This is What Courage Looks Like

Sandy was raising support, and she was stuck. She had exhausted all of her contacts – friends, relatives, acquaintances. She had contacted all of the churches where she knew someone, and had reached out to dozens of other churches with no response. Yet she was still far away from that elusive 100% funding goal. 

So she tried a different strategy. Each Sunday morning, she would pick out a church to attend – cold turkey – not knowing a solitary soul.  She would show up at this church where she knew no one, look for a friendly face, strike up a conversation with this complete stranger, and ask if this person could connect her with a pastor or missions leader. 

Sandy is an introvert. She is warm and confident but not the kind of person who especially enjoys entering new churches and striking up conversations with strangers. But she did it because she had to. She was determined to get to the country where God had called her and was ready to do whatever it took.

I was Sandy’s coach during her support-raising season. When she described this to me, my mouth gaped open and my eyes bugged out. All I knew was that I didn’t think I’d ever have the guts to do what she was doing, Sunday after Sunday. This took resolve. This took courage. 

I thought about my own support-raising journey. My husband and I would “divide and conquer” in our support-raising tasks. I wrote the newsletters and thank-you notes; he wrote the sermons. He fixed the printer when I was about to throw it out the window. And having him by my side every time I entered a new church gave me a measure of security.

I coach many single missionary women who are raising support, and they don’t get to delegate these tasks. If they hate public speaking, they don’t have a spouse to pass that off to. If they aren’t good at technology, they still have to figure it out themselves. When their pitch is rejected, there isn’t a partner by their side to share the burden. 

We laud the courage of single missionary women when they single-handedly figure out how to exterminate a rat invasion, stop the flood seeping into their house, or replace a blown-out tire. But we don’t often recognize the additional demands of everything they must do to build a support network on their own.

I realize that much of this could also apply to single men. However, I believe that single women often face unique challenges in earning others’ respect and attention – in foreign cultures, on their missionary teams, and in the churches of their home country. 

As I walk with these women on their journey to the mission field, I brim with tremendous admiration for their grit, perseverance, and resiliency. The truth is, most of these women would love to be married with a family. For many of them, it’s their deepest heart’s desire. Yet they are steadfast in obedience while they trust the Lord with their futures. 

This is what courage looks like. 

Do you have a single female missionary in your life? Probably more than anyone else, they need advocates to raise their support. Maybe that could be you. 

“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

I’m Tired of Asking You for Money

by Erin Duplechin

I’m tired of asking you for money. There. I said it. After almost 9 years of living off of missionary support, I have grown weary of the fundraising process.

It has never been easy. In fact, in the beginning it was downright terrifying. I remember sitting in my little girls’ room with a list of people on the floor and my cell phone in my hand, praying, asking God for the strength to just help me get through three phone calls that day — just three. Three phone calls to set up a time with people, letting them know that after we shared about our ministry we would be asking for money.

A few were able to tell me right then on the phone that they couldn’t support us, but most agreed to meet with us and out of everyone we met with, around 90% chose to financially support us. God was incredibly gracious to us and we left every meeting feeling strengthened, and not just about finances. Almost everyone wound up praying for us and speaking encouraging words over us.

God always surprises you, too. The friends that you think will no doubt support you, don’t, and people whom you barely know, will. We had people tell us that God told them to cancel their cable to support us. Ultimately, financial support isn’t just about someone choosing to partner with you, it’s also about what God is doing in them.

After 9 years, it is expected that there will be ebbs and flows to support. People inevitably have to drop out or lower their support. Some do it when they encounter financial changes, some because they feel led in a different direction. Maybe some people no longer identify with what you do. It’s expected, but still difficult.

As we prepare for next year’s budget we ask ourselves again, as it has become an annual tradition, will we have enough to meet all of our needs this year? Some years we’ve had more than what we needed, some years not.

We often straddle the line between the poverty mentality and the prosperity gospel. Where we live, we are rich in comparison to most, if not all, of our friends and colleagues from our host country.

So we ask ourselves these kinds of questions, seeking God’s wisdom in the midst of money guilt and confusion: I’m close to burn out, but is it really okay for us to take vacation? I guess they can wear these shoes a little longer — I mean, the hole isn’t completely through the sole yet. If I drive the scenic route to the office that will cost me one more kilometer of fuel, am I being a good steward of my gas?

