24 hours

By an anonymous colleague

With your eyes still closed you try to reach out for the phone on the nightstand next to your bed. It’s only 5 am! Why would anyone ring at your door this early in the morning? While you sit on the edge of the bed for a few seconds, the ringing intensifies and you can hear even loud bangs at the door now. Still half-asleep you open the door and see 4 or 5 guys, some of them wearing what looks like some sort of uniform. You even recognize one or two of them while they are showing you some identification cards. Now you are completely awake! In shock, with your heart jumping out of your chest, you wake up your spouse. In a few seconds they are in every room of your apartment, looking for computers, phones, USBs and who knows what else…

You and your spouse are given a few minutes to get dressed before being taken to the Police Station for interrogation in separate rooms. Still in shock, you are asked to answer question after question while the men in front of you keep looking through a pile of “evidence”. Evidence of what? It was your firm conviction not to get involved in any political activities from the very first time you set foot in this land. You are here to help the poor and needy, to share the Good News, but all your activities and good deeds have been twisted and misinterpreted.

Now you are given 24-48 hours to leave the country!

This is NOT a script for a spy movie, this is exactly what has happened to quite a number of missionaries in the past few years. In many places foreign missionaries are blamed for political instability and used as scapegoats for leaders’ failures.

Maybe your context is not as dramatic as this one, maybe you have not been asked to leave the country but you still have to because of war or other conflicts. Anyway, it’s good to be prepared ahead of time. Bellow is some advice for an “emergency exit plan” from people who have had to go through such experiences and unfortunately, some of them were not very well prepared.

Emergency Exit Plan

1. Warning signs:
“We should have seen it coming!” An unexpected “friendly” visit from the residential complex administration or from the local police asking about our well-being and security could be a sign. Or maybe an acquaintance asking out of nowhere about our financial income or our opinion on various political issues in the country. We don’t need to be paranoid, but we should pay attention to details and…pray!

2. Think about a safe destination.
Where would you go if you were given 24-48 hours to leave the country? How would you get there? How much money would you need? And think of a backup plan, just in case the first destination didn’t work. For example, for some people it would take too long to go to their home countries since they would first need to fly to a larger airport. They would rather fly as quickly as possible to a neighboring country where they have friends who would help them to process the entire situation.

3. Pack wisely.
If you live in this kind of context, it’s wise to prepare a small backpack with your essential items (passport, important documents and valuables, medication etc) ready to grab it and go at short notice, in case you have even less than 12 hours’ warning.

4. Communication.
Appoint a person who can inform your family, your church and other people of interest to pray and help. This person has to be a very good communicator and someone who understands the complexity of the situation. When things happen you will probably not be able to explain all the details, but just send a short message.

This article was written by a couple from our network who work in a ‘creative access’ nation. For their security we cannot use their real names or location.