Is it safe for a missionary to go to Colombia?
There are two sides to the answer to this question, because there are two questions hidden inside of it. The first question is simply, “Is Colombia unsafe for a missionary?” To me, the more useful question is the second, implied one: “Is Colombia especially unsafe?”
Let’s look at that second question first. Colombia has a reputation for crime and disease, both of which can make things very unsafe for the missionary—as well as for the local people. (Indeed, while crime is slightly more of a danger for foreign missionaries than for locals, disease is far more likely to end the life of a native Colombian, who may not be able to receive the same quality of medical care.) But crime has decreased significantly during this millennium. The capital city, Bogotá, has seen its murder rate decrease by over two-thirds since 1996. Colombia is still fairly dangerous—it has the 12th-highest murder rate in the world. But it’s interesting to note that the Bahamas rank 13th on that same list, and no one would tell you to avoid being a missionary there because of the danger.
Disease can strike anywhere at any time, whether in America or in Albania, in Brazil or in Borneo, in Canada or in Cuba. Colombia is no exception, of course, but health care is nowhere near as primitive as many Americans might think. Indeed, some Americans even travel to Colombia for medical care at prices much cheaper than in the States. While certain diseases common in Colombia—cerebral malaria, for one—are basically unknown in the U.S., generally the same illnesses that strike in Colombia also strike anywhere else. Danger can happen anywhere, after all. So, yes, Colombia is not quite as safe as the United States, but neither is it far more unsafe.
But suppose for one moment that this weren’t the case. Suppose with me that murders were happening every day in every single neighborhood of every single city in Colombia. Wouldn’t those people need the Gospel even more? Suppose that tuberculosis, AIDS, scarlet fever and the bubonic plague were slaughtering Colombians by the thousands. Wouldn’t those people need the Gospel even more? Remember, we are never promised tomorrow, whether we stay or go. God takes lots of Americans home to see him every day; death and injury can happen anywhere at any time. May we be so lucky as to die for Jesus! May we be so lucky as to suffer persecution or sickness for Jesus! No, Colombia is not “safe”, but the safest place for anyone to be is within God’s hands. We ask God for courage wherever he has called us to serve. We ask the same for you.
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