We wrestle with saving money when our friends don’t have enough to buy soap. Our sending organization requires you to budget for savings. This comes with the experience of many veteran missionaries who, after returning to their passport country, had no money to send their kids to college, no money to live off of — nothing. So, out of obedience, and using Biblical wisdom, we try to save when our finances allow for it.

We also deal with the pressure of marketing ourselves. Over and over again, selling ourselves to donors, praying that we’ll appeal to their hearts.. and their wallets. It’s hard and strange and vulnerable and honestly, I don’t want to do it anymore.

It hurts when people say they’ll support you and they don’t. It’s painful when people drop their support without explanation. It hurts when you contact people and they don’t even acknowledge that you have. It’s vulnerable and exposing and most of the time I just want to cover up and hide away.

And that is when I have to look to Jesus: my Provider, Comforter, and Strength. The one great gift from a lifestyle reliant on the money of others is the radical, humbling realization that we are absolutely, 100% dependent on God—not people. It brings me to my knees with desperate prayers on my lips: for provision, for courage, for open hearts.

The money doesn’t always flow in immediately; we summon God’s strength and continue to ask. We draw near to Him and allow Him to build up our character and reshape our hearts. We pull back our spending for ourselves and perhaps begin being more generous with others. And we pray and pray and pray.

For the supporters reading this: thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for the value you see in us and what we do. Thank you for partnering with what God is doing in the world.

For my fellow reluctant fundraisers: stay the course. God will provide for whatever it is He’s called you to do. Know that you’re not alone, that we feel it too. Embrace the closeness of God in the hours spent asking and waiting for answers. And trust Him.

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Erin Duplechin is a missionary wife and mom of three living in Papua New Guinea. She serves in missionary care while supporting her husband’s Bible translation with the Mbore people. Before moving overseas, she served as a worship leader and continues singing and writing songs abroad. When she can, she writes about God and jungle life at erinduplechin.com.

When Christians Think Like Elijah

By Tamie Davis

Recently a church from another state in Australia decided to do a church plant into my home city of Adelaide. In their fundraising video, they described the church situation in Adelaide as rough, desperate, and crying for help from outside, because there was no church in Adelaide that could viably look outside of itself enough to plant another church. They, on the other hand, had a ‘bold new plan’, and under their leadership the church in Adelaide had started to realise that it has a future.

Watching the video I felt quite taken aback: Christianity in the Adelaide I know may be small, but it is vibrant, and has seen the establishment of several thriving church planting movements in the last 10 years!

Now, at one level when they speak of the weakness of the church in Adelaide, they were just talking about their own denomination, but it felt like they were overlooking the gospel efforts of so many in my home city who have been faithfully serving Jesus and proclaiming him there.

I get that they need to raise money, and to do so they need to make the need clear. I’ve been there; no doubt all missionaries have. But I wondered, ‘If they can’t raise the money, is that it for gospel-centred churches in Adelaide? Is all lost?’

And then I read 1 Kings 19. It’s the famous ‘still small voice’ passage, where God appeals to Elijah who has fled into the desert in fear for his life from Ahab and Jezebel. Elijah says:

“I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (v.14)

Sounds desperate, right? Rough. In need of a bold new leader who can re-direct people from their apostasy and their apathy.

Except Elijah is not actually the only one left. There’s Elisha who will be come his successor, and 7000 other Israelites “who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!” (v.18) Whether this is a literal 7000, or symbolic of a body of Israelites is beside the point. It tells us that there has been resistance and faithfulness, and Elijah in his fear and his self-importance has missed it. Though it was not apparent to Elijah, God had been at work in Israel. After all, he was the one who has preserved these faithful ones (v.18).

Whether from self-importance or lack of research, Elijah overlooked this. Watching the video I wanted to say, “We are the 7000 Elijah ignores!”

I think it’s very healthy for me as a missionary to have this kind of experience. I have been on the receiving end of well-intentioned but possibly misguided people coming from outside to help and do God’s work. Yet, I am normally the outsider, and we are here in Tanzania because we have answered a need. So how will this experience shape my own mission practice?

First, I must assume that God is already at work in my context. This is particularly true in contexts with churches that are already established. But even in places without, if we believe in a missionary and creator God, we will be looking for how he has preceded us, and where the people of peace are. Where there is an established church, it is often easy to see its shortcomings, and be tempted to ‘fix’ them. Yet, whatever work is still to be done, it is the Holy Spirit’s work, in his time and in his ways, not ours. And so we must seek to slow down and delay judgement, to ask whether there’s another angle on the thing that seems so corrupt or superfluous or shallow or wizened.

