Bolivia (MNN) ― Bolivia's government has promised much to the poor, but many still struggle to get jobs and food. Sometimes, their desperation leads to crime, said Sam Vinton of Grace Ministries International.
"This has been seen by some of our MK's," he explained. "Several of them were walking back from school and were accosted by people who came, took away their cell phones or whatever they had there."
The missionaries and their school are located in the city of Santa Cruz, which is a center of opposition to Bolivia's new constitution, according to BBC News. The constitution was approved by a referendum in January 2009.
Vinton said that a sort of uprising had occurred in the city, around the time of the referendum.
"They had captured some of these buildings, and through that time there's been difficulty there," he said. "Since that time, there's been quite a few more robberies...I imagine because of unemployment and unrest."
With economic problems on a global scale, Vinton believes that missionaries all over the world will increasingly need to be concerned about the same issues.
"Many other countries are going through the same thing," Vinton said. "People get to the place where they're desperate and they have no food, and there are no jobs...I think that's just one of those things that missionaries are going to have to be more careful about."
Although students at the school in Santa Cruz have not had to deal with any further incidents, the school is concerned, and families are being careful.
"You're not going to stop your life because of that, but it does cause us to have concerns for the safety of young people who will be going from school back to their home," Vinton said.
The missionaries are taking more safety precautions, such as using cars or walking in larger groups, and talking about how to react to someone who has a gun. The best defense, however, is prayer.
"We just have to really get people praying for safety, especially the safety of our children," Vinton said. "We need to ask for prayer, and not only for Bolivia. All over the world, I expect to see or hear more of this type of...behavior taking place."
GMI missionaries work with Bolivian church organizations in evangelism, church planting, youth, and leadership training. This includes AWANA programs, a year-round camp, and ministry in three schools.
Pray that God will guide the missionaries as they share the Gospel in difficult circumstances.