Just a couple weeks after the robbery (similar to this where people came into the house and took jewelry, electronics, anything of value) my son who was 12 at the time asked for weights – I didn’t think anything of it until praying one day and realized that he wanted them so he could get stronger and protect us….I asked him and sure enough – it was about getting stronger so you could be safer. It provided a great opportunity to talk about safety and living life knowing we are safest in the hands of God. Thanks so much for sharing so honestly Sarah – and I just realized you are with Krochet Kids – one of my daughter’s friends just took an internship with them!

      • That’s so awesome Marilyn! At our US headquarters? We love our interns!

    • Yes, this is so true- nowhere is 100% safe. We talk about that with our kids also. We don’t ever want to live and make decisions out of fear.

  • Wow, Sarah, this is so tough. Blessings as you watch and pray.

  • Dalaina May

    What do I do? Fight the fear and pray like mad… and deal with whatever the consequences are for my kids (and myself) for WHEREVER I live. I currently live in one of the top pedophile destinations of the world that also happens to have one of the highest death-on-the-road rates in the world. I feel like every time my kids walk out of the door, something horrible could happen.
    Thanks for sharing your story. You aren’t alone.

    (By the way, Sarah, have you thought about getting your son into counseling to help him work through some of that fear? I lived in Peru for 5 years, so I might have some contacts for you if you are interested.)

    • Thanks Dalaina. I’m working with a counselor via Skype and she’s helping me help my son for now. It is an important part of healing for sure. Thanks for offering to help.

  • Leslie

    We live in Haiti, and in the time we’ve been here we’ve gone from being dating singles, to young newlyweds, to a young family of two, so our perspectives on this issue have changed a lot as our family has changed. We’ve had some very difficult safety issues to deal with, and many times through those I asked God if it was time to go. When I say “ask” I was really bawling my guts out and completely emptying myself while I listened to my husband pace and talk for extended periods of time with friends in country about how best to handle the situation at hand. And you know what? Every single time, when the tears were finally spent and I literally had nothing left in me, God washed this amazing peace over me and told me “not yet”. I now understand what a “peace that passes all understanding” really is. It’s that thing deep inside you where you know that from the outside everything seems crazy and foolish, but God says, “not yet” and you’re reminded that he’s already gone before you and has the details worked out. He has NEVER promised that the road of faith is easy, not anywhere in this world – even North America. The concept of “safe” is really based in a fear of not being able to control things. I look back over the years and see how all of the hard, “unsafe” situations have led to incredible growth and that they have given us front row seats to see God actively move. Miraculously. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. We wouldn’t be the people we are today without it. Our kids are growing up knowing that God IS THERE. And, the best part? Seeing that our obedience in those times that didn’t make sense to anyone else, have spoken volumes to those around us. They’ve seen that GOD SHOWS UP. And, they see now that our confidence in his calling on our lives was not foolishness because our obedience has led to our organization being incredibly effective, and most of all, that our family is thriving. I think my biggest question to anyone who’s serving when they encounter hard things is this: “Do you absolutely believe that God has called you to this?” If they can answer yes, then the next question is, “Then if you know you’re called, don’t you think that the One that’s called you is going to take care of the details? Can you leave that with him, even when it’s hard?” It really is a faith journey, but it’s an amazing one! I think anyone living in the field should be actively taking measures to care for their family. Get counselling if you need it (we did and it saved our sanity!) and surround yourselves as much as possible with people that will build you up in your circumstances rather than always questioning the sanity of your decisions. Basically, gather your “people” 🙂

    • Yes, thank you for sharing! Our people and my counselor are life savers for us too!

  • spaul6290

    Sarah, I can certainly understand you being concerned about your safety in the mission field, my wife and I are missionaries with our daughter in Honduras. We continually praise God for his protection over our lives. I pray you have a way to download this book, “Hung by the Tongue.” We can’t afford to allow what we speak and believe in our minds to rule over our lives. Rom 12:1 clearly says we are to renew our minds in his Word. As I read your story, it seems as if there is a spirit of fear running over your family. 2 Tim 1:7 KJV, promises us that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but a sound mind. If God sent you to Peru, his protection is promised over your lives; you and your family DO NOT need to live in fear.

    http://www.amazon.com/Hung-Tongue-Francis-P-Martin-ebook/dp/B002PAQB2E/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

    Here is another book from an awesome missionary from China, Victor Plymire, High Road to Tibet. God spared his life OVER and OVER. Put his hand of protection over him. While people around him was being robbed and murdered, he was continuing his work within Tibet in God’s safety. It’s a beautiful testimony of the God we serve.

    http://www.amazon.com/High-Road-To-Tibet-Travels-ebook/dp/B0045Y1PSI

    I pray you take what I am sharing with you is in love and NOT judgement and criticism. It’s just troubling reading this and knowing that God has so much better for you and your family. I pray many blessings over you all and BIND the spirit of fear that is trying to rule over your family. In Jesus name, I thank you Lord for your hedge of protection upon this family and this torment shall cease right now!!

    • Thank you- I appreciate you sharing. I’m sure that there is more of a spirit of fear in us right now since the robbery was so recent. But life is returning to normal and we are healing. Thanks for the book recommendations also.

  • RJ

    From the perspective of a grandmother who is recovering from PTSD, I realy feel your sons pain. Much prayer, wisdom and a listening ear of parents or a wise counsellor is needed for healing his fears. This syndrome can last for years, especially if the soul is continually wounded by the stress of danger, (real or perceived). Understanding that he cannot help feeling afraid and teaching him Gods words relating to fear will be most helpful, but his concern is his environment. Doing everything possible to allay his fears, as you are doing, ie bars on windows, will also help. I live with a high fence, razor wire and multiple locks! And much prayer!
    I pray his soul finds rest and security in Jesus.

