When people raise concerns with us about the level of medical care available to us in Tanzania, they generally sigh with relief when we tell them about MAF, who can evacuate us by air, and about the outstanding pastoral care of CMS who make provision to bring us home to Australia. Those opportunities are gifts of grace in and of themselves: most Tanzanians do not have access to them. But the question remains for us: when should we use them?
There are very good missiological reasons not to medically evacuate:
- Medical evacuation is expensive.
- Leaving disrupts ministry and relationships.
- Staying expresses solidarity with Tanzanians (most of whom can’t medically evacuate.)
And yet, better medical care is available, and we loathe the idea of becoming the sort of missionaries whose children feel neglected or uncared for because ministry takes priority (though we also want them to know that they are not the centre of our universe!) Likewise, we don’t want to go for something so extreme that we burn out or are unable to handle it. So we end up in a kind of grey area, trying to work out when a situation is ‘bad enough’ to evacuate: what constitutes an ’emergency’.
Thankfully, we don’t make those decisions alone. CMS has years of experience in Tanzania and lots of wisdom to contribute. But we’re still keen to watch our hearts in this because the assumption that looms behind it all is the ‘what if?‘. What if we don’t come home and one of us experiences a permanent disability? Or even dies? Tragedies such as these do exist in the present, not just the distant past. Would we be able to live with ourselves, knowing we could have done things differently and potentially prevented such tragedy?
We want to move beyond this ‘what if?’, the assumption that we control our lives. But fatalism – ‘just trust God’ – is also sub-Christian. There’s a very fine line between ‘making wise decisions’ and seeking to control a situation; between being a faithful steward of God’s gifts and playing god with those gifts.
In the next post, I’ll consider some of the theological resources and motivations that might help us here.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.