“I suppose when Heaven’s Heroes faced setbacks or heartbreaks, they just redoubled their prayers. They snuck past enemy lines. They did the next thing. I tried to pray, and I wanted to sneak past enemy lines, but I couldn’t even get back into the country. I had no idea what the next thing would be.” 166
This section of the book focuses heavily on the after-effects of Peterson’s “victory” with Veronica. We learn that Veronica and her friends were interrogated by authorities and their faith was shaken. Veronica writes to Amy in simple, plaintive words. “I love Him and I must confess I wonder about his plan.” Amy responds “I must confess that I also wonder about his plan–I ask him many times why he is allowing this to happen to you.”
This is where the triumphalism of traditional evangelical narratives fall and crumble. What do we do when we fail, or suffer, or experience consequences for our faith when others don’t? Peterson wonders if part of Veronica’s questioning of God stems from the fundamental inequality of the situation. Did God love Americans more? If not, then why was she being persecuted?
These are hard, tricky questions. Although we are only invited in to a certain degree, this glimpse into a life where being committed to Christ negatively affects everything–including your family, friendships, education, and opportunities–is a sobering wake-up call to those of us who have not experienced true persecution.
Peterson discovers that she will not be able to enter the country again, perhaps ever. Her carefully laid plans are upended in a single email, and she plunges into the journey of processing her grief while at the same time needing to make decisions about her future. She decides to teach in Cambodia for a year and starts to experience a more traditional, expat experience. And as she does, her questions about the overall nature of modern-day missions start to grow.
Questions for Discussion:
In her interlude, Peterson talks about the “real” first missionary sent from America. Was this a new discovery for you?
Peterson tells a story that is both miraculous and full of failure. How has the culture of missions prepared people to deal with both of these realities?
Thanks to all who continue to read along and post thoughtful questions! We will wrap up our discussion over the next two weeks and then I will do a Q and A with Amy Peterson, the author of Dangerous Territory. Please leave a question for Peterson in the comments, and I will curate a list and send them to her.
See you next week, when we discuss whether or not the word “missionary” should be retired–and does Peterson end up with Jack or Charley?
Catch up on previous entries here: