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[CONFLICT] Fake IDs on Mission Trips

 —  October 7, 2013 — 73 Comments

I was told not to tell anyone we were on a missions trip. mclovin

The missions organization our youth group was serving with suggested that we not anger the Canadian border patrol. Apparently saying we were going to “work” with the homeless would trigger questions about permits and more. We were to say we were just sightseeing.

“Why are you coming into Canada?” asked the twenty-something guard from his little booth. The tone in his voice suggested he thought of himself with an air of superiority. He was wearing mirrored sunglasses and had feathered hair, like he’d seen Top Gun one too many times.

“We’re spending some time in Toronto,” I replied.

“What will you be DOING in Toronto?” he asked, literally looking away from me as he said it.

The conflict inside of me began to well up. It didn’t feel right to say we’d be sightseeing—that would be a deliberate lie. I stuttered out a few words that were probably more evasive than clear.

“We’re going to… help…. the homeless.”

border“Don’t you think Canada can handle its own homeless?” he pushed back, as if I offended him. “Pull over there,” he said, motioning me toward the administrative offices. “Everyone in your vehicle will need to show identification.”

I knew we were going to be grilled. It only got worse when a teen named Jake told me, “Pastor Tony, I don’t have identification.”

Never mind that I’d told all the kids more than a dozen times to have a photo I.D.—something I even asked before we left. “Jake,” I replied, “you have no idea how that is exactly not what I needed to hear right now.”

Our group walked into a small room where a woman behind thick glass eyeballed me. “Tell me why you want to enter Canada,” she demanded.

“We’re trying to…” I began, searching for a thought.

“Trying to what?” she pressed, suddenly reminding me of the woman from “The Weakest Link.”

“I’m taking these kids to… Toronto,” I offered, knowing that wasn’t enough.

“You’re not answering my question,” she rightly pointed out.

This back-and-forth went on a few more times. Finally, I broke down.

“Fine,” I said, “I’m a pastor. This is a youth group. We’re hoping to come into Canada to share Jesus with people. The organization I’m serving with said not to tell you because we’d be discriminated against or you’d demand a work permit, but these are teenagers and we just want to serve. Can we please come in?”

She smiled. “If you would have just said that in the first place, we wouldn’t have had a problem.”

I smiled… until she deflated the moment by saying, “Just let me see everyone’s I.D.”

There was a chair in the corner, so I sat down. Surprisingly, 10 minutes later she waved us all through. I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially since I’d realized the freedom in being truthful. We headed out toward our worksite.

Along the way, however, Jake leaned over and said, “I used Josh’s I.D.”

Josh was on the trip, too… and was Jake’s identical twin. Apparently we weren’t as honest about what happened as I thought.

If you were me in that moment, what should happen next?

  • We turn the van around and be forthright?
  • We keep driving and never look back?

Chime in. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

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Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

73 responses to [CONFLICT] Fake IDs on Mission Trips

  1. That seems like quite an ethical issue. I guess I would continue on only because you had gone so far. But I would use the rest of the driving time to discuss with the youth the importance of telling the truth even if it meant not completing a project. Using your own example as the example as to why it is important to tell the truth. Also showing the youth how God feels about telling the truth. I guess I feel it is not fair to punish the whole team for one that didn’t listen. I think I would fully consider sending the young man home on a plane at the parent’s expense for not telling the truth. Or giving him some sort of disciplinary action.
    Bless you for offering the youth that type of experience that will stay with them all their lives.

  2. Sounds like a great teaching moment. Since you didn’t find out about it until you were already underway, it would be awful hard to re-locate the deceived border agent.

    Does the end justify the means? Can we sin for the “greater good”? I’d think your students could have some really deep conversations just over this.

  3. It would be very difficult to turn back, especially if that meant that the entire trip would have to be canceled because one person forgot their ID. Time, money and valuable lessons would be thrown down the drain because someone forgot their ID.

    However – proceeding forward on the trip would mean that you all got in on a lie. The twins have now learned a lesson that if all else fails, deception is the way to make a situation work out.

    Who knows … maybe that is the lesson everyone needed to learn?

    I would turn around back around and be honest.

