Being Christian missionaries in Central America is not without risks, a reality that TLC stars Jill Duggar and her husband Derick Dillard are keenly aware of.
“It’s risky here — we stand out as Americans, so definitely we’re higher risk,” Jill says in a preview clip for the Tuesday, Aug. 30, episode of Counting On. “You have to talk about things that probably a lot of couples wouldn’t talk about back in the States.”
Those kinds of conversations include things like establishing protocol to follow should one of them not return home on any given day.
“We’ve been married almost two years — we have a little baby,” she tells the camera, alluding to her and Derick’s 16-month-old son Israel David. “If we were back in the States, we wouldn’t be talking about, ‘Now if you die, what am I supposed to do from there? If you don’t come home after you are supposed to [at] this hour, then what do I do?’ It’s hard to talk about those things, but it’s also good for us to [know], like, if something happened, what I’m supposed to do.”
To be clear, the couple isn’t exaggerating the perceived danger they could potentially be in while living in El Salvador. According to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s 2015 Crime and Safety Report, the crime rating in the area is classified as critical.
In fact, El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
The crime threats in the region can “run the gamut from credit card skimming to homicide and is unpredictable, gang-centric, and characterized by violence directed against both known victims and targets of opportunity,” the report states. It also notes the danger associated with transnational criminal organizations prevalent throughout Central America.
Dillard, who seems to have a firm grasp on the issues endemic to the area, touches on the spectrum of violent crime surrounding them, saying in the Counting On clip, “The violence down here is a reality we have to deal with every day, as do the people here. In that way, we can relate better to the people we’re serving and realize that kidnapping, other acts of violence, rape, murder — those are realities here… everyone has to face them on a daily basis.”
Still, despite the obvious danger, the couple feels strongly that they are exactly where they need to be.
“I do love my life here. I think there’s not another place in the world I’d rather be right now, but there’s obviously going to be times when I miss my life in America. But I think because of the reason why we’re here, we can get past that,” Dillard explains.
“I want to learn to live in an environment, whether it’s easy or whether it’s hard, that I can be accomplishing what God’s called me to accomplish. So this just happens to be a difficult environment, but the need is real and we’re called to meet that need.”
One thing’s for certain: That need is, in fact, very real. As of 2014, more then 30 percent of the population was living below the national poverty level. Many of these impoverished people live in shanty communities that are particularly vulnerable to the threat of violent crime.
By all accounts, Duggar and Dillard are actively practicing situational awareness while their ministry keeps them in Central America, so it would seem the couple has good heads on their shoulders to match their good hearts.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.