Second, I choose to communicate God’s work apart from me to my supporters even when fundraising. I don’t want our co-workers or other Christians in Tanzania to be invisible when we speak to our Australian partners. There’s more money in sounding like we’re the answer to the Tanzanian church’s problems. And I don’t want to give the impression that we’re wasting people’s money by being here. But I want to communicate that we are one part of a puzzle. If we are to honour God’s people here – to honour God, really – we must acknowledge the whole body, not just the foot or the lips or the elbow that we happen to be.

Elijah ends up looking ignorant or naive at best, and foolish and self-important at worst. None of those seem like good options to me. But I’m not only concerned for my own integrity or reputation. And I’m not only concerned about being fair to those who have come before me and continue to strive in faithfulness. I’m concerned for the glory of God. Let me not be the one who obscures his work, or fails to report on it!

 

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Tamie Davis is an Aussie who lives with her husband and two sons in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. They partner with the Tanzanian Fellowship of Evangelical Students and blog at meetjesusatuni.com

9 Steps to More Ethical Fundraising

Six years ago my wife and I were in the middle of a two-year effort to raise the necessary funds to move to the Middle East as long-term workers. While our fundraising journey had been exciting — as friends and family responded generously and lovingly to our call — it was also heartbreaking. We received discouraging comments such as “Why would I give you money to go over there and get yourselves killed?” or “Why can’t you just get a real job?”

We were doing all the things we were taught to do—pray, write newsletters, make calls, send letters, schedule meetings—but after two years, we felt stuck. We were at about 50% of our goal and couldn’t seem to make any traction. One day, I just felt I needed to do something to make a statement to our potential supporters that we were as serious about this as we possibly could be and that we held them and their potential donations in the highest esteem. So I decided to write down the ways in which we were committing to respect them and their sacrifice.

I called this our “Fundraising Code of Ethics.” To me, it was a public covenant we were making to hold ourselves to a standard of maturity, transparency, and responsibility. By making it public, we were welcoming our supporters to hold us to this standard, but we also warned them we would never have a perfect record and asked them to be gracious with us. Like every healthy relationship, trust is absolutely crucial. We are all aware if donors trust you they are more likely to support you. What we learned is that we also need to have enough faith in our supporters to be transparent with them.

My wife and I started including these nine commitments in our fundraising materials and presentations. We do not think there is anything all that original or brilliant about these things; in fact, most are common sense. However, there has been value to us in writing publicly what we think good support-raising relationships look like.

 

1. We will resist the urge to solicit support through guilt. We want donors to share in our joy when they support us.

Guilt is an effective tactic. The problem is that it creates a manipulative relationship between you and your supporter—and your supporter and your work—that is based on their shame of having and others not having. I don’t want my supporters to pity me or the people we serve; pity doesn’t do anything to help us draw closer to the Kingdom of God. Serving God in the Middle East is a great privilege and joy (most of the time), and I want my supporters to share in that joy. Likewise, my wife and I support fellow workers as a part of our tithe and we do it because we are excited about the kingdom work they are doing and want to be a part of it.

Admittedly, there is a slippery slope with this one, and I personally do have to resist the urge to lapse into using guilt. There is a line, though, between saying, “Four more donors at $25 a month will send us on our way to join the exciting work God is doing among the Ugabuga people,” and “Only four more donors at $25 a month stand in our way of taking the gospel to the Ugabuga people, who are dying and going to hell without knowledge of the Gospel.”

Our work with refugees is prime territory for guilt tactics. I often think I would raise more money if I published pictures of poor families huddled around kerosene heaters in their cold and damp concrete rooms than the pictures of refugees generously serving me cup after cup of Arabic coffee while we sit and laugh at the antics of our kids.

A friend of mine works for an organization that has a policy to only publish pictures that show “people at their best.” This has been a challenging standard for me to follow, especially because I do feel that it’s important for me to share the stories of the people we serve. But even though we serve people in the midst of tragedy, we want people to join our ministry because of the potential joy and wholeness that will come, not simply because of the presence and continuation of pain and suffering. Will people be excited when they support us, or will they simply feel relieved of their guilt?

 

2. Donors will receive a monthly report on the income and expenses of the ministry.

Full Disclosure: Our sending organization requires us to send this report every month. Nonetheless, we fully support this and want our donors to be aware of it and to see our support and commitment to this standard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to tell dozens of friends and family what your salary is, but we want to be as transparent as possible.

