The position of the Missionary or Long-term foreign worker is a bit unique, and certainly cannot be assumed to be similar either to a non-American prepper in his native home or to short-term traveler overseas. Those who travel overseas in the short term, need only to make sure that they are back home before any kind of crash and they can implement all of their plans as normally as they would have had they been at work when things began to go wrong.
Those overseas for longer periods of time, stretching into years rather than days or weeks must plan differently. For the one thing they generally cannot simply leave because things look rough. For the missionary this is because bad times do not justify ignoring either the command of scripture or his personal mandate to the work he is doing. For other long-term workers the weight of their work may equally compel them to stay where they are whether that is a moral obligation to some form of aid work or financial dependency to a business or job. For these and other reasons, many who are overseas long term cannot simply scurry home and wait for years to see whether something bad is going to happen or not.
A different more balanced approach is therefore necessary for those who find themselves in this situation. Let me begin by saying this calls for a great deal of careful thought and discernment. The decision to make for home or stay put when things do actually get very rough, while similar to that made my many in the United States whose retreats are some distance from their homes, must be made ahead of time. You will need to be able to act quickly regardless of what you plan to do in the event that a disaster strikes.
Stay Put or Bug Out? The decision to stay or go is very personal, and may involve reasons that are purely spiritual or emotional, a since of being called to stay or a desire to be with close family in hard times, nevertheless careful thought should be put into this decision. Firstly you should consider the nation you are living in as a whole. How viable would it be to stay in that country in the event of some sort of worldwide disaster, such as economic collapse or power grid failure? This is tricky as factors are involved which may not be readily apparent. The Philippines for example, was rated very poorly in terms of how it would handle the grid failure anticipated around Y2K. Having spent sometime living there I found this odd since the country, as a whole seemed to have little technological dependence. But upon further investigation, I found that the nation was dependent on imports not only economically but also for essentials like food. Some Latin-American nations on the other hand may be even better off than the United States in terms of food and water because the sources are kept much more locally even in large cities. Thus it is key to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of attempting to stay or go in the country you are located in.
Your personal location should be considered as well. Do you live in a major city or way out in the middle of nowhere. If you live closer to the airport than to the place you might consider retreating to in country, then perhaps it would be safer to just fly home than to try getting out safely into the countryside. If on the other hand you live so far out in the sticks that you cannot easily get in and out of town (you must be flow out, you have to hike out but it takes several days, etc.) then you may be remote enough that getting out is neither practical nor necessary. While our natural instincts may gives us a strong desire to be home, we should be willing to consider that we may be in a better place overseas than we would be if we were back home. Consider how a mass exodus from the cities and the inability to get food or water except from local sources would affect the area you live in.
Next to be considered are the people around you. Will you be able to put together a reasonably self-sufficient team of people in order to survive where you are, or will you be trying to survive on your own? Are the locals hostile to your presence even in the best of times, or do they have a strong value for live and appreciate and desire your presence in their community? Is your community already self reliant to some degree? Has your family been present long enough to know the local language and customs well enough to handle a large-scale crisis? If you will be unable to form a community that will fit in with that which is already there, or are not surrounded by anyone else interested in self sufficiency then going home may be in your best interest, especially if you have friends or family interested in prepping and helping you prep. If, however, you feel you are in a more self -sufficient and communal environment on the field, then you might think about staying put even if you might be tempted to “feel” differently.
Once you have made up your mind on this all important decision it is time to put together a plan to act out whichever contingency you have chosen. I will address Bugging Out first, as this is likely the plan that will be most advocated by Mission and Non-government Organizations, Large Businesses, and Governments.
If you plan to bug out, there basically two things that must be arranged. The first is to ensure that you have a secure and reliable way to successfully get home to where you are going. The second is to have a retreat group and location already prepared in advance. Setting up a safe route home is a two step process. The first step is to ensure you are able to make it back to your home country. The second is to make sure that you can reach your retreat once your flight lands. To be honest this process is good practice for any spending time overseas whether they are concerned about long-term crisis or not and is recommended by most organizations (mission or business) operating overseas. Here is a checklist of things you need to have done in order to Bug Out safely:
* Have a signal and rally point, each member of your family needs to know where to be in the event of any kind of tumultuous event. I recommend that a signal and rally point be used for all crisis that may occur not just major ones that justify leaving the country.