    • I agree with what Bryce has written here. It’s difficult to know for sure what to do, and it would be terrible to lose a missions opportunity, but I think that continuing forward would teach the students the lesson that lying is ok if it makes your life less difficult. And that message may carry on in their lives long after the missions trip has ended.

      For the record, I’m from Canada and we have similar experiences trying to get into the USA for missions work!

      • Tony Myles

        Interesting! I never thought that the opposite could be true for Canadians coming in, too. But logic would dictate it to be so. Thanks, Matthew!

        • Why do we feel that we must go to exotic places? If there are youth groups in Canada that are desiring to share the gospel and serve the homeless, why do we feel it is necessary to go there? One of my favorite comedians, Brian Regan, has a joke about log trucks passing each other on the highway. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=rihxCb4Hrug) It makes very little since to me that we are operating in a very similar pattern. The only explanation that I can come up with is that for many of us mission trips have become a “vacation with a purpose”. I pray that we all reconsider the trips we invest in. What is their purpose and are we being good stewards of the resources God has given us.

          • Tony Myles

            Hmm… it’s a fair question. Maybe the thought is the command to take the Gospel into the whole world. On a collective level, we could do what you’re proposing. On an individual level, maybe God wants us to each figure out our role in that. I do think mission trips don’t have to be sexy – they have to be stretchy, though. Especially with students, we’re helping them experience something today that may turn them into disciples long-term.

  4. I have been to Canada on three seperate occassions two of them missions trips. I’ve never had to be anything other than truthful as to why we were coming to Canada. I think you should have told them the purpose of your visit from the beginning. My first visit when I was ask the purpose of our visit, a person from the border office came on to our vehicles and looked at everyones passport. Prior to leaving our church in Virginia, I had collected them so I knew that everyone had both their passport and a picture ID. We were back on the road within 10 minutes. I think the extreme of this is if you were going to a Middle Eastern nation or a country where your lives may have been in danger.

    • Tony Myles

      Great thought, Randy. Admittedly – this happened when I was new in ministry and it was my first trip leading students into another country. I’d definitely take the truthful approach now… I learned my lesson!

  5. Great thoughts! This has been a struggle that I have had in the past, however the places that I have gone are not that friendly in the USA and we were flying in to the country. Some countries (Scotland) will not allow any mission work of any kind in so you cannot say that. Thankfully site seeing has been a small part of what we have done in the country so we are able to say that or that we are there on business. It makes it easier but without we would be on a flight heading home.

    • Tony Myles

      Thanks, Jeremy. I wonder how that works then from the top-down. Do you think in countries where missions isn’t allowed we should coach the kids on what to say if questioned?

  6. Hey Tony, Great article.

    First of all thanks for setting an example for students. When we lie about doing work for God it’s as if we don’t believe that God can get us through the difficult times and challenges of serving Him. God honors the truth.

    In regards to your question on Jake and Josh. You could probably do a few things but let me suggest a couple.
    1. Talk Jake through what just happened because you told the truth. Show him how God honored your honesty.
    2. Show Jake that his dishonesty could have got his brother in trouble as well. He had an impact on his brother’s dishonesty as well. Also if they found out – this may have caused them even more caution to let you in if someone from the group was not being truthful. People make mistakes and the Canada border people can, at times, be understanding of that. The fact that they were twins may have been in his favor anyway – saying “I forgot my ID but this is my twin and he has his ID.”
    3. If Jake stole something out of a store and you found out about it – you would have taken him back to the store and have him return it and apologize, etc. Stealing – lying all are sin. Taking him back to confess what he did would no doubt teach him and the rest of the group a very valuable lesson that they would not soon forget.

    Thank you for sharing story.

    serving Him together!

    • Tony Myles

      I really appreciate the tone of your response, Bob. Thank you! And I like how you offered some great thoughts here on how to show Jake that his actions affected others, including his brother. We sometimes overlook the impact of our choices like this. Well said!

  7. Leneita Fix

    Matthew- didn’t you know America doesn’t need missionaries. (She said totally sarcastically.) I think that it is so hard because this is about a life lesson more than anything. We live in a world that lacks integrity and we are pushed to hide our integrity. As there are other leaders on the trip, I would have them wait with the students who were honest about the way they got in. I would take the one student back and if needed I would have his parents pay to come and get him. It might mean that the rest of the group goes on and “starts” without us. It is a good life lesson for this student in responsibility and honesty. I’m not saying it would be easy- but I actually have done things like this with students and the time we get in dealing with it have been life transforming.

