Saturday, June 22, 2013

Missionaries should not have to beg

There is something about mission work and missionaries that fascinates me.  Over the years I have read dozens and dozens of missionary biographies.  I have read them to my kids and in fact, I am reading the biography of Gladys Aylward (missionary to China) to the boys right now and they LOVE it!  The fact that missionaries leave their homes and families to serve people they don't know with passion really intrigues me.  Learning more about them and from them is something I can't get enough of.

Over the years Blaine and I have supported missionaries through prayer and some we've personally supported financially.  We have given to support missions in our church.  I have friends who are missionaries or who are currently working to get to the mission field.  And of course now I have a daughter and son in law in the same position.  Seeing up close just how much work they do to get to where God wants them has surprised me.  Even though I love missions and missionaries and I thought I knew quite a bit about that field I realize now just how much I didn't know.  Which is the reason for his blog post.

Allow me to go back a bit.

When God lays on a persons heart to be a missionary, He gives them an unquenchable desire for them to be there.  That place and those people are on their minds every hour of every day.  Because of this deep feeling, they naturally hope that once others hear their heart and see God's vision they will want to join them in helping them get to that goal.  They will pray and they will give.

They meet with families, sharing their video and God's calling on their lives.  They speak to groups, showing them the people they will be working with and explain why they are needed there.  They start a blog and putting themselves out there on Facebook and begin asking for supporters.  This may be very uncomfortable for them but they do it anyway because it is essential to build up a strong base of support.

While all this is going on, they often sell their home, their cars and their belongings.  They live with family, which is not always comfortable.  They write letters, fill out hundreds of pages of applications, have endless Skype meetings with their sending agency.  Often times they have to quit their jobs to go to the mission training required by their sending agency.  They spend thousands of their own money on that mission training.  And all the while they wait.  They wait for the supporters they need in order to be allowed to go.

Many mission agencies won't let a missionary go until they reach at least 80% of their yearly budget. Some of their yearly budgets are $70,000 for a single person.  Add to that  a spouse and children and you're talking a lot of money. What I didn't know or understand was that most missionaries need a lot more money than I thought.  They need travel expenses, housing expenses, food expenses...that's all obvious.  But they also need to take language school when they get to their destination (which can cost hundreds per month), they have to pay taxes to the U.S. Government (who knew?) and they need to set aside money each month for a yearly vacation.  The burn out level among missionaries is huge if there is no down time.  I have to admit, I hadn't thought of this. How does it make sense that we as Americans take a yearly vacation from work because we need the stress relief and time to regroup but missionaries do not need that? The pressure on them is great.  They miss the comforts of home and their families.  Often times the culture is completely different to the one they came from.  The spiritual battle is exhausting.  If we want missionaries to stay and do the work God called them to, they need a vacation!  I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't see that before but I do now.  Missionaries don't take a salary.  They just need their expenses covered.  They're not making money on the deal:)

As my friends shared with me their frustrations on fundraising, God gave me an idea.

If Christians ALL chose just three missionaries to support monthly, they wouldn't have to go around begging people for their support.  They could leave and be on the ground much sooner.  Yes, they still would have to go around and speak to groups and families but they would have a LOT more support.  I'm not talking about sponsoring a child, giving to a cause or any other wonderful giving Christians give to monthly or yearly.  This is in addition to any other giving you do.  I'm talking about directly choosing 3 missionaries per person or per family who you would support as a family with prayer, encouragement through emails or letters or care packages while they're on the field and with monthly financial support if and until they are off the field.  And at that point, you choose another missionary to support.  Just think if everyone did that!

I know I'm probably stepping on some toes here but that's not my intention.  It doesn't have to be a huge amount per month or it could be.  You could give more to one than the others depending on need.  Ideas are endless here.  When you give ongoing support it gives you and your family a sense of partnership with your missionary.  You learn about and care about people on the other side of the world who you otherwise wouldn't have known even existed. Don't we all want that as Christians for ourselves and our children?

There are a LOT of Christians who are not themselves goers but we should all be givers. If we all "Supported Three," my giving will overlap with the giving of many, many others and missionaries will feel supported the way God intended them to be.  The Bible is full of commands to give and to go.  By giving, we get to participate in the mission directly.  And we receive the blessings that go along with that.

"You can be a goer, a sender, or disobedient.  The Bible does not assume that everyone goes.  But it does assume that ones who do not go care about goers and support goers and pray for goers and hold the rope of the goers." John Piper

So there it is.  Choose three missionaries to support monthly today.  Support the ones you know.  Go to your church and ask for missionaries needing support.  Get involved.  Give.  Go.  Pray.

Be blessed.