* Have passage booked and all legal documents (Passports, Birth certificates, etc.) current and easily accessible. Return fair is not difficult to maintain and can make the trip home much quicker than trying to book a flight after things are already bad.
* Keep your bags packed. Each member of your family should have a large day pack pre packed with bear essentials gear and their most important items. Unlike preppers in the United States your window to get out will be much smaller, you will not have time to pack your bags or evaluate what needs to be taken with you after things get bad so do it now. These bags should be the largest carry on baggage acceptable. Even if the airlines are allowing checked baggage, you don’t need to take the time to check yours. Your focus should be on getting on the plane and getting home.
* Have a route to the airport (or other transportation hub) predetermined. You will want the safest and fastest route you can find. Try to find one that does not take your near areas you think may be volatile if there is social unrest and that will have less traffic in the event that everyone else is scrambling for their home as well.
Before I continue to the second half of the journey, that which will begin upon your touching down, I feel I should make a brief note about computers. Many missionaries, foreign workers, and businessmen rely heavily on one or several computers. These often contain sensitive and priceless information that they cannot lose. In this situation I do not believe it is a good idea to waste space carrying even your laptop on the plane with you. Instead I believe that all of the computers your family (and office if applicable) uses should be packed up to a small, portable, external drive. In the event of a major crisis simply scrub or destroy all of your hard drives and slip this drive into your backpack. It is a good idea to keep a back up anyway. The situation may change rapidly while you are flying (the most common form of travel these days) from overseas back home. Things may deteriorate rapidly, so that even just a few short hours make all the difference. This emphasizes why, as much as possible your bug out plan should include a group of close, like-minded friends. If your plan has been to come home all along then you should have been preparing with this group of people in the first place. Just like others who plan to bug out in country, a group retreat should be predetermined and you should preposition all of your gear there. This should be done easily by making trips out during your visits home, and by purchasing items online and having another member of your group carry them up for you.
The best plan would be to work with members of your group, and have someone meet your family upon arrival. This will require constant communication as things grow worse as well as a layer of back up plans in case it should fail. First of all you need at least two radios. One should be a portable shortwave radio for you to monitor current conditions upon arrival, but before rendezvousing with your contact. Secondly you should have some form of handheld radio device with a preset channel for contacting your group. This should have as long a range as possible. In this way you will be able to locate your ride quickly, even in a crowd.
A storage unit or even the home or apartment of a nearby friend will be helpful in all of this. Such a unit should be located within walking distance of your arrival point (the airport, etc.) as well as within the reach of your handheld radios. This will provide you a place to do several things. First of all a vehicle and supplies can be kept at such a location, ready and waiting for your arrival. With the help from your support group, this vehicle and the supplies in it can be maintained easily and will allow you to arrive safely at your retreat even should something go wrong. Secondly, this provides a good place for your contact to wait for you as the airport may be crazy. Finally, this will provide a safe place for your retreat group to leave a message for you, in the event that they should come but be forced to leave before you arrive for some reason. They will be able to fill you in on the situation and tell you how you should proceed (using vague terms about locations and people to protect OPSEC of course). While traveling from overseas back home is never and ideal situation, especially when compared to living at your retreat, for those who are called to be overseas in a full time capacity practicing these tips should make the probability of arriving safely home much higher. Lets take a look now at Bugging In.
Many of the same considerations take place when bugging in overseas as they do when selecting a retreat here in the United States. Questions like: Is my house the best place to be, or should we have plans to relocate to a friend’s house that is located better? or How much food and livestock does my family require? will be the same no matter where you are located. In some areas the missionary or foreign worker is better positioned than the average American. For example the water in most countries is not safe to drink, so you may be better prepared in terms of water purification, also the architecture overseas is often better suited to the climate meaning it is less dependent on the power grid for heating and cooling. However, you may face some key challenges that should be addressed:
* Retreat location: In at least on country I lived in the ownership of property by non-citizens was illegal. The only way to purchase property was by having your mission agency incorporated in that country. I don’t know about all cases, but from what I have seen this is a fairly common practices. It isn’t hard to see how this could pose a problem. If you have a excellent retreat locations prepared with all of your gear propositioned only be tossed out by your landlord who now wants to be out in the safety of the countryside, you haven’t really done yourself any good. For this reason whenever possible a way to purchase the property needs to be found. This may mean you have to compromise between what makes for a good retreat, and what makes for a good mission/business office (if your organizations is having to by the land).
