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.