    • Tony Myles

      That’s a great approach, Leneita. I once had a group of students who kept pushing me on a road trip from Michigan to Chicago by slapping each other with seatbelts. After a series of warnings, I turned the van around (after an hour of travel) and we didn’t go on the trip at all. After that, we never had a problem in students responding to such asks. :)

  8. I guess that it would be easy for me to say that you should just turn around and go back home. But it would be hard to do that when you are in that situation. So what should you do? I think the best question is ‘What would Jesus do?’ and the best answer would be to tell the guard that one of the students forgot their I.D. and be honest. If this means that the whole trip would be cancelled, so be it. The mission of your trip may not have been to teach others about Christ, but to live your life like Christ.

  9. border crossing are great harassment points. people feel all smug about their power, so i’ll be glad when we can move throughout the new universe and new earth that God creates and we don’t have any stinkin’ checkpoints.
    anyway on to the question – i would’ve continued driving.
    i would not have grilled anyone about telling the truth while on the drive.
    abraham and sarah are good examples of deception in the Bible that is probably peculiar to this case. abraham and sarah were indeed brother and sister so they didn’t lie although remaining silent on the fact sarah was his wife is all you can accuse him of, but i don’t recall the bible saying silence is a sin.
    so jake has a twin brother and used his id. jake has an id so the problem wasn’t that he did not have an id, the problem was he did not bring it along with him because quite frankly he seems used to playing this game with his brother and has gotten away with it before.
    since deception is to propagate something that isn’t true and since jake does have an id but not on him, jake wasn’t propagating that which wasn’t true in the sense of why id’s were being checked and jake was not deceiving with evil intent since he did have an id, just not with him.
    the bible does not say all deception is sin.
    we start getting into other areas of the bible such as tamar and judah, and jacob and esau.
    had the person collected everyone’s id and counted them then this would not have happened as nicely as it did.
    since jake likes playing this game, i would not say anything about this situation, what’s the point?
    at the next event, and because of the unique nature of twins, i would check or have someone check everyone’s id personally before going on the trip and if jake does not have it, he doesn’t go – he’ll learn in that moment by the grief he causes everyone to get on board with being more responsible…

    • Tony Myles

      I like how you brought up some examples of deception in the Bible – Abraham, Jacob, and so on. I wonder if the fact that God blessed their lives, though, confuses us from realizing He didn’t endorse or command many of their questionable choices. What do you think? Does the Bible give us loopholes from its examples… or learning curves from its examples?

  10. I would have made Jake call his mom and then sent him back to the border… Walking. Hahahahaha. What a situation. I have found that truthfulness usually gets you further, but honestly, I can’t say that I would have turned around. Better you than me??? Is that fair to say? Thanks for a great article.
    Greg

  11. I would have done the exact same thing. I’m not saying that is the moral thing, or the most ethical, but putting myself in your shoes, I would have done it. I’m not sure you are teaching anyone a lesson by maybe forcing the trip to be cancelled. It is easy to sound all moral when we aren’t in tough situations like this. It was already said and done, you were already in the country. Turning around would just create more problems for everyone at that point. I imagine there would be very angry parents and senior pastors all around if there was an expensive last minute cancellation at the border.

    All that said, if I knew that was their plan, I would have said no, we need to play by the rules and tell the truth. I would have a long conversation with the twins after the fact, and with their parents as well.

    The only thing I would have done differently is that I would have collected ids before the trip left the church parking lot.

    I hope the trip was awesome and a blessing to your group!

    • Tony Myles

      Great thoughts, Erica. I don’t want to play off checking IDs, but I did entrust that to my volunteers who were also on the trip. It made it all the more of a sting when we realized the gap – even after asking students about 7-8 times to make sure they had it. Aw well.

  12. Lying for the greater good….hmmmm. Not sure about that but when I read that in one of the above comments what came to my mind was how missionaries hide Bibles in the lining of suitcases to smuggle into some countries. Don’t have an answer but there sure is food for thought on this one. I am still remembering our mission trip to Canada with a van load of kids and being pulled off to the office, all the kids had to get out in their socks without their coats and were herded in to the building while our van was examined with a fine tooth comb. This was at the border crossing by Niagara Falls. It wasn’t a pleasant experience to say the least.

    • Tony Myles

      Interesting concept. Arguably, Jesus was “hidden” in plain sight as the Savior of the world… and yet He came in the form of a baby. Maybe that’s where missionaries get these ideas? Thanks, Carol!

  13. I cringe a little reading all of the comments, they seem very legalistic and bring justice down hard on a young man, I recall Jesus with his disciples who consistently did pretty dumb stuff and there were plenty of occasions that Jesus’ lesson for them was taught through his grace and mercy. This was not letting them off the hook but a gentle way of treating the situation with seriousness and understanding. Grace and love will speak volumes to your students more than following the letter of the law. I would not send him home at his parents expense, I would talk to the brothers privately about what they did and explain why it was wrong, tell them what you could have done (going back, sending them home) but explain grace and learning a lesson doesn’t always have to come the hard way. God is patient and merciful when we screw up, we should extend that grace to others.
    For me personally I am more impacted when I receive mercy knowing I don’t deserve it, than when I receive what I expect and know I deserve. Hope that makes sense. And I hope all the students lives were touched by serving others.

    • Tony Myles

      It’s such a tough balance, isn’t it? On one hand, he was responsible for what happened; on the other hand, I was responsible… as were my other leaders… parents… all of us. We’re so quick to point fingers that we forget to own our piece of it. Thanks for the reminder, Robin.

  14. Not gonna lie – I wouldn’t have thought twice about that being a gift from God to provide for our continued ministry – I would have likened it to scales on her eyes and kept driving. I know – I’m a bad Christian. I’ll take the hit.

  15. Rahab and the spies anyone? Although her commands came from God but it does open up the conversation a bit.

  16. Michael Blackmer October 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I minister in Canada. I am a US citizen. Between the US and Canada there should not be a need to make up a story to cross the border. I find most of the guards on both sides very reasonable. Having said that I have traveled with groups to places where we could not say we were Pastors or that we were coming in to share Christ. However, we were carrying funds that were needed to bring relief after disasters. In one instance a country that had told Christians in the affected area: Christians can take of Christians since you left the state religion. The government will take care of good adherents to the official religion. We were there to visit friends…extremely truthful without our presence handing our friends over to the secret police or religious authorities. Some missionaries to not go into their assignments as missionaries but rather as teachers or business consultants. Are they being dishonest or simply finding a means to get in and share the gospel? Many of these things are not as cut and dried as we sometimes think. Should brother Andrew have rolled up to the border and honestly declared, “I am here to smuggle Bibles into your country”? Again between Canada and the US I think you just got bad advice and they may push back when told the truth but that is also their job. You can get a guard that will turn you away but that is rare in Canada and the US. I think this is an excellent discussion I would like to hear more from those that have traveled to countries that are harder to enter.

  17. First, I’d have to question a missions organization that wants you to lie (or at least be misleading) in order to serve. This is the aged old question, “Do the ends justify the means?” If our neighboring countries really have a problem letting groups in to serve, then perhaps we should stay on our own sides of the border to serve. Are we really leaving things undone in the USA, that a Canadian group needs to come here to do? Shame on us! Likewise, is the Canadian Church leaving things undone that they need a group from the USA to come in? I understand the benefits of taking a group on a missions trip, but does it really matter if the trip is to Buffalo or Toronto? If our respective countries don’t want us crossing borders to do it, I really don’t think we should lie to get it done. This is a real delima, because as I write this I think of the past where missionaries smuggled bibles in to communist countries. Was that a good enough reason to lie? Wow, how do we answer that?
    My second thought was that I probably would not have turned the van around, but I would have made it clear that what happened was not right; especially in light of the fact that everyone was told an ID was needed. I would have further made sure to mention that I was at fault for not more carefully supervising what was going on. A lesson learned for the future, “personally check that all paperwork is in order before leaving”.
    Doug

    • Tony Myles

      Well – I can this, Doug… I never used that missions organization again.

      And on my end, I agree – we could have used another step to check papers. I delegated that out to my volunteers… maybe they confused Jake and Josh in the church parking lot like the lady at border patrol did. :)

  18. TURN IT AROUND. Romans 12:17 – “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”

  19. As a Canadian I know where the boarder patrol officer is coming from, many people in Canada take offence to americans for silly reasons. In future I would tell them that you were volunteering with _________ agency, you probably would have no issues crossing the boarder. I have had similar issues when crossing to the USA to serve on missions trips my self, simply by saying the wrong thing.

    Canada has a hot economy with social programs eg free healthcare. because we are dealing with large amounts of illegal aliens the boarder patrol is very diligent!!

    Hope this helps…

    Pastor Tom Boxall

    • I also don;t tink you are lying by saying you are going to sight see, because you will. I just returned from a trip to Slovenia and we were instructed to say we were there for personal reasons…. not mission trip… many countries take offence to others propagating the gospel… Canada included… It’s important to know the culture you are going to… You would not go to China and say you were missionaries just a thought.

  20. I am surprised that most of the comments are dwelling on the lying so much. Christians lie ALL THE TIME for the “greater good” and sometimes rightly so. Those who smuggle refugees out of North Korea, lie to the government and break all sort of laws to do what they do. MLK Jr. talked about this all the time. Didn’t he say something along the lines of “an unjust law is no law at all…” something like that? Well I heard it somewhere… If we read his Letters from Birmingham prison, we know that MLK Jr. received letters from fellow Christians telling him to stand down because he was disrupting the peace and breaking the law. Sometimes, we have to break some rules for justice if the rule doesn’t stand for justice. Doesn’t Jesus teach us this when he talks about the Sabbath? We must stand for the heart of the law not the letter of the law. I think that yes, this was a great teaching moment and Jake, Josh, and their parents need a talking to. But no need to go back…

    • Tony Myles

      I appreciate the honesty, Daniel. I’m not sure that we should overlook how lying and deception shouldn’t belong in our lives, though. As best as I can tell, Jesus didn’t live it nor encourage it. Maybe we need to aim higher than the way things are?

      • Sorry, I just get irritated and annoyed when we Christians think there is an answer to everything like the world is black and white. And I have come to believe this is the HS giving me passion not my emotions.

        Love always makes room for exceptions, yes even to lying. I just wanted to point out the misconception that Christian activity is always clean and without blemish in the eyes of others. And I am not just talking about things like the crusades that had terrible obvious consequences. I am talking about even things like missions that result in saved souls and lives. This is the reason why those outside of Christianity sees Christians as hypocrites. We don’t admit that we don’t always “go by the book” like not lying. Again, I am not advocating that the end justifies the means. I am merely saying that the fact is, Christians today don’t (and shouldn’t) just sit around and wait for laws to change but they go out and make some noise that disrupts the peace…God forbid lie even to save lives and souls.

        There are 2 problems with this discussion:
        1.) I think we need to get past this notion that when we talk about a certain sin, it is going to be an objective discussion: that God is going to be pleased at the fact that we didn’t lie. No, I will lie every time to a border guard that the people I have with me are my children if it means I can smuggle them out of a country like North Korea. I think God will be pleased that I helped those refugees. I believe wholeheartedly that in that case, lying is a good thing.

        Another example would be our attitude towards people that steal. It shouldn’t be, “look at those criminals! They are sinning and so they are going to hell if they don’t stop.” It should be. “how can we make it so they don’t have to steal?” We need to have eyes of compassion not contempt when we talk about sin. Subjective not objective. Still, with no excuses.

        Sorry, I know we are just talking about a fake ID but this discussion gets deeper because it applies.

        2.) The question shouldn’t be, “is not turning the bus around sinning?” , but “where is the act of love?” In this case, the act of love is to move forward and carry on with your mission trip and teach those kids about lying.

  21. Yeah…….I would have kept going…I don’t even know if the idea of turning around would have crossed my mind. That may not be a good thing at all, but its probably the truth.

  22. Really, though, everyone? ‘lying for the greater good?’ ‘issue of justice?’ No. Sorry, but requiring an ID at a border patrol site is not a ‘hindrance to ministry’ that has to be overcome through God’s closing of a border patrol’s eyes. It is a boy who did something wrong, annoyingly so for a youth pastor. Now, whether you turn the bus around for the sake of honesty or not likely has to do with the relational capital you have with him and the church (will this kid be publically shamed, or will all understand and support him and you), how public his sin was (whether everyone knows he faked the ID or not), how far you were from your church (could someone come pick him only up, or would he have to fly home), etc. But this is not an issue of persecution where we start citing Brother Andrew. The kid did something wrong – how we handle it is the issue, not how we justify it.