* Water sources: While you may have better water purification processes in place, and likely a better system for storing water than most Americans who have city or county water, having your own source of water may be somewhat more difficult. You will have to determine if digging a well is legally possible, and even if it is you may need to be prepared to do it yourself (for those in humanitarian type enterprises this should come rather easily). If legalities do pose a problem for some reason, you may want to simply invest in a storage system (refreshed by rainwater from your roof) that will hold enough water for you to implement a prearranged system (to dig a well or tap a near by stream) after law and order have begun to collapse and legalities are less of an issue. Of course if you are out in a very remote place and everyone gets water from a nearby river or spring then this won’t really be a problem anyway.
* Self-defense: The ability to defend your self, overseas, is often much more limited. Many nations don¹t allow any ownership of firearms by civilians, and fewer still would allow a foreigner to own one. Your first step should be to spend some time doing legal research and determine what your options are. A few of the African nations do allow the ownership of hunting rifles, and such and if you are in one of these nations than this would be preferable to nothing. If, however, you are in the more common situation of not being able to obtain firearms you should consider a two-fold approach. First you should research and determine what weapons police and military units are using where you are as these are what will likely be most available post crash. If at all possible obtain a civilian version of one of these weapons to practice with while you are in the United States. Resist the urge to modify it, but instead train with it as it is likely to be if you happen to find one post crash. If the weapon in use by the local military and police isn’t available here in the U.S. than consider getting an inexpensive AK clone and training with it, as the AK is the most common firearm in use today, worldwide. Learn to shoot accurately with whatever is likely to be available, to be able to easily do routine maintenance, and how to determine which variants are of highest quality for times when you have a choice.
The second step in self-defense preparedness overseas will be to acquire and train with older more traditional weapons, many of which are not restricted. For projectile weapons I suggest either a bow or a crossbow. These should be a simple as possible, either a locally available product or a recurve imported from the States. Compound bows and cross bows are great for use in good times but are likely to me more prone to wear and tear without proper care. The recurve will give you more power relative to the size of the bow than a long bow, but without any additional maintenance being required. Slingshots, especially when using steel shot, can be very effective and are easy to slip into your pocket or backpack. They can be used for hunting small game or for self-defense. Knives and hatchets can be easily trained with, and you really ought to have them for general chores anyway, as such the only other weapon I think really needs to be mentioned is the cane. The good thing about a walking cane or stick is that is not generally perceived as a weapon, even by an attackers; but when wielded well a cane or stick can win easily even over a knife or machete.
* Most of the other prepping topics can be easily adapted for use overseas. Books like JWR‘s novel “Patriots” and other blog articles have gone in to great detail on a wide variety of different topics. The key is to begin to think about how to adapt these to your specific environment. What differences might weather and local culture make? By adapting to the circumstances of the country you are in, there is a good chance you, your family, and your friends can find a safe place to be and possibly even continue the work you have been doing.
In Closing – A Note for Friends and Family of Missionaries and Others Overseas:
These tips have been written from my experience to help missionaries and other long-term foreign workers begin to think through the options they have, and the concepts they will need to consider. For friends and family the role of the missionary or foreign worker seems dangerous even in the best of times, and we the urge to beg your friend or family member to come home can be hard to resist. Please try to keep in mind that the cause of the Gospel, and the charity offered by many other organizations are just. Good, Godly, and charitable work ought not be stopped simply because we fear the times. However, as a prepper friend of missionaries you should provide moral support as they press on even in hard times, and in helping begin the conversation on what options they are considering in the event of a crisis. This role is vitally important as many missionaries I personally know are either: considering temporarily giving up their work until things blow over, or feel that they must press on even if it means not being prepared at all. As a prepper community, especially a prepper community that emphasizes Faith and Charity, we can help this work continue by beginning this conversation and exploring options together.