  1. Greetings from Africa I am a train cross-cultural missionary since 2006 without any support from our local church because I decided to obey the will of God and not the policy of the church
    What can you do to help me in the as far as tent making is concern to be able to support the ministry?
    God bless you

  2. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly dont know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks...

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  3. Is the presence of one single missionary really worth $70,000 to the communities that they work in? Especially given what a HUGE sum of money that represents in other countries, what else that could do for them? Wouldn't that money be better spent in the communities in need themselves? And/or in the form of bed-nets, vaccinations, medical equipment, school supplies, infrastructure? Unless the missionary has a very specific valued skill set (doctor, dentist, etc.) one has to wonder if it's really more about the missionary than those they're trying to help.

    1. Here in the Philippines missionaries can continue to live their Western lifestyles. They can drive nice cars, wear the newest clothing, eat at Western style restaurants, and live in comfortable homes that are of a much higher class than the average citizen in the Philippines can afford. How can people living like the top 1% reach some of the poorest people in the entire world? It doesn't work. If it did, the Philippines would no longer be a third world country and nearly everyone would be Born again long before now since Western missionaries have been coming here for many, many, decades. Just imagine if all of the money sent to sponsor Western missionaries all these years went directly in the hands of local ministries what could be accomplished.

      Let me give an example of how much it costs a typical Western missionary to live here in the Philippines on an annual basis. Most Western missionaries bring their wives and children along with them. So a typical missionary family would consist of husband, wife and three children. (Some have more, some have less) They typically rent homes in more affluent neighborhoods, the children attend private schools of course, and they have to eat. The following numbers are going to be conservative, so lets add these three items up.

      5 people eating 3 times a day @ P60 per meal = P900 a day X 365 = P328,500 (This alone already exceeds the average Filipino families annual income which is about P235,000!)

      Rent P20,000 per month X 12 months = P240,000 (Once again this number is above the average Filipino families annual income)

      Three children sent to private school. Many missionaries in Davao and Manila send their children to Faith Academy where the tuition is P215,000+ annually per student. The cost of three children to go to school P645,000! But to make up for those who do not attend this particular school I will cut this number in half to be more fair. P322,500.

      So just the above figures alone come to an annual total of P891,000. (Families in the richest decile in the Philippines earn an annual income of only P715,000)

      This amount does not include shopping trips to the mall, excursions to resorts, trips to starbucks or the movies, gas for the car, utility bills, and lets not forget the annual trip home to escape the "suffering" life of a missionary in a third world country.

      Currently a round trip ticket to the US averages around P65,000, multiply this by five family members and you are looking at P322,500. So lets go ahead and add an additional P100,000 to this amount to compensate for all the additional expenses I just named and we come up with P422,500 to add to the budget. This brings our total to P1,313,500 per year! This is the amount needed before a single peso goes to the ministry. Jesus said you must deny yourself and pick up your cross, be willing to leave behind your riches, family, friends, and be willing to die for Him tomorrow if necessary. Hmmm

      There was once a time when Western missionaries needed to go into countries where the Gospel was not preached, but today there are enough indigenous Christian leaders who are more capable than outsiders to spread the gospel. They already know the language, they know the culture, they don't need visas, and they don't have to return home for a vacation from the field. More importantly they will live at the same economic level as the people they are reaching rather than living a Western lifestyle in a foreign land which means more people can be sent with much less financial burden on the church.
      Western missionaries do good things. They feed the poor, they help build houses and schools. They give away clothing and money to the needy, but this makes them no different from any other NGO that works with the poor. What does make them different in addition to living way above the standards of the people they are trying to reach is their method of reaching the masses.

    2. Are you familiar with NEOS in Tagum City

  4. Hello, I just found your blog as I searched for information on Korah after coming back from a missions trip. I just wanted to know how your family is doing in Ethiopia and what organization are they working with so I can follow their blog. Please email me at kishag (at) live (dot) com Blessings to you all and thanks for writing. I hope that you all are well as it appears you haven't written in a while. God Speed.

  5. If you think missionaries don`t take a salary and are barely living, come live among the missionaries like I do. They live like royalty compared to regular people. They have bigger houses, their children go to elite international schools, they always are going out to eat, they travel all over the world, they have resort houses and often go on retreats. They have support money from home, salary from the mission in the country they are living, and do side jobs for extra money like weddings for nonBelievers. Their work is simple a 30 minute sermon a week is all one missionary does and gets at least $150,000/year. Another does 4 Bible studies a week and that's it. As for culture and language most just stick to the missionary groups and never really learn the language or culture. They don`t like to mix with the natives. Missionaries used to be my heros until I actually lived among them and saw what they really are. They steal, they cheat, and can be really mean and nasty. Then they go back to their home countries making up amazing missionary stories. I don`t believe in missionaries.