When I tell people I’m going to spend three months working at a hospital in Togo, the first two questions people ask are 1) Where’s Togo? and 2) Is it safe?
I tell them Togo is a country in west Africa, close to the Ivory Coast.
As to whether it’s safe…..
That’s not a question I’ve asked. Because no matter the answer, I’d go anyway.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not going to be purposefully unsafe. I’m living in a walled hospital compound and I’m going to take anti-malaria pills every day and I got my meningitis vaccine and I’m not planning to go to neighboring Nigeria and scope out Boko Haram by myself.
But beyond that, I haven’t asked if it’s safe because safety isn’t my primary concern. Loving people, going where God sends me, and doing what God’s gifted me to do are much more important than my personal safety.
Preparing for Togo reminds me of the life Jesus called me (and all of his followers) to.
Jesus didn’t play it “safe” by avoiding Jerusalem when he knew people had it out for him.
Jesus didn’t call his disciples to be “safe” as they spread the good news about him. He actually warned them that they would be persecuted and even killed.
In the Old Testament, God called kings and prophets to be his people, and safety wasn’t part of the incentive package.
I think the same thing goes for us. God calls us to dare, to take physical, financial and spiritual risks, to exercise faith, to remember that no matter what happens to our bodies, our souls are secure in him.
God calls us to remember that he loves us, not in a sappy-pink-Hallmark-card kind of way, but in a fierce, unrelenting, powerful kind of way.
In the sacred stories of the Bible, he says over and over and over again, “Don’t be afraid.” In I John he tells us that there is no fear in love. I think he reminds us of that so many times because we’re prone to obsess about safety, and we let fear drive our choices. And God knows that if we live like this, we’ll be impotent and ineffective and, quite honestly, bored.
So is Togo safe?
I don’t know.
And I don’t care.
Because here’s what I do know.
I know that God loves me and the people of Togo.
I know that God is not just sending me to Togo, but going with me.
And I know that no matter what happens, I’m secure in the palm of his hand, and nothing in the universe can make him let go.
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