The voice on the other end of the phone connection crackled across the miles as I sat in our bedroom late at night.  It was our home church calling us during their service with questions for us from the congregation.  We were helping to make the ‘missions’ in the missions conference more ‘real.’

“Debbie,” the voice continued, “some of the members here want to ask you if your son is safe.  Is he finding life there stressful?”

What a wonderful question!  It is evidence of a home church congregation that is in tune with our surroundings and aware of our living situation.  It is certainly not hard to be aware.  The country in which we live is in the national news fairly regularly, and not because of its amazing tourist sites.

But what a difficult question.  This is not the first time it has been asked, nor will it be the last.  In fact, it is the first question out of most people’s mouths when we say where we, by choice, live and work.  It is usually accompanied by, “Aren’t you concerned about your son?” and the less frequent but no less hurtful, “I would never do that to my kids!”

What is it like to have a child living 1500 kilometers away, in a country that has a bomb blast nearly every day and has small, local wars happening in several areas?  How do I cope with the thought that his school has to change schedules every few weeks so that the transportation routine is not routine?  What do I do when I think that the number of armed guards on the staff outnumbers almost everyone else?  Or when I remember that the school was attacked once already?

As it happens, my teammate and good friend has a son the same age who rooms with my boy.  We were discussing the issue of security and this question which had been put to me by our home congregation.

She and I have both lived here a long time—ancient, I guess, by modern mission standards.  She has been here fourteen years, and I am in my twenty-fifth since first coming out.  Maybe it is that we have just gotten very used to our way of life, weaving in and out of traffic in buzzing little rickshaws and swaying down the ‘super’ highway in buses driven by near maniacs.  We have learned to see these things as normal (almost) and have gotten so that we ignore the tics in our faces.

“I have my moments,” she confessed, “when I worry about all that is happening and the risks there are, not just from terrorists, but from the craziness of life.  Everything is unsafe: planes, trains, and automobiles.  We travel so much and are always at so much risk.”

As we sipped our tea, our conversation moved on to other things: ministry, family, and friends.  Then, in an unexpected way, the question of security, the concern of our church friends, and our own lives here all intersected with the discovery that we had a mutual friend.  What brought this man into our conversation was the fact that recently he and his wife lost their fourteen-year-old daughter in a brutal, middle-of-the-afternoon, no-apparent-reason attack.  It is heart-breaking for them; she was a lovely, vibrant Christian who was out to change her world.

Her world:  that good, safe, small-town North-American world where nobody suspected that she would lose her life at the hands of a murderer.  We mourn with our friends this precious life cut short and pray for the Lord to help them as time passes and they grieve and strive to heal.

What my friend and I discovered in the midst of talking about that event was the answer we had known all along about our feelings for our own sons.  We have always believed ourselves to be secure in God’s hands no matter where we are, because we believe like Job: it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away.  None of us, no matter where we live, can say, Today or tomorrow {I} will go to this or that city, nor be assured that we will be able to carry out our plans or do what we wish.

I do not write these things glibly.  I do not know if I am brave or not, for I have not been faced with some of the frightening things that others of my colleagues in this country have experienced.  I do know that for now, God gives me peace and reminds me that He never changes.

It is true that we raise our risk factor by living here, but we do believe our children are gaining a great advantage: truly believing that we live under the protective hand of an all-seeing God, and learning to trust Him wholly.

©2014 Thrive