Wednesday, May 02, 2012

How Missionaries and Politicians Are Alike

Riddle: How are missionaries and politicians alike?

Answer:  They both are always raising funds.

Politicians say they must continue to raise money to stay in office.  Television advertisements, bumper stickers, placards and direct mailing costs money.  Even though politicians have a salary, health benefits, travel expense and taxpayer funded office expense; to stay in office the folks in D.C. nevertheless continue asking voters for their votes and their dollars.

Missionaries, of course don’t have the perks of government “servants.”  For most cross-cultural workers, if they do have a salary, health insurance, a retirement package or office expense, they must raise funds from churches and donors.  Any ministry accomplished on the mission field, such as building classrooms at a Bible school, digging a well or printing study material, falls on the shoulders of the missionary to the find funds for such projects. 

Being a career missionary means one must also be a career fundraiser.  Why?

DONOR ATTRITION:  A missionary seldom, if ever, is able to maintain 100% of his/her support.  Each year the missionary receives notes from churches or individual contributors saying they will have to discontinue their support.  Sometimes it’s because of an economic downturn in the donor’s location.  Sometimes it’s because there is new leadership in the church and, though the congregation has supported the missionary for twenty years, the new pastor may decide they will drop that support because they don’t know them.  Or perhaps the church takes on a different mission philosophy or policy.  Whether the merits of donor attrition is valid or not is irrelevant, the fact of the matter is, donor attrition makes career fund raising a reality.

COST OF LIVING:  The price at the pump is hard on everyone, including those who serve overseas.  We all know that prices never go down, they just keep going up.  Housing rent, food, clothes, insurance, building materials and school fees increase.  Single donor support seldom increases.  Though the $50 a month support is regular, and certainly appreciated, its value is drastically depleted.  The buying power of $50 in 1992 now takes $81.82 in 2012.  Continual support raising is an attempt to keep up with inflation.

One reason there are fewer people committing to serving overseas as missionaries is this obstacle of fund raising.  I meet young people often who tell me they would like to be missionaries but they just don’t like the idea of going to friends and churches and asking for support.  It seems like a lousy system, but for career missionaries it’s the only system they have for living and working cross-culturally.

Being a missionary is an honorable calling and, unlike politicians, it is a profession that is driven by service, not by an attempt for power or economic advancement (that is not to say there are not honorable politicians, but their profession is often perceived as being more self-serving than serving the people).  Career missionaries are not in it for the money, power or economic advancement, they just want to serve Christ in taking the Gospel to those who do not know Him.

To those of us who support missionaries, individually and corporately through our local church, may we continually be sensitive to their financial needs.  May we never assume that because they are on the field they are doing okay.  May our prayers on their behalf be matched with realization that without our support they cannot carry on the task of the Great Commission.