Friday, September 29, 2006

What it's like: part 4 (security issues)

Level 1 - Everyone knows you are a missionary. Your mom can freely proclaim it on any website or blog and you drive around in a 4x4 with "Mission Baptiste" or "Baptist Mission of Wales" or something like that. You sport a missionary visa in your passport and are asked by the local Baptist Convention to preach at various churches, give the commencement address at the Baptist Seminary graduation, etc. Your name can be listed on IMB "stuff". When you attend a Global Impact Conference (GIC), you get to use your real name and tell anything and everything about your work. You get letters from GA's, RA's and Little Blue Haired Ladies. (The life-line of missionary work, cause they actually pray for you!). Almost everyone was a Level 1 missionary until the non-resident missionary program. (some of you older timers correct me if I'm wrong here.) There aren't too many left in these last days.

Level 2 - Everyone knows you are a missionary. Well, probably. At least you don't advertise it, though. You live and work in an area, or with a people group that isn't necessarily excited about your being there. You start using silly substitute words in your emails back to Mama. You may still drive a 4x4, but your RL made you remove the magnetic signs on the doors. However, you have kept them for travel around the country, anyway, because "up country" there is still a "mystic" of the "holy man". You get an occasional letter from a missions group, but not very often. At least your name is still listed in the "Open Windows" so you can get prayed for by name on the Wednesday night closest to your birthday. You still get to use your real name at GIC's, but you hesitate to tell all about what you are doing overseas. You have to modify your blog or website to be careful about what you say. You give security a thought maybe once or twice a month, if that often. A great deal of field personnel are Level 2.

Level 3 - Everyone knows you are a missionary. Let's face it; to most people overseas, they think that if you are an American, you are a Christian. If you aren't a spy, then you must be a missionary. Some of our folks are fortunate and can get away with the "authorities" knowing that they are Christians, but, because they don't make too many "waves" or provide the government with a good excuse to "keep" you in country, you are allowed to stay with an infrequent interrogation by the local security bureau/agency. Others really have to work at a legitimate reason to get to stay in country. For many of our folks, it is extremely illegal to be a missionary in their country. So, they are teachers, or consultants, or specialists, or yada yada yada. After all:

Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without preaching?
Rom 10:15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!"

The next part should be, "And how can those who are sent continue to have access to the lost, unless they have a residence visa". (No, I'm NOT adding to the Word; just making a point) My point is most security level 3 folks spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they are able to keep the visa in their country. They must be constantly concerned with information security. Much of the time, it isn't necessarily for their own safety, but for the safety of local believers. These saints (the local believers) can be beaten and/or tortured for simply implied association with IMB personnel.

I have heard that there are several countries where the government knows "who's who", but, because, as a general rule, IMB folks aren't "flamboyant" or cause embarrassment to the government, we are tolerated. Sometimes, just flat ignored. However, if the line is crossed, out we go!

You must protect all identifying information over the internet; you have to have an anonymous blog. I I have heard that there are even some of the "young ones" who use fake names at MLC. Personally, I think that it is taking it a bit too far, but that is their call. At GIC's, you use only part of your name or a pseudonym. You haven't heard from a blue haired lady in years. You are listed in a "clump" in Open Windows, as "Last Frontier". You can't answer the question "So, what do you do", without some creative license. In any case, there is a LOT of stress associated with being a level 3 missionary.

Level 4- Supposedly doesn't exist. Supposed "private" appointment services with only a few trustees, Jerry, and a VP or two, simply never happen. I might have accidentally met one, briefly, once. No way to prove it.

Pray for us.


an SBC friend said...

we appreciate you guys being on the 'front line' for the rest of us.

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


As you mentioned, many of us in Level 3 countries spend an inordinate amount of time protecting our visa and security. Unfortunately, too many of we Level 3 countries spend too little time with the lost because of protecting our visa.

Another problem is if we come on a "business" type visa, somewhere, sometime, someone will want to see a profit in that business. In several level three countries, those missionary business platforms are receiving added scrutiny from the government because they are not profitable (oh yes, in many countries businesses must submit business reports to the government to insure the correct amount of taxes are being paid). How many businesses do you know that are allowed to wallow in "red ink" for years on end? Another one was recently closed by our government...the government accused the people running that business (we all knew they were missionaries), of tax evasion! How would that look in the daily newspaper...missionaries are tax evaders?

It is a very fine and difficult line many of us walk. I have no good answer for it.

Grosey's Messages said...

Hang in there.. 1 cor 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Les Puryear said...


Now that I have discovered your blog, I will be a regular reader. You're in my prayers.