Back last year I read Anna Hampton’s book Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk (Zendagi Press 2016). Then earlier this year did the Risk Assessment and Management workshop that she and husband Neal run. So, what follows is a bit about both.
The book aims to guide cross cultural workers through a Biblical discussion on risk, to provide a framework that is both practical and spiritual, and to guide them through questions of risk assessment and management. The early part of the book includes a Biblical and Spiritual background to risk, with a focus on a few passages in the Old and New Testament before going on to consider risk and some common misconceptions and then thinking about how we might respond practically.
The book was a good introduction to this theme. I particularly liked some of the questions about stewarding and how that helps us think about risk. There are times when we need to conserve our resources (including ourselves) and there are times when we need to pour them out (which might include our lives); wisdom is required to know what the appropriate response is. One of the aims of the book is to help us develop a theology of risk, rather than just one of suffering. While I think that, at times, too much was made of some of the Scriptural material (particularly in the discussion of Exodus 17), the fact is that there are few other people who have attempted to write on this topic. Futhermore, the discussion of Scripture draws out some interesting ideas eg:, “Risk is priestly service in battle”. At the end of each chapter there is a summary section of the main points and some questions for application and reflection that help the reader think through the material and apply it to their own situation.
Reading the book also encouraged me to attend the workshop. As it happened I was not the only person reading it and so we arranged for several people from Latin Link’s leadership to attend. Because of Covid it was all done remotely. We were not the only mission organisation who had more than one person attend and the participants were a good mixture of people in leadership and those who ordinarily serve in areas of higher risk.
The workshops were great. They cover some of the same foundations as the book but with perhaps a less detailed approach to the theology of risk; which actually makes it better. While many of the practical elements are similar to the book, working through them in small groups, with real case studies, helps to make it much easier to apply and implement.
So while I happily recommend the book, I’d encourage anyone who is in a position where they need to think about risk in depth to do the course. While I did a workshop facilitated by Anna and Neal, who have lots of experience of this from their mission work in Central Asia, in more normal times Emma Dipper and others at All Nations College in the UK run this workshop from time to time.
What did I take away from the book and course?
I was struck by the appreciation that risk is both good and bad. In our health and safety culture our focus is normally on risk reduction and mitigation; but often risk is worthwhile and the way to achieving good things. The challenge is be able to analyse, particularly during times of uncertainty, and address risk appropriately.
It was good to think about risk not just for the impact on the person, but to recognise a more wholistic approach which involves family and people ‘back home’ as well as those who you work with.
In thinking about specific risk situations, in addition to the standard questions of frequency and severity, they add two other factors: Geographic proximity (how likely is the risk event to hapen close by) and Demographic proximity (how likely is the risk event to impact people like us), both of which assist in thinking through appropriate actions.
I appreciated the risk tools which not only helped assess risk but also encouraged us to consider how we might reduce and mitigate both the causes and the consequences of any event. Often we just focus on the immediate risk that we assess; but we can do a lot to prepare by considering the causes and consequencies and putting in place things to reduce their likelihood and impact, just by thinking more deeply about the potential situations.
As well the course they maintain a blog Behind The Veil which has a number of resources and articles. It also describes the aims of the workshop in more detail.
Anna has been interviewed about risk by the global missions podcast so if you have a spare half hour you can get a flavour of her thinking by listening to Developing a Biblical Theology of Risk