Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 20, 2009

Living with Risk

   The dictionary defines “risk” as “exposure to the chance of injury or loss; the possibility of suffering harm.” Because I frequently travel to some pretty dangerous and remote places, people often ask me about the risk involved. That’s a fair question. Some of my friends even offer practical suggestions for minimizing my risk. I am always open to their helpful advice and reminders. Over the years, I have learned to live with risk — not just when I travel abroad, but when I am home as well. After all, risk is everywhere. It is an unavoidable part of daily life. So, here are some things about living with risk that I have gleaned along the way.

Perspective | We often mistakenly think that risk is something that is found in greater degrees in other places, especially dangerous places. As a result we often overlook the fact that we also are exposed to risk at home. When I first started traveling to difficult places, I mentioned to my Dad that someone had commented on how foolish I was to expose myself to such risks. “Son, don’t be afraid to go,” replied my Dad. “Yes, you might get hurt, but remember that you can just as easily slip in your bathtub at home and break your neck!” My Dad was right. I am not necessarily any safer here than there.

Helen Keller noted, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller was right. We must keep in mind that we are always taking risks in life, no matter where we are. As a young traveler, I often heard my mentor Dr. Rudy Hernandez say, “I am immortal until God is finished with me.” I have often thought about those words. They have given me the courage to walk down many roads less traveled.

Progress | Progress always involves risk. You cannot get to second base if you insist on keeping one foot on first base. Making a move from first to second base exposes a player to the possibility of failure. To put it another way, someone noted that a ship in the harbor may be safe, but that’s not what ships were built for. Unless we are willing to lose sight of the shore we will not make any progress nor will we reach the distant shore. As a Christ-follower, I understand that unless we are willing to risk and venture to places that are difficult, some may never hear the good news of Jesus Christ. For years, I have lived with the sobering realization that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) says, “Go” — but says nothing about returning. While I am not comfortable with that thought, I have accepted it. I am committed to something bigger than myself — something worth living and dying for. For me, God’s purposes are worth the risk; even if that means that someday I don’t make it home.

A.W. Tozer said that “every advance that we make for God and for His cause must be made at our inconvenience.” I agree. And every advance has its inherent risks. The Apostle Paul certainly understood that. Because he aspired to preach the gospel in places where Christ was not known (Rom. 15:20), Paul exposed himself to and experienced all kinds of troubles (read 2 Cor. 11:22-33). However, centuries later, we are the beneficiaries of Paul’s willingness to be inconvenienced and to expose himself to risk. But, what about us? Tozer observed that “we look around for convenience, thinking we can reach the mountain peak conveniently and without trouble or danger to ourselves.” Life does not work that way. “Mountain climbers are always in peril,” said Tozer, “and they are always advancing at their inconvenience.” And, I would add, at great risk.

Possibilities | Taking responsible risks necessarily includes weighing the possibilities. When weighing the possibilities, it’s important to focus on facts and not just feelings. And, focusing on facts means looking beyond the things that you want to see to consider the things that you need to see. I don’t have a death wish nor do I wish to take reckless risks. I make it a point to do my homework on where I am going and to communicate often with my prospective hosts. On rare occasions, my hosts have warned me not to come because they felt the danger level in their area was too high. I have learned to listen and to respect their decisions. However, while taking calculated and responsible risks may reduce liability, it is not an absolute guarantee that nothing may go wrong.

Opting for what we may feel is the safer option may not always be the safer option. When the spies reported to Moses what they had seen in the Promised Land, ten of the spies said it would be too risky to go in and possess the land. These men failed to consider the risk of not going in to possess the land (Num. 13:25-33) and an entire generation suffered as a result. There are always risks associated with not taking risks. Shakespeare wrote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” So, our options are not between taking risks and avoiding risks, but rather which of these risks we will take. Each offers its own reward.

Pedagogy | Risk can be a powerful teacher. Failure is one of the possibilities of taking and not taking risks. If we learn from these failures we will be better suited to apply what we learned to our next risk. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, described as “the world’s greatest living explorer” by the Guinness Book of Records, said, “It is vital that young children are taught to understand and manage risk from an early age.” Sheltering our children from all risk is risky business. As parents it’s hard to let go and to allow our kids to take risks. But, we must learn to let go a little at a time so that they can learn to manage risks. Skinned knees, playground bruises, dealing with bullies, and more become a part of the lessons that can help them to understand and manage risks.

The reality is that risk is all around us. In the past year, several teenagers and adults have been killed in automobile-related accidents within a mile of our church. While these individuals may have felt that they were not at risk driving and exercising along our beautiful crape myrtle lined boulevards, they were at risk. And, regardless of whether or not we realize it, we too are always exposed to some measure of risk whether at home or abroad. That’s why we must understand, manage, and learn to live with risk.


  1. Fantastic! We all need to really understand what you have shared, in this article, so we will be more prone to go where we need to go with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that is to ALL the world!


  2. Omar-

    I was far a way from internet; I arrived home to night, shared good news with villagers. I guess that, it was great times with new listeners and many new events, in my country sides! I am keep reading all your articles, when I opened my computers.


  3. Mortuza…

    I know that you are always at risk when you share the good news with others in your country. I think of you often and pray for you, asking God to keep you safe as you visit with people in the villages. Thank you for your good work.


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