My Love/Hate Relationship with Living on Support

Lois was only a few weeks away from death when I visited her in a nursing home. Lois was a widow, and she supported our ministry in Tanzania at $200 a month as a widow. By the time I could visit her, she had developed cancer. I told her how grateful we were that she supported our family so generously for so many years. 

“It’s my pleasure,” she told me, her eyes bright with the energy her body lacked. “You know, I discussed this with my kids. They agreed that they didn’t need a big inheritance. They are okay with me giving away my money to missionaries.” I sat there dumbfounded, tears in my eyes.  

In Tanzania, we attended a church where we were often the only non-Africans present. One Sunday, the preacher spoke passionately about God’s call to cross-cultural missions. Afterward, an African woman I had never met approached me. She smiled and said, “Thank you for serving as missionaries!” She handed me an envelope containing about $75 – a considerable amount for many Tanzanians. My eyes gaped. My mouth gaped. I’m sure I looked like a codfish. All I could think was, She probably needs this more than I do. Yet I knew it would insult her to refuse, so I sputtered out my thanks and hugged her.

Our mission organization keeps a database of every donation we’ve received since we first moved overseas in 2001. Sometimes I look at the cumulative totals our donors have given us, some going back 20 years. They could have gone on a nice vacation with that money, I think to myself. Maybe an Alaskan cruise. That family could have remodeled their kitchen or bought a car with these donations. And in one case, They could have bought another house with that money. Not kidding. A whole house. 

When we knew we would relocate from Tanzania to the States in 2020, my husband and I started a job search. We cast our net far and wide, looking at schools, churches, and non-profits. There was one thing, however, that I was adamant about: whatever we decided to do next, I did not want to be in a support-raising position. No siree. I had been there, done that. No matter how cool an opportunity sounded, if it required raising support, I was out. I’d lived on support for 18 years. It was time to move on. 

But I have this wonderful friend, Alyssa, who has this habit of drilling into my soul. So when I told her my intention of finding a regular, non-support-raising job, she was not satisfied. “Why not?” she insisted. “What if God shows you the perfect job that is a perfect fit for you, but you have to live on support? Would you still say no?”

It’s so irritating when Alyssa is right. A couple of months later, God dropped that exact scenario into my lap, and I was forced to reckon with my resistance to living on support. What was my problem? God had always provided abundantly for us through the generosity of others. I loved the relationships I had formed with supporters. So why did I hate it so much?

I thought of Lois, and the woman with the envelope at church, and the people who could have bought a house with their donations. I realized I hated how their generosity made me feel so….humbled.

When you are trained in support-raising methods, they tell you that “the ask” will be hard. It’s challenging to look someone in the eye and ask if they will sacrificially donate money so that you can fulfill your calling. But you know what they don’t tell you? That asking may be hard, but receiving is even harder. 

After all, I’m a good, hard-working American with some hefty bootstraps. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone. I don’t want anyone to sacrifice on my behalf. I’d rather earn my keep. 

And therein lies my problem. Living on support feels like grace, and I don’t like grace. 

Those words fly out of my brain and through my fingers, and I instantly feel foolish. Considering that grace is the heart of Christianity, you could say this attitude is a problem for someone following Christ. 

The Creator of the universe lowered Himself to become dependent on mortals, so who do I think I am that I should refuse to depend on others? Is this not the Lord’s earth, and everything in it? Is it not God who provides for my needs, even when I try to provide for myself?

Daily I must release my independence. I cannot be self-reliant, and when God provides through others, I must lower my pride and receive it. I am not in control; I cannot spend my money as though I deserve it, and I am reminded that I am only a steward of God’s resources. Ironically, living on support teaches me how I should be living as a Christian. 

I surrendered and said yes to the perfect job that was a perfect fit, even though it meant I had to rely on support. I am ground to the dust in gratitude for the three churches and 76 households who faithfully continue to financially support me. But Jesus spent a lot of time in the dust, so I love the opportunity to identify with Him. 

Photo by Andre Taissin on Unsplash

“Real” Thinking About Money and a survey

Several weeks ago the post I’m Tired of Asking You for Money resonated with many. On Facebook it reached more than 7,000 people, was liked/loved/laughed at 130 times, shared 64 times, and received 24 comments. Needless to say, author Erin Duplechin isn’t the only one tired of asking for money!

Unbeknownst to Erin, I had a rough draft of a finial survey to help me understand the needs and pressures related to finances. Seeing the reactions to Erin’s post, I’ve been thinking about finances and my own reactions to raising support. I thought this post was going to go in one direction—I’ve researched proverbs in the Bible related to mind, heart, and hands of support raising and what Lady Wisdom has to say about the subject—maybe another month that post will see the light of day.

