Saturday, April 16, 2011


I posted a brief note on Facebook about kayaking on the Rio Grande. I got all kinds of post back worried about my safety.

The irony is that Laredo is a very safe city by U.S. standards. We live near Nuevo Laredo where there is a high level of violence between rival drug gangs and law enforcement. But Laredo is pretty safe.

Statistically and experientially, living in the East End of Houston, Texas from 1973 to 1983 was far more dangerous. I had guns pointed at me twice, just missed a shootout where a policeman and two witnesses were gunned down during a routine traffic stop a block from my home, was robbed several times, and foiled two break in attempts while I was actually in the place being broken into. There were numerous times I heard gunshots. And yet most of the people who lived in that part of Houston were not criminals or dangerous.

I lived in Guatemala City from 1967 to 1971. Now that was a dangerous place to live in those years. There was a high level of violence and a high level of tension.

So why do people perceive Laredo as so dangerous? In a word, news. News media needs to sell advertising and so it has become increasingly sensational. Most Americans don't seem capable of distinguishing Laredo, from Nuevo Laredo.

Does that mean there is no danger. No. But Laredo, Texas is a fairly quiet place most of the time, where most people think the truly important news in town is on the front page of the sports section of local paper.

The truth is that all of us live in places where there is danger.

And for Christians danger needs to be measured differently. In the late 1990's I was at a presentation by the Rev. Mark Nikkel, a missionary to the Dinka people in the Sudan during a very dangerous time.

Someone asked if it wasn't very dangerous to do what he did. After a very long pause he said, "No. If I believe that God has my life in his hands, and that God has called me to minister in the Sudan, then I am perfectly safe unless God decides otherwise. But if God want me in the Sudan, and I disobey and go somewhere else then because of my disobedience I would be in a very dangerous place indeed."

"He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies."

From Psalm 23,(NIV)

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