    • Thank you for sharing. I skype a counselor regularly and she is helping us all. She is truly a God send in our life!

  • AshleyK

    Our daughter had a similar problem. It has helped us to “humanize” the people she sees on the street, outside the car window, etc. Practically it sounds something like, “Look at that sweet old lady under the tree. What is she selling. I wonder if those children are her grandkids.” or “Wow, that man on the bicycle is really tall! And I love his shirt!” Now instead of seeing potential predators she sees interesting people. Of course, to balance that we still teach a lot of “public caution” but we stay away from terms like “stranger-danger”. It has made her more fearful as opposed to more careful. That’s just what worked with your daughter! Living in impoverished areas as an “affluent” member of an outside country is certainly challenging!!!

    • Yes, I do this also! Especially when we see someone running by, I immediately talk about how they are probably trying to catch the bus or something else so my kids don’t fear every running person that they see!

  • Richelle Wright

    Especially with our younger ones – as long as Mama and Daddy communicated that they were comfortable and that God was big enough to trust even when scary & unexpected things happened. We’ve actually found it harder with the biggers. They no longer can just lean on Mama and Daddy and trust them. They’ve got their own fears and they’ve got to see God as good, big, gracious and their Protector… even when it doesn’t feel that way. They’ve got to learn to choose trust even when they don’t feel trusting because of confidence in the nature of God. And I’ve got no idea how to “teach” that as I’ve seasons where I struggle with it myself.

    My kids have always felt safer “on the field” than here in the States – even with known terrorist activity in our region last term. The fact that there aren’t guards at the doors, fenced yards, barred windows and doors, bolts and padlocks – that terrifies them. That their friends have the freedom to come and go – no headscarves to hide behind or under… that just blows their mind. They feel so much more unsure of themselves in the States than in W. Africa. For our gang to feel safe, we’d have to head back overseas.

    • That’s such an interesting perspective. I wonder if my kids are also getting used to so much security and will feel weird without it. Thanks for sharing.

  • tlcollazo1230

    I can’t remember where I read this quote but it calms my fears whenever I think of it. “Security is not found in the absence of danger, but in the presence of the Lord.” I pray it brings you peace too!

  • Candy Surrett

    I know Peru isn’t safe – I grew up there and Lord willing, after 25 years in the US, I’m moving back next year. For years, I felt very unsafe here in the States. At least in Peru,when I was growing up, robberies and such hardly involved guns. Here in the States, most crimes have guns involved – and tons of sexual crimes. The news here, even though we live in Oklahoma – part of the Bible Belt – the news is full of murders and terrible crimes – but that’s part of the trials in this world. But I determined years ago that wherever the Lord had me at that time, He would take care of me and that nothing could happen to me that was not in His will – including being killed. Death to a Christian is the BEST thing that can happen – it ushers us into the Lord’s presence. It’s just very hard on those left behind. But if it brings God glory, then so be it. The Lord is in control no matter where we live and when we can live trusting in Him and what He allows in our lives and staying in His will, then we can live in peace no matter where we live. But when we don’t follow His will, if we aren’t living where He wants us and doing what He wants us, no matter what country we live in – we won’t have His peace because we aren’t living in His plan, His will.

    A couple of years ago, I was sharing with a mom whose daughter was going to go on a missions trip to Africa several months later. Even though the trip was still months away, the mom was already fretting and worrying about what might happen. I told her that when God calls, and we obey, no matter what happens, He gives us peace. He can take care of her daughter in Africa just the same way as He takes care of her in Oklahoma. And He can allow something to happen to her here in OK just the same as it could happen in Africa. Whatever His plan was to make her more like Christ would happen no matter where she was and that we had to surrender and truly trust Him.
    Two months after the mom and I had that conversation, she was driving her daughter and mine back from a Christian Worldview day where our girls with their school’s praise band had led the praise and worship for 500 students from Christian schools 7th-12th grades. Driving home, their car was hit by a speeding pickup. It’s a miracle that my daughter lived and didn’t have permanent brain damage and wasn’t paralyzed. My daughter was the only one that was hospitalized – the rest had minor injuries and were released that evening. My daughter, a high school senior – was in the hospital for 4 weeks with major injuries – injuries that she is still dealing with now. For us, this accident was life-changing, but it wasn’t really an “accident” because there are NO ACCIDENTS in God’s PLAN – it was a surprise to us, but not to God.

    A few days after the accident, I told the other mom – “See, it doesn’t matter what country a person is in – God is in control no matter what and He only allows what will help us grow and be more like Christ. An accident, a robbery, anything – it can happen in Africa, but it can also happen here in Oklahoma. The issue isn’t where do we go or where do we avoid – the issue is – Can I truly trust the Lord and go where He takes me and rest in His perfect will for me and that He will bring things into my life that will help me grow and be like Jesus? And can we trust the Lord to do the same with our kids as well? Do we trust Him with our kids no matter where He leads them or what He brings into their lives?”

    I hope this is an encouragement to you. . . Have a blessed evening.

  • Kristi Lonheim

    So much of life is a matter of perspective. We are in the Middle East. People in the States get so worried about us. I spoke with a group this summer and tried to impart to them that while they worry about the safety of their kids while at school, a school shooting is something that never crosses our minds. And now it is not just the States, as a friend of ours in the U.K. has written begging us to go home at Christmas and not return, for the sake of our daughter. Whenever I speak to a group I try to impart to them that we are not crazy and that we, just like them, care passionately about our little one and that includes her safety. Yes, there are issues in our country and region, but none of them involve our day to day life. Until we have concerns for our daily life or she is afraid to leave the house, we are staying put.

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