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39 U.S. missionaries robbed in Jamaica

Maybe you saw this news story on Tuesday: American Christian group to end goodwill mission from crime-ridden capital KINGSTON, Jamaica – A U.S. Christian group said Tuesday it will find a new location for its goodwill trips to Jamaica after 39 young missionaries were robbed at gunpoint in the…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Maybe you saw this news story on Tuesday:

American Christian group to end goodwill mission from crime-ridden capital

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A U.S. Christian group said Tuesday it will find a new location for its goodwill trips to Jamaica after 39 young missionaries were robbed at gunpoint in the crime-prone capital of Kingston.

The American missionaries from the Georgia-based Adventures in Missions were robbed Monday by two gunmen who broke into a Salvation Army school for the blind where they were volunteering, said school official Major Ward Matthews.

“They’re just glad that no one pulled the trigger,” Matthews told The Associated Press.

Yes, folks, that’s the organization I founded, squarely in the international lime light.  Wonderful.  Not the first time either – several years ago in a horrible nightmare experience in South Africa one of our missionaries was killed in a botched robbery.

How do you respond?  We knew Kingston was dangerous, but, for goodness sakes, we were working in a school for the blind.  We had been bringing hope there. You want to tell these people, “Have you no shame?!”  Indeed, that is what our partner Major Matthews said, “It’s shameful that we all live in fear, and that friends from the United States who come to help us improve our work among the poor are targeted.”

The larger question is, “What is to be our response as Jesus-followers to the violence of the world?”  In this day and age of litigation and risk arbitrage, it’s become a confusing issue.  But if you look at how Jesus lived, how his disciples lived, and what he said to prepare them for their first short-term mission trip, you can see that it shouldn’t be confusing at all. Here are just a few things he said in that revolutionary, Patton-like speech we find in Matthew 10: 
  • Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you…
  • All men will hate you because of me…
  • When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another
  • Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
  • Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Jesus’ revolution is a revolution of love and sacrificial risk. We are its inheritors and stewards. We can’t back down from the fact that by taking our message of love to risky places, we may suffer.  I don’t say this cavalierly.  I’ve put my own life in harm’s way multiple times as I’ve served Jesus.  I’ve sent my own children around the world and asked them to take risks that most parents would consider unacceptable.  The fruit is that they own their faith and their prayers have authority.

The Muslims consider it a privilege to be martyred, but many of us Christians love life too much.  In contrast, we western Christians have built up our assets and allowed our affections to be compromised – we have a lot to lose.  So those of us who want to teach others how to take spiritual risks as I do have to worry about lawsuits.  Honestly, the pendulum has swung too far on this issue in America.

As for me, I’m going to follow Jesus’ advice.  When they persecute us in Jamaica, we may flee to another place, but we’ll be back!

Comments (10)

  • I just love this blog. I appreciate being challenged. I come here every day for my daily “grounding”. Thank you so much for your life, for your heart after God and His work, for taking time to write here every day.

  • “You are not at liberty to take offense at being stripped”…of stuff. This is what
    God said to Art Katz when a man whom he had helped and given much to, stole a whole whole lot of stuff from him as he was leaving the community Art was an elder in.

  • We fear getting into situations like this, but the irony is that it’s situations like this one in Jamaica that really test your faith and give you an opportunity to know God better. We fear any kind of discomfort so much that we’ll do anything to avoid it but it’s the discomfort, it’s the adrenaline, it’s the fear that we experience in a moment like this that drives us to ask the hard questions of ourselves and of our God.

    Being in a jam with real consequences puts things in perspective. We can get so focused on things that don’t matter, and sometimes we need something to put everything back in perspective.

    I hope the crew in Jamaica is looking at this constructively.

  • thanks for the wisdom and boldness you share. it’s encouraging – knowing i’ll be back in the states in 3 weeks that Jesus would really love it if I continue to risk for Him…even when my country and parents would prefer safety. we get to keep pressing in, lovin’, and going where He would go!

  • What an honor it is to be persecuted for Christ sake. As a parent and grandparent I would be blessed that my child/grandchild would die doing the Lord’s work versus dying while seeking their own pleasures!!! You have hit upon satan’s best performance….decieving the people into believing the world is the best it will ever be, causing westerners to forget what is waiting for us in heaven and that eternity is much longer than a lifetime on earth!!!

  • how odd that when i first heard what happened my initial thought was, ‘that’s the kind of mission trip i want to go on’… how cool to be able to go back with only a day pack of clothes leaving all the stuff behind and be willing to live like them to share the Love that we have 🙂

  • A reminder of the need for prayer for all missionaries – short term/long term/world race .. every day .. every country .. that God would protect them and be glorified through them.

    And a praise that although these missionaries in Jamaica were robbed of “stuff,” they were protected physically. God is so awesome and faithful!

  • I’m Jamaican, and i was alarmed but not surprised of the robbery. However, be steadfast in doing good, and be assured that the majority of the Jamaican people are with you all in your goodwill endeavors. The Love of God be with you all.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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