Recent imprisonments, kidnapings, and a hijacking highlight the security risks many missionaries take on the mission field. Last month, a missionary plane was hijacked in Haiti (see article at left). Earlier this spring, two missionaries were released after spending nearly four months in a Nepal prison; and in Colombia, two kidnaped missionaries were released after being held for 68 days, while a third remains missing (CT, April 7, 1989, pp. 47–51).
Veteran missionary and Bible translator Bruce Olson, kidnaped in late October by leftist guerrillas, remains in captivity in Colombia (CT, Dec. 9, 1989, p. 60). A spokesperson said Olson’s family has received information that he is still alive and in “fair health.”
The spokesperson said the family was very encouraged by the safe release of two Gospel Missionary Union (GMU) missionaries, Roy Libby and Richard Grover, although the two were kidnaped in a different area of Colombia and apparently held by a different group. “The climate is much more favorable for Bruce’s release,” the spokesperson said.
Olson’s situation has been complicated by the fact that he was working alone and not sent out by a particular denomination or missions agency. Although Olson renounced his American citizenship to facilitate his mission work, the family spokesman said U.S. State Department officials in Colombia and Washington, D.C., have “been helpful.”
Aware Of The Risks
Security risks are nothing new on the mission field and will likely never be eliminated. Most missionaries say they learn to place their fate in the Lord’s hands. Upon his return to the United States last month, GMU’s Grover told a congregation in his home town of Warroad, Minnesota, that when he was kidnaped his first thought was that it was a mistake. “But then I thought, no, God doesn’t make mistakes. He is in control,” Grover said. “He is in control of all circumstances that surround his children.”
Likewise, most missionaries do not let concern for their personal safety deter their calling. Operation Mobilization’s David McBride, who was imprisoned in the Hindu kingdom of Nepal for selling Christian literature, said he was “cognizant of the risk” before he went but, nonetheless, “evaluated that risk, and took it.” Over the years, several missionaries—as well as numerous indigenous Christians—have been arrested in Nepal, where proselytism is a crime. McBride and his coworker, Merv Budd, had been previously arrested and released.
Now banned from working in Nepal, McBride said his experiences have not quenched his love for the people of Nepal or his desire for evangelism there. “If it were up to me, I’d go back tomorrow,” he said. “You evaluate the risk against the benefit.”
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