Today, I was reminded of what I wrote in Getting Started: Making the Most of Your First Year on the Field.

“Moving from a ‘real’ job before I went tot he field to a ‘ministry’ one meant that my finances went from being (mostly) my business to the whole wide world’s business. Not quite, but that is how it felt. I needed to add my parents to my bank accounts so they could handle financial stuff in the States; I needed to discuss specific dollar needs and funds raised with anyone who would listen, and I needed to decide whether or not I wanted to raise more money to cover ‘nonessentials.’ (I did not, a decision I would come to regret when I did not have medical evacuation insurance.)

As a teacher I knew I earned my salary through my hard work. As a cross-cultural worker I did not make money; I raised support and lived off the generosity and faithfulness of many dear people. To this day, decades later, I still find myself thinking in terms of earning a ‘real’ salary versus being on full-time support.”

You can read more in Chapter 7. As I worked on Getting Started, it struck me that we only use the word “real” with “salary.” When was the last time you heard the phrase “my real body” as opposed to a “my ministry body”? You don’t. You have a body, I have a body. Or “real weather” versus “ministry weather”? No such distinction. The enemy may have also warped the idea of “real” when it comes to your livelihood.

I need to think more theologically accurately about finances and need your help. Would you take a few minutes to fill out the survey? The intro says:

“We understand that finances in full-time ministry can be complex. On the one hand, we live by faith, trusting God. On the other hand, He has entrusted us with a certain degree of personal responsibility. In addition, we all come from different passport countries with different health care, educational, and retirement systems. This survey is completely anonymous so that you are able to share freely. Thank you for taking the time to help us understand your world better so that we can serve you more effectively. Our hope is to foster financial contentment and the ability to rest in the Lord’s provision.”

Please take the survey here.

Here are a few of the results thus far:

What are your current three most pressing financial stresses?

—PhD tuition. Possibility of monthly
salary cut. Savings being depleted (yet, grateful I had minimal savings).
—Needing to raise support for our children’s educational needs — high school 
—Retirement, retirement, retirement.
—big repair for our vehicle, saving money
—Churches dropping us because we were forced to change fields, the rising cost of living abroad, the dropping value of our sending country currency

What financial issues and areas would you like to discuss or provide training? 

How to feel confident in direct asking for support. 
Retirement // How to send your kids to college // Balancing saving and wise living.
Communicating with donors.
Finding new partners when you feel your resources are tapped out.
I think at this point churches receiving training on why they can’t just drop support out of the blue is most urgent.

Thanks for taking the survey!


Do you find waiting hard? As my niece said, “I just want to know what will happen, then I can wait.” Advent is a season of waiting for the birth of Christ and the beginning of the Church Year. In this workshop, you will be introduced to the role of the Church Year, the role of waiting in spiritual formation, and how to wait. 

Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

Missions and Money: A Never Ending Tension

The Bible is full of truth.

Sometimes, the challenge lies in which blend of truth to apply. Many of these tensions surround missions and money.

Let me present three areas missionaries deal with.

1. Raising support as a missionary or minister.
2. Being generous to the poor and needy.
3. Saving money for your future, children’s education, and ultimately an inheritance. 

All these areas are supported by a multitude of Scripture. We cannot pick and choose our favorite, but rather find a way to apply an aspect of all these truths.

Some rights reserved by epSos.de
Some rights reserved by epSos.de

Here is a small sampling of the truth Scripture presents in these areas. The Bible talks about money often, we should take notice! (All verses from the English Standard Version)

1. Raising support as a missionary or minister.

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”  (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14)

“One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” (Galatians 6:6)


2. Being generous to the poor and needy.

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)

“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)


3. Saving money for the future of you and your family.

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11)

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

I realize these verses are but a sampling of the dilemma we face. It would be easy to dismiss them saying, “Yes but…”

As believers and missionaries, we tell people they can’t pick and choose which truths to apply. Neither can we.

As missionaries we need to have a degree of application stemming from all these truths in our life.

I would go so far to say all missionaries need to wrestle with issues of financial support, being generous to the poor, and saving for our future. Neglecting any of these is neglecting a part of the Word of God.

I have witnessed missionaries who ignore truth in these areas. Some are now older and wondering where they will be since they have lived a life of trusting God to provide.

Trusting God is true. But trusting God is one truth. We cannot take it at the expense of others, including providing for our future.

My goal is not to make absolute statements, rather to provoke “A Life Overseas” discussion.

Would you help us learn from each other by answering one or both of the following questions:

For a moment of honesty….which one of these is most difficult for you? (Just because we are in ministry, does not mean being generous to the poor is always our easiest one. True Confession. It is the hardest for me!)

What is your experience in dealing with blending these truths? How do you reconcile them?

Ready! Set! Discuss!

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes