I’ve just returned from Africa where I had the privilege of meeting with several members of our recording teams. We talked about recording equipment and software; we experimented with new technologies; we discussed power outages and generators, monsoons and crowing roosters, and strange new foods in new places – even for Africans.
Some were young men with only a year or so of experience, eager to tell me their tales of adventure, meeting new challenges, venturing into the unknown as young men are wont to do. A few of the old-timers – men who had been traversing the continent for upwards of 15 or 20 years – nodded with slight smiles on their faces as if to affirm, “Been there, done that.”
One of the elders among them (and I use that term loosely, for he hasn’t yet reached his 40th year) spoke gravely of a recording he and his teammate completed last year, in a village where they knew well beforehand they were putting themselves in harm’s way. It was an area vulnerable to roving bands of armed militants, like those you hear about in the evening news. He spoke of the armed guard who accompanied them to the area and how the fear and tension among the people were palpable.
He spoke of how they worked day and night to finish, and how the local community joined them in this concerted effort as if to acknowledge the urgency of the situation. As if their long, long hours of studio time could somehow protect their brave visitors from danger so they, and the hard-earned audio files of the Bible in their mother tongue, could make it safely home. He spoke of how they packed up their things early one morning, finally finished, and left that village to return home at last.
He said they would learn later in the day, the militants attacked that village, and while many escaped, others did not. “Many people lost their lives,” he reported solemnly.
What could I say?
I thanked them for their courage and assured them we at Faith Comes By Hearing are constantly in prayer for the safety of our recording teams, who face perils of all kinds all the time. But I didn’t waste my breath imploring them not to take such risks, because we’ve had these conversations before.
“Please don’t put yourselves in harm’s way.”
“Leave NOW; you can return later when it’s safe. We can find another way.”
They chuckle and smile, saying, “Oh you Americans, putting such an emphasis on safety, on what is predictable. This is life in Africa. We are called to this work, and we will do it come what may.”
Within 24 hours of this meeting, still reflecting on the topics of risk and peril, calling and courage, we would learn of the earthquake in Nepal and how our recording team working in Kathmandu escaped from the rubble of the church they were worshiping in with some 200 other Nepali Christians. The wood and tin roof of the temporary church building collapsed, causing many minor injuries but miraculously no deaths.
Bruised, shaken, and feeling blessed to be alive, the team managed to evacuate Nepal for their homes in India despite the chaos and confusion. Skyping with them just days after the disaster, they voiced their primary concern: that they should return as quickly as possible to Nepal to finish what they had started.
Now I know our recording partners don’t make light of such risks. They pray for wisdom and discernment; they analyze, research, and discuss; they regularly choose to avoid certain locales due to war, disease, natural disaster, or other risks. The fact is, our ministry partners around the world knowingly and willingly accept a greater level of risk than perhaps you or I would.
We trust them to make these judgments as we entrust their health, indeed their very lives, to the care and protection of our sovereign and powerful God who counts the very hairs on their heads.
So, as I settle back into my normal routine – the security of my quiet home, an insurance card in my pocket, and police, fire, and rescue just minutes away from my 911 call – I’m grateful for the predictability and security I enjoy each day. But it gets me to thinking: What if I didn’t have the safety net I’ve become accustomed to? What if, like our recording teams, I knowingly and willingly placed myself in risky situations time and again with no certainty of rescue or safe return apart from God’s provision and protection?
I want to believe that, like our recording teams, I wouldn’t shrink back in fear, but would instead go forth with the assurance that regardless of the outcome the risk was worth it for the sake of a calling – to get God’s Word to every person.
Image: One of these incredible recording teams in the process of bringing the New Testament to yet another language community.