Often, we are self-conscious that people will think we make too much and won’t give because of it; however, the feedback I received from some supporters is that they check the report to make sure we have enough resources, not to see if we have too much. That’s the kind of supporter we need more of, and we can’t have them unless we live in a relationship of transparency.

Will some people decline to support us because they think I should not be making as much as I do? Maybe, but I have to ask myself how healthy that relationship will be over the long run.

 

3. The donor’s privacy will be respected.

This one seems simple but in practice takes care. It’s too easy to be out to dinner with friends and say something about how generous another friend’s support is. We try as hard as we can to keep financial support a private matter.

      

4. The donor’s questions will be answered honestly and in a timely manner.

Supporters are our partners in this ministry. They see things from a different perspective than we do, and we respect and value that. I want to encourage a culture on our support team that supports a healthy dialogue about our decisions and tactics. Sometimes asking questions is also part of their process to decide to begin or increase their support. I want to build allies who have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of who we are, what we do, and why we do it that way.

We have also all had to field our share of seemingly silly and bizarre questions: Why do you need a car? Why can’t you deliver refugee aid supplies by bicycle? How was your mission trip? When are you coming home to get a real job?

What we’ve decided and have committed to our supporters is that we are going to try our hardest to respect inquisitiveness and give the benefit of the doubt by answering their questions humbly and joyfully.

 

5. We value unity in the church and will resist dogmatism.

I think most donors want to know their funds are not being used to support some sort of denominational turf war overseas. Once I was petitioned by a worker in Asia to support a new outreach in a village he claimed had no believers. During our discussion, I asked what religious groups were active in this area. He replied, “Well, [one particular denomination] has planted a lot of churches there.” There might be some supporters who want me to carry the flag of our denomination, but I think most care more about their funding going to where it’s needed most to do Kingdom work.

 

6. Our highest commitment will be to remain biblical in both our ministry and how we portray it.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but including it in this list is another layer of commitment to our support team that the Bible will be our ultimate authority in how we conduct our lives and ministry. By including this in our code of ethics, we are willingly opening ourselves up for biblical correction by our partners.

 

7. Our trials and triumphs in ministry will be accurately reflected in our communications; we will not sugarcoat or embellish.

“You mean you don’t skip out the door every morning singing hymns after spending two hours in prayer and then baptize three people before lunch and plant a church before dinner?” No, sometimes we get really discouraged by the lack of fruit in our ministry and need to call in some help to encourage us and get us back in the fight.

I’m also not going to fill my newsletter with a bunch of stories about our trials and tribulations to guilt you into giving more (#1). I’m just going to try to tell it like it is, as often as possible, and hope you and I can trust each other to deal with the real-world facts in a loving and gracious manner.

 

8. The financial decisions we make concerning our life and ministry will be made with health and longevity as a primary goal.

“Wouldn’t my financial support be better used to buy food for refugees than an air conditioner for your house?” Well, not if I come home from delivering that food to find my wife packing our bags. Sometimes we spend donors’ funds to immediately buy blankets, and sometimes it goes into my child’s college savings plan via my salary. Heck, sometimes it goes to get my wife a massage at a day spa. Again, we don’t think our donors’ money is going to do anyone any good if we are burned out and leaving the field.

Most missionaries are frugal by nature, but we need to be wise. Sometimes, instead of buying the absolute cheapest, we spend a little more on a tool or resource because we want things that will last and be useful to us for as long as we need them. This is good stewardship to us. We believe and hope that our ministry will increase in effectiveness and fruit over time, and we have to let our supporters in on that long-term perspective.

 

9. Donors have the right to discontinue support at any time without fear of guilt or reproach.

We have talked to potential supporters who list the fear of not being able to continue indefinitely as a reason for not starting to support us now. Likewise, we’ve seen people distraught as they come to us and say they have to cut back on their support.

Similar to not using guilt to motivate, we don’t want people to feel guilt for having to stop. Situations change, and we are not the judge of anyone’s budget. We want to assuage this fear from the beginning of our partnership. We trust God will provide for our lives and ministry.

 

Well there you have it, our nine-point Code of Ethics for Fundraising. Naturally you will want to know if this worked, and I don’t have a clear answer to that. We did end up raising all of our funds and have enjoyed generous financial provision on the field. A few people have given us positive feedback to the Code of Ethics, but most never said anything about it.