    • Tony Myles

      That’s a great catch, Stephen – does making a spectacle of what happen damage this kid publicly? Or does ignoring it endorse what he did? We’re all guilty of messing up our discernment on that,

  23. Hey…I have a ton of things that I’d love to say. I am a missionary in Canada and have taken Canadian kids on mission trips overseas every summer for years. We’ve organized about 50 mission trips.
    Real briefly…
    1. Thanks so much for taking your kids on a mission trip! I pray that it was an awesome experience for them and the folks to whom they ministered.
    2. Thanks for taking them to Toronto…that’s a city in need of the Good news about Jesus.
    3. Your mission agency’s concerns over the word “work” are real and legitimate. For we (regular people) the word “work” has a very broad semantic range…for customs agents that word means one and one thing only: “you are coming to execute a particular job for which normal Canadians would be remunerated.” So when you say “work” they hear “taking jobs away from Canadians.” To do that you must have a work visa, etc. It would be much better to say something like “we’re a group of students going to visit the city of Toronto where we’ll be doing some site-seeing (which I’m sure you did) and visiting a Christian ministry that helps homeless people.” If pressed I would say, ‘we’re going to be giving them a hand for a few days’ or ‘we’ll be volunteering for a few days’ or ‘we’re going to assist them in their ministry.’ I would NEVER use the word work. EVER. I have had teams coming from the USA be refused entry at the border because they said “work.”
    4. I hate to state the obvious, but collect those ID’s from the kids before you leave the church parking lot. (I also require signed/notarized permission slips.) No passport or permission slip? Then you don’t come. [We keep all ID's for the entire trip.]
    Now, the real question…what would I do if Jake told me that he used his brother’s ID? I know that we are well within the Spirit of the Law, if not the letter…(his parents allowed him to come, etc.) and I would go with spirit over letter.
    Blessings to you in your ministry!

    • Tony Myles

      Fair thoughts, Jeff. Thanks for the encouragement as well as affirming some of the talk around the word “work.” I’ve often wondered if any of that was legit.

      And yeah – all of this happened in my younger years. It would be great to assume that even as a veteran I’ll never make a mistake or overlook something, but we all know better. In this case, I’d asked my volunteers to take on the task of managing the IDs. It turns out we needed a better system. :)

  24. I think many of us – even those saying “turn it around” – would really have a hard time actually turning around a van full of students to go back to a border checkpoint after barely getting through. I know I would.

    What I’d likely do: Continue on, wishing I hadn’t heard the remark, then take the opportunity to teach both of them about the importance of honesty. I don’t think the end justifies the means, but putting the entire trip in jeopardy for one student’s misjudgment is prohibitively impractical.

    I know it’s coming, lol – “But Jesus didn’t call us to be practical!!!…”

  25. I was in that exact same spot a couple of years ago. Thankfully, our organization prepped us for it and given two crossing options, we chose a smaller border crossing hoping it would be a little easier and faster. They made us do work permits for everyone involved(which we were told to do by our organization) and we were detained at the border for 6 hours while filling out paperwork. The kids had a great time and spent time talking to all kinds of awesome people, sharing Jesus and bringing light into peoples day. Luckily, our organization gave us letters that showed an invitation from the city we were working in and they made us have notarized forms for every student stating we weren’t kidnapping anyone and that their parents were ok with us having them so far from home. It was quite an ordeal. I walked away saying never again, and since then have found somewhere in the states to do missions projects. It was quite the experience but I won’t probably do it again!!

  26. I don’t know. I can see how, in Canada with a big fat “no, you can’t come in” being the only consequence for telling the truth, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. But what about all of the missionaries to China that go there as English teachers. We could tell them they need to be “honest” in all situations and fess up about why they’re really going. But then all outside missions work entering China is immediately over. Or how about any Muslim countries where Christianity is illegal or Bibles are contraband? I don’t think this holds in those situations.

