One of the biggest challenges of living and working in South Africa is the constant awareness of crime. Near the top of the list in violent crimes such as murder and rape, South Africa poses a bit a of a safety threat. Poverty drives muggings and home robberies. Very few nights pass when I do not look out my window to investigate some strange “noise”.
How do you deal with this in missions?
Where do I find peace as a husband and father?
The initial year was the most difficult in this aspect of culture shock. I found myself jumpy and suspicious, casting a watchful eye over each passerby. As the months rolled into years, I have adjusted, becoming “smart”; knowing more potentially dangerous situations. Now 7 years on, fear is not an issue. There remains an ever-present “alertness” which you never totally realize is happening till you leave the country.
Let me share a story of an incident which happened to our family:
One day we came home to find our home had been broken into. Breaking a window on a side door, the thieves quickly entered removing televisions, laptops, jewelry, and other items which had memories attached to them. They were good. The house was only vacant 45 minutes.
The initial response was mostly relief. They only took stuff. No one was home so no one was hurt.
Then the possible scenarios start to unfold
But what if….?
What if we came home in the middle of the robbery?
What if this happened when my wife was home alone?
What if they come back?
That’s when the fear comes. Insurance can replace items, but no one can replace a life of a loved one. The lingering affects are nightmares and heightened awareness. For days and weeks, we found ourselves hustling our valuables into a safe each time we left the house. Our kids felt unsafe for a period of time. Then anger comes…
There is an irony to this story.
The incident I just explained did not happen on South African soil. It was not in a violent third-world country.
The robbery our family experienced was on our recent visit to the United States while on furlough.
We live and work in statistically one of the most dangerous places on the planet, and we get robbed in small town America.
Crime is a reality on the mission field, but these things can happen anywhere. Fear does not limit itself to geography, it can happen on the home front.
We can take all the precautions we wish, but can never eliminate the risk. Sometimes, when we feel the safest, (I was not waking up at night looking out of windows in rural Washington State!), is when we are at the greatest risk.
The bottom line on crime, whether abroad or at home, peace comes through trusting God.
Crime is a real part of a missionary’s life.
But never let the potential of what might happen stop you from obeying and living overseas if you are called to. While not a guarantee of “health, wealth, and safety“, being where you are meant to be is the place you can sleep the best at night.
Peace comes when you place yourself and your loved ones in the hands of an all powerful God.
What are some other keys to peace in a difficult environment?
– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes Twitter: @lautsbaugh Facebook: NoSuperHeroes