I've been asked this question a few times now, from people who care about us and want to make sure we're safe when we go to Albania this July. I certainly understand their concern. The situation in Ukraine is horrible and we don't want to be caught up in it, as much as we would like to help any way we can. So how can you, as a person who cares about someone going on a trip to Albania this summer, be confident that they will be safe?
Let me assure you that we will be perfectly safe this summer. I can say that with confidence for three reasons:
We will be in Tirana, which is the capital city of Albania. Albania is on the Adriatic Sea, just across from Italy and north of Greece. To get from Ukraine to Albania you have to fly over 3 other countries. It's about the distance from Dallas to Atlanta, GA.
The closest we'll physically get is when we fly in to Istanbul. We'll fly over Hungary and Romania, still several hundred miles away from any of the fighting. We never once cross any dangerous airspace.
So we'll be pretty far away!
NATO is an international defensive treaty organization formed after WWII to prevent any future wars in Europe. NATO member countries pledge to defend one another from any attack. If Russia or anyone else launches a war against any single NATO member, then they are at war with all NATO members including the US. So in effect, we will be defended by the US armed forces while we're there.
President Biden recently promised to "defend every inch of NATO soil". In fact, the USS Harry S. Truman, a US Navy Aircraft Carrier, is currently operating in the Adriatic Sea to make good on that promise. They are flying recon missions to patrol NATO airspace in the balkans. I wonder if we'll have a chance to see it off the coast when we go to the beach!
The unsafe thing would be not to go. God has provided a team, an opportunity, and Lord willing, soon funding for us to go share the Gospel with high school students. How could we then turn a blind eye and deaf ear to God's calling? Should we be like Jonah, who when called to go east to Ninevah, ran west to Spain? That didn't end up so safe for him.
Just as we should not run from God's calling, neither should we assume that God will only lead us to safe places. Sometimes God does his greatest work in the midst of dangerous situations, and in those situations we have the greatest opportunity to trust His leading and His goodness. This doesn't mean we charge ahead recklessly, heedless of danger, but rather we use the wisdom and discernment he has given us to count the costs and be prepared to follow Him.
So understanding all the above, let's reevaluate what "Safety" means in the context of following Christ. Knowing that it does not mean a guarantee of physical safety, nor does it mean a shrinking back from our calling, we understand it to mean spiritual life and eternal security no matter what physical danger may befall us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is an incredible promise of God's care for us and His goodness towards us. The God who became a lowly man, lived a sinless life and was crucified on a cross for our sakes, knows what it is like to face danger and choose that path anyways. Now He watches over us, protecting us not from every potential physical danger, but preparing opportunities for us to give our lives for His sake, and in so doing find them (Luke 17:33).
Absolutely. We are taking abundant precautions to ensure the safety of those on the trip, and we will be in contact with CRU's global emergency response team. In the highly unlikely event that some concern should arise for our safety, they will assist us in evacuating as quickly as possible. This is good stewardship.
But even if the chance of danger were higher, we would likely still go. We would go because God has called us, there is a harvest He has prepared for us, and the workers are few.
Please pray for our safety, and the safety of all other CRU staff and missionaries around the world. Pray especially for the CRU staff in Ukraine, who are evacuating refugees, feeding the hungry who are sheltering in place, or even fighting in the military alongside their countrymen. Pray for CRU staff in Poland, Hungary, and Moldova who are making room in their own houses for refugees. And pray for God's spirit to move among them and among us as we share the Good News of Eternal Life in Jesus Christ.