The latest virus to rear its ugly head is hitting the Americas with astonishing speed, and the photos and videos of children who have been born to an infected mother are jarring.
At the time of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are displaying a map of active transmission that includes most of South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
How should the Christian missional community proceed? After all, our church and college mission teams are in the midst of purchasing tickets for summer mission trips and many of those planes will land where Zika is at play. Do we go? Do we cancel? Do we delay?
For starters, I think we need to inform our team members about the risks, so that they can make an informed decision. In Luke 14, Jesus warned His followers to count the cost of following Him. Faith in God does not mean blindly following a pastor or missionary.
If you are leading a team, those 18- and 19-year-olds are not likely watching the news, and there is a need to communicate openly about what they might face. That does not mean that we can shield them from all dangers, but they need to know what dangers are lurking or at least that there are dangers that are lurking.
Next, we need to inform our mission teams that delay does not necessarily mean retreat. The older I get, the more I appreciate the Book of Ecclesiastes and the truth that there is a time and a season for everything.
We dare not let the next generation of missionaries believe that God will only use them in the ways that we have already strategized are the good and correct ways. Delaying – even a good and positive thing like a mission trip – could well be a way that God will shape us, humble us and mold us for His further glory and use.
Finally, we may need to come to grips with the idea that a particular mission activity may need to be cancelled. Missionaries often say that their goal is to work themselves out of a job. It is easy, because we are enamored with a people or have a strong connection to a place or even because we have seen God so clearly at work, to stay too long. Dependency in missions is a real and subtle danger. Perhaps a roadblock could force us to rethink what we are doing and find ways to do it better.
At this early stage, the Zika virus looks horrific, and there is no doubt that many a missional leader is wrestling with what to do. Informing our team members, embracing delays and even coming to grips that there may be other ways and places to accomplish God’s work are good places to start.
As an interdenominational Christian university, Grand Canyon University helps students to experience God’s heart for the nations through global mission trips. Learn more about our Christian heritage and identity by visiting our website.