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Reflections on “Called to be Safe?” International HR Forum

When a forum is fully booked, with a waiting list, the topic must be important! The International HR Forum met, in packed session, on 9th May to consider the topic “Called to be Safe?”

Emma Dipper reminded us why this is a “hot topic”. It has unfortunately become more common to hear of mission partners and national co-workers who have been threatened, injured or killed, and in many areas of the world there has been an increase in attrition rates amongst expatriate mission workers. Meanwhile, the health and safety culture of many traditional “sending” countries influences the thinking of not only potential mission partners but also their wider families. If someone dies, might reputational damage or a legal case follow?

It was helpful to spend time learning to read Scripture through the lens of risk. Who in the Bible moved away from risk, who moved towards risk, and who chose to stay in a place of risk? Why did they make the choices they did? What were the consequences, and for whom? Once we started looking, we identified more and more people and our lists grew steadily.

Using case studies, we then considered how as HR practitioners, we might best prepare new mission partners for more demanding environments, and how we might encourage them to develop their own theology of risk and suffering. Our lists of interview questions and preparation tasks may now be a little longer!

In the afternoon Jo Goldsmith led us in a practical consideration of Safety and Security issues, reminding us that failures in this area have a significant impact on individuals, organisations, and our partners in country. I found it helpful to have “risk” defined simply as a threat, in combination with vulnerability.  Working within this very accessible framework, it became easier to start defining threats, both natural and man-made, and to explore how exposure to these might be removed or reduced.

The day served as a very helpful reminder of what is involved in fulfilling our Duty of Care to those we send, offering both theological reflection and practical advice. As ever, I left with a few more items on my “to do” list!  Alongside these tasks, I found myself reflecting on one particular “counter-cultural” thought from Emma. Rather than viewing risk and suffering through our cultural lens, might a willing and informed acceptance act as a “gateway to the gospel”?  Could it actually help us bear witness to the God we follow, who himself made a choice to suffer in order to draw humanity back into relationship? We may indeed NOT be “Called to be Safe”.

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Ruth Gracey

Ruth Gracey

Ruth leads the Personnel Services team at Wycliffe Bible Translators, and was for several years a member of the GC IHR Forum Core Group. Originally from Northern Ireland, she now lives in High Wycombe, but enjoys her travels to various locations around the globe where Wycliffe members are working.
Ruth Gracey

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