Saturday, March 27, 2010

Guest Post: Blaine Horst on limited access & creative access countries

Blaine Horst is the Personnel Officer for GBIM

(thanks to Ell Brown for the "no access" photo)
"Limited Access and Creative Access are often used synonymously.  Some people may use them to denote different levels of access, but for most they mean that you can not get a missionary visa to start a ministry in that country.  To enter it, you have to have a reason to get a visa that is accepted by the government.  Usually that means a business or educational visa.  If people differentiate between Limited and Creative, it may mean that Limited Access countries do give religious workers visas, but limit them significantly, while Creative Access countries will not give religious workers visas to Christian workers at all.  India, for example, gives missionary visas, but only to the organizations that were working in India in the 1940s and only the same number of visas that the organization was using then.

There are several reasons why we restrict personal information.  All of them have to do with ministry goals.

In many church planting areas, people are starting to Google any new acquaintances.  If a new evangelistic contact Googles someone he met and finds out they are called “missionary” the new contact will attach his definition of “missionary” to them.  In many areas of the world, the term “missionary” is not positive.  In (Central Asia), “missionary” was defined in an elementary school text book as a subversive agent of foreign governments sent to disrupt society.  In Europe, an American religious worker is automatically assumed to be from a wacko cult that will steal your money and try to get you to commit suicide.  So keeping names off the internet is important to evangelistic ministry.

In creative access areas, the wrong use of names will get the person deported with no chance of return.  Several years ago, acquaintances of our workers in one country were called in the police station.  They were accused of being missionaries. the evidence was a US church website that listed them as one of “our missionaries”.  They were given 24 hours to leave the country.  Even email is being monitored in these countries.  They are scanned for various words or for other factors that would indicate religious activities.  We have received advice to change the use of names in print as well, since there is no way to control where literature ends up.

We have been hearing through the mission communities that there is reason to suspect that extremist groups are becoming more sophisticated in intelligence gathering.   There have been isolated instances of violence against workers identified as missionaries over the past few years.

None of these issues are reasons to quit sending missionaries.  They are reasons to be “wise as serpents”.  Even Jesus in John 7 was careful in what He said to his own brothers about His activities."

Thanks to Dave Lewis who connected me to Blaine Horst.  I wonder if you have ever heard these terms before. I also wonder what you think about this?  Share a few sentences.  I'd love to hear and to see.  

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