In this letter, our guest Scott Brawner offers advice for ministries and individuals relating to events currently happening in Nicaragua; namely, a series of protests against the government which have resulted in vandalism, general unrest, and violence resulting in fatalities. We at Telios Law wanted to share his letter, not only for its wisdom relating to the current events, but as a helpful list for others to navigate similar situations in the future. So, without further ado:
I understand that the response to the threat landscape in Nicaragua had been mixed with some organizations choosing to depart and others choosing to stay. Well, in the past few days I have spoken to several organizations who are making these decisions, and wanted to share my thoughts with you.
Remember, the process you use to develop your thresholds (or tripwires) for departure should also be used to develop the benchmarks for return. In other words, continue comparing apples to apples. Perception is often reality so endeavor to make sure what is being perceived by the field is also being perceived by headquarters. This means the thresholds and benchmarks of HQ need to correlate with field perceptions (don’t be a house divided in this area as it leads to friction and distrust).
That said, I have recommended the following benchmarks for making the decision to depart or return to Nicaragua (please contextualize as necessary for your organization’s situation):
1. Targeted Attacks: Has there been any targeting of expats in cities or countryside in the past 14 days?
2. Basic Services (water, sanitation, and electricity): Are water, sewer (if you have it vs. septic) and electricity (as it is normally available) currently available or been restored?
3. Foodstuffs: Are the markets open and basic necessities stocked? Is food being rationed? Is there significant price gouging going on making key food stocks prohibitive? Have there been at least seven days of uninterrupted business with stores and vendors?
4. Fuel: Is fuel available? If so, is it rationed? Is there significant price gouging going on making daily life and ministry prohibitive?
5. General Medical: Are basic medical services available? Are the hospitals utilized by organization personnel open and operating?
6. Personal Health: Do members of your teams need a specific medication or medical support that has to be replenished regularly? If so, is access to those items available at this time from the local pharmacies or other vendors?
7. Local Relationships: What are your local relationships saying? Are they afraid to go out? Are they saying the situation is dangerous for them? Are they recommending you return or wait?
8. Overland Travel Safety: Are protesters blocking the roads and restricting travel between cities and, especially, to the airport? Have the roads been clear at least 10 days?
9. Urban Travel Safety: Are protesters blocking city streets? Is the government continuing the use physical response (tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, or live ammunition) against participants? Are protests in the immediate area deteriorating into looting, vandalism, and acts of arson? Has it been at least seven days since this kind of activity took place in your area?
10. International Airport: Has the international airport (and/or small regional airports as appropriate) been open without restrictions for at least 14 days?
11. General Safety: How do you and your family feel about daily routines? Can you go about daily routines without facing threat or direct hostility? Is it safe to go outside of homes and back on the street as before? Have your families sensed a direct threat against them (vs. general insecurity on the street)? How long has it been since your families sensed threat or direct hostility toward them? Can your personnel articulate how that threat has been abated or mitigated?
12. Ministry Security: Is it safe to conduct ministry projects? Are your personnel’s ministries able to maintain a level of effectiveness similar to what was experienced prior to the protests or prior to your organization’s departure?
13. Prayer and Agreement: As field personnel and HQ leadership pray, is there a sense of agreement on the return? If not, what specifically is causing the division that needs to be addressed?
I hope these benchmarks are helpful to you. Please let us know your thoughts and insights for anything we might be missing here.
In Christ ,
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post belong to the author, who is responsible for its content, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Telios Law PLLC.
About Scott Brawner
Scott Brawner is the President of Concilium, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that desires to see Christians of all ages engaged in ministry with boldness, legitimacy, and competency. Concilium seeks to glorify the Lord with biblically centered approaches to security best practices, risk mitigation, and crisis management. Concilium trains, equips, and resources both the US and global expatriate Christian community for the strengthening of security and resilience in ministry. Concilium is committed to the mentoring, empowering, and releasing of the next generation of Christian leaders to share God's love with the world.
Brawner accepted Jesus as his personal Savior in January of 1987 and served in the United States Army with the First Ranger Battalion. As a Ranger, his military service included a tour in Operation Desert Storm as a sniper and team medic. He is also a licensed and ordained Southern Baptist pastor and holds a master’s degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2007 the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention selected Brawner to serve as Director of Risk Management where he supervised security and risk management for nearly 5000 missionaries and their families until 2014 when he co-founded Concilium. Scott is married to the former Jamie Kalmbaugh, who is the love of his life. They have three children: Aden, Ashlyn, and Aaron.