Is Living on the Mission Field a Death Wish?


The Tate Family has served the Lord in Kitale, Kenya since January 2008. Their main ministry is church planting.

June 25, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Question: Is doing mission work and living on the mission field a death wish? I have to wonder if it is. I don’t know how I ever leave my house in my car or on my motorbike and return alive. The unwritten rule of the road in Kenya is if you are bigger than the other vehicle then you have the right of way. That means when I’m on my motorbike, other cars will deliberately pull out in front of me or deliberately use my lane to drive in, forcing me off the road. At other times, when I’m in my car, motorbikes will dart in and around me, missing me or oncoming traffic by mere inches, forcing me to brake hard in order not to kill them. Pedestrians step out right in front of me. Cows, sheep, goats, chickens, baboons, and zebras all use the same road as me.

And then there is malaria, e bola, typhoid, amoebae, and all the other microscopic critters that share our living space. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry too much about the bigger critters like snakes, crocodiles, lions, hyenas, or hippopotamus. They are around, some farther away (like crocodiles, lions, hyenas, and hippopotamus), some nearer (like snakes), but we don’t really concern ourselves with them.

And, you know, every long-term missionary can say they know at least one other missionary who has died in an airplane crash. Well, up until this month I didn’t know of any. I can’t say that anymore. And that is what is causing me to reflect upon this subject so much in this newsletter.  If you keep an eye on international news you might have noticed earlier this month that a small plane carrying eight passengers and two crew members went down in Kenya this past month, killing all those on board. It went down in the Aberdare Mountains, requiring two days for rescue workers to even find it and arrive at the crash site. As I said, nobody survived. Normally when we hear about plane crashes we think “well, those things happen” and we feel bad for those who have died. But this plane crash was VERY, VERY personal to us here in Kitale. You see, this plane was THE VERY PLANE that goes from Kitale to Nairobi every day.  We only get one scheduled flight from Kitale to Nairobi every day and this was “our” plane that went down.  We have all ridden it. Julie and I have ridden it many times. My parents have ridden it. Other of our guests have ridden it. Amy and Josiah have ridden it a couple of times already just this year (2018) when going back to school. Any of us could have been on that plane. We thank God that none of our family was flying on that plane on that particular day. When we heard about the crash, Julie and I looked at each other and wondered what were the chances that we DIDN’T know somebody on that plane. The chances were good that we did. And as it turned out I did have friends on that plane. Two of our missionary community were on that flight and were taken home to glory: Zechariah, a missionary from Fiji that I did not know very well, and Ron, a missionary from the States and a good friend of mine. It is incredulous to me that Ron is gone and that he left in this way. I was supposed to have coffee with him just before I left for the States but he had to cancel and I didn’t see him. Then we were to get together after I returned to Kenya but then he was killed in the crash. Now I will never see him again.

I guess we missionaries are all aware of the fact that we could die on the mission field. Obviously, none of wants to have to pay that ultimate sacrifice for the work of God, but we all know it could happen. I kept thinking over and over again that my kids could very well have been on that flight. Any other day and they may have been. We place ourselves in God’s hands and pray for safety, accepting the risks and knowing that our God is big enough to take of us.  And if He does allow bad things to happen we also believe that He is big enough to also work that out to our good and His glory. So, is doing mission work and living on the mission field a death wish? Definitely.

Rest in peace, Ron, and worship in the presence of your Savior.

Until next month, beloved.
May God’s peace and joy be with you.
For the glory of God in East Africa,
Roger & Julie Tate (and Amy, Josiah & Chloe)

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