Guidance for Deployment, Relocation and Evacuation Decisions

This blog post explains how the professions of strategic intelligence analysis and risk management apply directly to missions strategy, specifically as they relate to decisions to deploy, relocate, or evacuate Western Christian Expatriates (WCEs) during security crises.

Its primary intended audience is executives and field leaders in both evangelical mission agencies and evangelical humanitarian NGOs, referred to collectively as “faith-based organizations,” or FBOs. Although there may be times in which the needs of these two types of organizations must be addressed separately, they both share the Great Commission mandate and a critical need for strategic intelligence and biblically based risk-management processes.  

Strategic Intelligence for the Faith-Based Organization

Broadly defined, strategic intelligence provides policymakers in government, the military, business, and non-profit organizations with information on a wide variety of issues in order to help those leaders make good plans and decisions. Intelligence is always employed, regardless of context, to help accomplish a mission. 

The fulfillment of the Great Commission is the mission of Western evangelical Christian faith-based organizations and their overseas members, Western Christian Expatriates (WCEs). For FBOs, strategic intelligence specifically deals with political, government, conflict, terrorism, persecution, and public safety issues that might affect how they go about engaging in Great Commission work at a local and national level. 

Strategic intelligence for FBOs is distinct from, but does compliment, an organization’s missiology. Missiology speaks to the strategies and methods of actually communicating the gospel. Strategic intelligence works within an organization’s missiology to identify the best avenues of carrying the gospel into a geographical location and to identify the threats to WCEs, their work, and their long-term ministry objectives. Strategic intelligence also assists mission executives as they endeavor to maintain long-term, effective ministry, which includes making decisions about relocating or evacuating WCEs in times of crisis. 

If we were to put these concepts into business terms, we would speak of “supply chain management” with the gospel being the “product” that is being taken to the “market."1 Missiology deals with the product itself and how it is delivered. Strategic intelligence deals with strengthening and protecting the supply chain, which largely consists of people – WCEs. The way the supply chain is strengthened and protected must be contextualized to both the local security climate as well as the national, or even the international, threats and challenges facing the delivery of the product – the gospel.

With these terms defined, let us move forward and discuss how strategic intelligence that is produced within the FBO realm (instead of by an outside source) can assist ministry executives in making decisions about deployments, relocations, and evacuations during security crises. 

Deploy, Relocate, or Evacuate: Personnel Movements in Crises

Already in 2014, many FBOs have decided to relocate or evacuate personnel in places like Yemen, South Sudan, Ukraine, Libya, and Iraq. Deployment, relocation, and evacuation (D/R/E)is perhaps the most sensitive security and member care topic in mission sending strategy. At stake are WCE lives (and sometimes the lives of local believers), the voice and presence of the gospel in certain places of the world, many thousands of dollars in donated funds, and the morale of WCEs who have devoted years of their lives to gospel ministry amongst certain peoples. D/R/E decisions are not to be taken lightly, nor are they to be farmed out to outside consultants. Executives and field leadership must own D/R/E decisions.  While these leaders need the best intelligence possible, in the end, only they can ultimately shoulder the responsibility for their decisions.

In the decision-making process, there are “known knowns” (the questions to which you have answers), “known unknowns” (the questions to which you do not have answers), and “unknown unknowns” (the questions you have not yet thought to ask).3 Strategic intelligence helps change “known unknowns” into “known knowns,” but perhaps more importantly, strategic intelligence can help decision makers identify the “unknown unknowns” that will need to be asked and answered in D/R/E situations. Many of these answers can only be found at ground level, either within the field leadership team or with the WCEs themselves. Thus, strategic intelligence is designed to guide a decision-making process, not present a scientific formula for making a decision.

Executives and WCEs in the field need to evaluate numerous factors in D/R/E situations. First and foremost, they need to consider (or even determine) their organization’s risk tolerance based on biblical doctrine and their organization’s stated duty of care for their personnel. After these foundational issues are considered, the questions on the chart below can be used to help guide the decision-making process.

“Effective Ministry” Defined

Prior to going to the chart, however, another important term must be defined. “Effective ministry” is the actual participation of WCEs in their assigned work.Effective ministry involving WCEs cannot exist if WCEs are forced to evacuate or remain in hibernation for long periods of time. This is because, in those cases, WCEs are, for all practical purposes, separated from the community they are assigned to engage. If conditions force the cessation of effective ministry prior to relocation or evacuation, relocation and evacuation will likely do no harm to the ministry than has already been done. On the other hand, premature sheltering in place, hibernation, relocation, or evacuation can put a stop to effective ministry before circumstances force a halt. Therefore, the definition of effective ministry should be taken into account when defining an organization’s risk tolerance.


Only the Beginning

The above chart represents only the beginning of a discussion that should take place internally whenever an organization is faced with a D/R/E decision.  Concilium’s International Affairs Group (IAG) is available to consult, and subscribers are encouraged to commission country-specific reports answering as many of these questions as possible.  IAG may well identify further questions that can help guide an organization’s decision-making process.

Concilium Secure is available to coach organizations on defining risk tolerance, duty of care, and crisis management policies; as well as developing a risk assessment matrix, emergency action plans, and crisis response teams.  Finally, Concilium Secure is also available to train WCEs in risk mitigation best practices. 

Concilium’s website is  Concilium can be contacted at [email protected].

  1. The concept of applying “supply chain management” to missions risk management was originally presented by Scott Brawner in his 2012 article, “The Biblical Basis for Supply Chain Management.”

  2. Relocation is defined as moving personnel from one location to another within the same country.  Evacuation is defined as removing personnel from one country to another.  The former is often short term and does not require the use of a passport.  The latter is often long term and does require the use of a nationally-issued visa.

  3. Donald Rumsfeld memorably used this terminology on 12 February 2002 during a Department of Defense press briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers.

  4. “Effective ministry” for an evangelical mission agency may be defined quite differently from a Christian humanitarian NGO, but the decision-making process is similar for both.

  5. This question should always be asked as a safeguard against becoming complacent or too comfortable in an environment.  Once WCEs are directly targeted due to their work, effective ministry becomes extremely difficult to maintain, either because personnel are forced to flee or because they are arrested, deported, kidnapped, or killed.


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