    Ehud lied to the guards of the king so he could assassinate him…

    Would love to hear someone engage this. Does honesty have limitations? Situations where it isn’t best? What about a Christian who is in Special Forces and is captured by the enemy. The others are being tortured for info… and this guy just fesses up because honesty is the best policy? I don’t know…

    • Tony Myles

      I once heard Josh McDowell address this when asked if honesty is always the best policy. For example, imagine you’re a Christian who is hiding Jews during WW2 and the German soldiers knock on your door asking if there are any Jews in your home. Do you honor God by being honest, or do you honor God by protecting a life? McDowell argued there were levels of morality that have to be exercised. I still can’t figure out the consistency there.

      In any event, these are great questions. Thanks, Brian!

  27. Thanks for the lesson. I would have kept going. Because of this story I will always check id’s before we leave to go anywhere! We need to be the border patrol before we leave our church parking lot.

  28. my wife and i served in myanmar as missionaries 2008 – 2010. every time we will enter the nation we will tell the immigration that we are teachers. when locals would ask what our job is we will tell them that we are teachers as well because there are government spies that are looking to report missionaries and close the churches they are with.

    but crossing a border to canada where sharing the gospel is allowed i would honestly state my purpose and prepare all the necessary requirements.

    • Tony Myles

      That’s interesting, Julius. In a sense you are teachers – it just depends on if you’re asked what you’re teaching. I suppose considering the state of the country does factor into the typical missionary’s perspective.

  29. Krystal Richmond October 9, 2013 at 12:02 am

    I have to agree with Mr. Darren Sutton. Clearly God had known from the beginning of time that Jake would be such a dope to have forgotten his ID on the mission trip that He created Josh, as a perfect twin, to pick up his slack on just this occasion! God-incidence, I think so.

    But they had better not play that foolery again!

  30. I’m writing from one of those countries where “M’s” aren’t allowed. Church staff people aren’t allowed.

    Here’s a thought. Some of your students may need to come here in the future. Hopefully our Father will send them! Indeed the fields are white for harvest and we pray for Him to send more workers here. We need more workers here. Anyway, if you take your students on “M” trips and declare that purpose online or at a border, the record will probably stand forever and there may be a time in the future when they can’t come into this country because the ‘M’ word is connected to their name in a databank somewhere. And they will be refused a visa.

    Realistically, if we aim to obey J’s high calling to go into all the world and make disciples, etc, we have to use wisdom to get to the places He is sending us. In this current world of instant information, that means we have to sanitize the information we’re putting out there.

    Hoping some of your students will follow His command and come to this country or other closed countries, I suggest avoiding the ‘M’ word as much as possible, on Facebook, etc. They’ll have a better chance to get visas for closed countries in the future.

    I’ve taken a lot of students around the world and I’ve used the ‘M’ words plenty of times, mainly as explanation to our church and parents. But outside of the church, the “M” word doesn’t really translate the way we think.

    Where I live now, we “M’s” tend to really be afraid of the ‘M’ word. It’s risky/illegal and has all kinds of negative cultural connotations. You can teach ‘M’ and do “M” without using that word!

    Realistically, “M” is just a natural part of our life in Father’s family. It’s the first and second greatest commandments in action. It’s a word we’ve adopted (noun and adjective) in church to describe our obedience to Dad’s high calling. Our lives should be lived on “M” to know and serve Him. We can do it and say it without using that word.

    Thanks to Rahab and the Hebrew midwives, I’m totally at peace about working here. I teach, so I have a visa as an employee of a government school. My resume for the school is not entirely accurate. The names of my former workplaces had to be changed because church staff can’t get visas/jobs here. I would never come here without Father’s clear leading. Since He clearly set this in front of me, I came- using the means necessary to obey him. So glad our Father included Rahab and the Hebrew midwives in his Incredible Book!

    We often have to choose between obeying two commands. In this case: “do not give false witness” vs. “go in to all the world, making disciples.” These are real situations and it’s best to help our students negotiate them now. They’ll definitely face them often in the future in all areas of their life.

    I didn’t write about Jake and Josh’s ID. Just wanted to give some input to the conversation about honesty in “M” work.

