The fact that the NSA has been regularly and consistently spying on US citizens has become undeniable. What impact do these revelations have on global missions?
Throughout the last half centuries there have been charges leveled by anti-Christian governments that missionaries are spies. I personally have never met a missionary-spy. Do they exist? I have no doubt that they do.
There was a story that circulated among the missionary community in the Balkans about a certain missionary from a large denominational board was a “dual-income-creative-access” worker. Upon leaving the field he moved to the Langely area and supposedly worked for the CIA. It was an intriguing story but never verified. The infamous John Birch society got its name from a missionary who also spied on Japanese forces during World War 2. There are other historical examples.
The use of missionaries as spies discredits the work of all missionaries and should be strongly condemned. It puts the people in danger, calls into question the character of foreigners and brings dishonor to the gospel. I have no hard proof that contemporary agencies are harboring spies. The sheer devious and evil nature of the NSA, as we have come to learn, gives me concern. We in agency leadership should do all we can to oppose this perverse approach to intelligence gathering.
So what can we do about it? One of the best defenses against this is for agencies to know their candidates. The process of selection and screening must be designed to increase the relationship component. It’s only by careful listening to candidate testimonies, a strong sending church partnership and honest evaluation can the true motives for each potential staff member be discerned.
Another step toward protecting the missionary force is through team ministry. All church planters should be working shoulder-to-shoulder with other workers who intimately know and can observe the behavior of their teammates.
Good, basic security principles should be taught and re-taught to all staff globally. This type of training typically teaches staff how to spot intelligence activities such as “tails” and snooping. This could be extended to increase sensitivity to spy recruitment while on the field. Staff should be instructed to avoid the embassy whenever possible: all countries use these outposts for spying activities.
Finally, good computer security protocols should be followed. They can hack us, they can listen in and now we know that they are and that they will. We must recognize that when you live abroad you essentially have no rights to privacy. Be careful out there. Border crossings are particularly dangerous (see this link for more info). I no longer travel abroad with a computer. My phone and the cloud is enough.
We know that Americans abroad are targets of the US spying regime. That is a fact we must simply accept as I see little that can be done about it. Could I ask why so few Christian bloggers and organizations have spoken out on the NSA spying on US citizens within our own borders? It’s a clear violation of our rights as Americans. Support policies and politicians that respect privacy and seek to limit the amount of spying that our government is bent on doing.