  31. Great Job, Tony. I think you did the best that you could have done in that situation. Well done.

  32. Doesn’t God’s grace sometimes work in strange and amazing ways in order for God’s mission to be accomplished? Keep driving!!!! :o)

  33. The Difficulty I see is the problem that a lot of individuals are having with Authority figures. Canada was accused of having a porous border after 9/11 even accused of allowing terrorists into Canada so they could get to the USA. None of that was true but because of the USA’s concern our borders have become much more difficult. Authorities are to be honored not grumbled about we are called to honor them. The attitude that they are impinging on our freedoms and somehow stopping us from doing God’s work should be avoided by Christians.
    If you are crossing a border make the purpose one of fellowship with other Christians as they are working with others in their community. If you are doing missions work without a local group you are not looking at the long term follow up of the results of the trip.
    As a Canadian when I cross into the USA I meet the USA authority figures at you border and when I cross back into Canada I speak to Canadian Authorities. Both can feel intimidating if you have something to hide.

  34. Thanks Tony for this article. It definitely brings up a great point for everyone to think through before leaving on a missions trip. I have personally thought through these types of scenarios several times. I was a youth pastor, but I’m now serving as a missionary in Central America. One of the big things our missions organizations does is connecting short term teams with the poor and needy so that they both can find Christ. So we run into this topic a lot.

    I would definitely keep driving. I’d use that experience as a teachable moment for everyone though. That is what we should always be looking for, teachable moments. I’m not a big fan of throwing the rule book at people when they mess up, but to extend grace more often than not. I think we can learn so much more through those times when we are extended grace over punishment. I’ve seen this with my kids… Most of the time when they’ve done something really wrong, they know it. If I ask them what I should do about it, their first response is punishment. We all understand and have it built in that you get punished for your actions when you mess up. The thing that we don’t get, that doesn’t come natural, and that is rarely given to us, is grace. Moments like these set us up for hitting grand slams in the lives God has given us influence in. These teachable times help us reveal the personality of Jesus. Who would you rather follow your whole life… Someone who throws the book at you and punishes you every time you mess up. Or someone that is gracious and wants to stay close to you after you’ve failed… again. I want to follow the second guy. I’m not at all saying that we should NEVER us punishment or that there’s not situations that require it, just ask my kids, but think about… When was the last time God punished you???

    Regarding what you should say at a border crossing/immigration. No matter where you go, what you do, and who you talk to, we are always called to be missionaries wherever we are. So why do you have to say your going to be doing missions work… you’re suppose to be doing that everyday of your life as a Christian. That’s actually our mission statement. So saying your just visiting, sightseeing, going to see friends, or whatever applies to you for that trip, is not a lie. It’s simply stating part of the reason why you are entering that country. Then while you are doing what you stated, be that missionary and do that good deed.

    Love seeing this discussion and appreciate all that each of you are doing to reach people. Hopefully this perspective helps someone out there.

  35. In the summer of 2012 we had a mission trip scheduled to Calgary. We were told not to tell why we were entering Canada, just tell them we were tourists. We decided with five adults and 26 kids that the story we were told to tell would not seem plausible. We decided to tell the truth. We were held up in immigration for two hours. We stayed in the place until we were allowed to leave and we even had notarized affidavits signed by the parents of each child. At no time during the two hours did we receive any assurance that we would be allowed into Canada. Although we had a great time in Canada with good mission work and friendly people, we have decided not to return there. Instead we have begun to focus on Central America.

  36. I’ll be honest, I didn’t read all of those comments (wow, there are a ton!) so this may be redundant.
    From an objective vantage point, did you give Jake any other choice? When he said in the van that he didn’t have an ID, what options were given him?
    Jake was responsible for his decision, but it would seem the adults were equally (if not more) responsible. He wasn’t instructed on what to do, no one walked with him to the counter and helped him talk through the situation, so he got creative and got everyone out of a tight spot. In light of that, I would say it was time for the adults to take responsibility, make a right choice, and turn around. In complete honesty, though, if I were in your shoes, I would have kept going.

    Also, seems like a good opportunity to talk about how deception always leads to further deception.

    (So, was this article your confession? They say confession is good for the soul) :)

    • So, basically what I’m saying is, Jake shouldn’t have been blamed or punished, rather the adults should have taken responsibility for THEIR actions and accepted the consequences. Since Jake was a minor (I’m assuming) and you knew he didn’t have an ID, I’m pretty sure the border patrol would have agreed that you were responsible and not him. I don’t think Jake wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.

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