I can honestly say, though, that committing to these things has challenged me to conduct fundraising with a higher level of integrity and conscientiousness. Having confidence that I have raised our support with a commitment to these ethics has made me take our resources more seriously.

It has also relieved me of possible embarrassment and shame of fundraising. This isn’t a gimmick. To us it comes from our hearts, and it has been entirely worth it just from the standpoint that I can look my supporters in the eye and enjoy a trusting and mutually respectful relationship with them.

 

What fundraising principles have you tried to live by?

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Matt is a missionary in the Middle East, where he leads a team that partners with a local church to provide aid to refugees. He’s also an adjunct professor for Johnson University. He ministers alongside Susan, his wife of seven years, and their 3-year-old daughter Annabelle. Matt and Susan worked in social work in Knoxville, Tennessee for 6 years before moving to the Middle East. He enjoys cooking, scuba diving, and talking about big and daring ideas.

Their Purpose is NOT to Give Us Money

There is a subtle mindset which can creep into our thinking as missionaries and social activists.

We can begin to think that there are those who are called to go, and those who are called to give.

Jesus himself said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38

Historically this view has played out in multiple ways.

In his book, Futureville: Discover Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow, Skye Jethani recounts this path through history.

Eusebius taught a two class style. He said there is the perfect life (ministry) and the permitted life. All those not called to a “full-time” ministry emphasis could engage in vocations which were permitted.

The Protestant Reformation brought reform to this with the understanding that God is glorified in all areas of life – including work. This resulted in a dedication to work which was called the Protestant work ethic.

The strength in this is value brought to all vocations. The weakness is that work can become the focus. Our mission or calling can become our identity, even taking the place of God in our lives. Our mission becomes our God. (For a further development of this idea, I would recommend Jethani’s book, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. It is one of the most challenging books I have read in years.)

The Puritans had a bit of a different twist, saying each person had multiple callings which much be woven together:
– Highest calling – God himself and relationship with Him.
– Common calling – Biblical commands for life, family, evangelism,  and social concern.
– Specific Calling – Vocation, unique expression in the world.

So which is correct?

Probably a blending of the Protestant and Puritan view.

The application for us as missionaries is more profound.

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How do we view those who support us and provide for our livelihood? How do we see those called to different vocations?

A subtle sense of superiority can creep into our minds.

If someone is not involved in social transformation or evangelistic training and discipleship of souls, we cannot see them as second class citizens.

Jethani asks, “Do we value businesses for their ability to create jobs, sustain families and produce products and services which bless people or do we see them as a means to fund the ministry?”

Often, we can slip into the mindset that businesses exist to make money to give it to those doing the work of the kingdom – I hear it from people all the time on both sides of the issue.

Jethani adds, “Those who pursue and address social change are exalted…but how does a dentist, roofer, or homemaker find purpose? Are they require to give their surplus time and energy to the “cause”, whatever that might be.”

I would add that their primary purpose is not to give money to the causes. Yes, a missionary just said that people’s primary cause is not to give money to me!

All of life is spiritual, not just the things which pertain to missions or social change.

We as “full-time” workers in traditional Christian vocations need to keep this in mind. I have seen far too many people feel a deep sense of inferiority for merely being a businessperson or medical worker. That is not the heart of God.

How do we walk in this truth? And how do we help our donors feel valued for what they contribute to life and society, not merely the money they give to us?

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

Photo by Erik Cleves Kristensen via Flickr

Fundraising

The summer heat of Oklahoma turned our dingy, grey duplex into an oven. I shuffled papers around, crouched over my bulging belly on the crusty, rust colored shag carpet. Expectancy within, the birth of our third child. Expectancy all around, our impending move to Bolivia. The two events would occur in the fall, just weeks from each other, respectively. The papers contained names and addresses.

We finished our mission school classes and counted down to our launch. Consumed with the tasks of unhooking from our natal culture, we took a step of faith. Our most recent correspondence announced to the world we had quit our jobs. We would derive our sustenance from the generous financial gifts people sent to us. Per our instruction in missions school, we took strategic steps to divide our contacts in lists for effective communication.

crusty rust colored shag carlet and paper piles

‘List A’ : people who had given money in the past or who were sure to give in the near future.

‘List B’ : folks who needed to stay informed whether they gave or not, and the praying people.

‘List C’ : all the rest.

My two chubby toddlers took sweaty naps while I sorted the print-outs into three piles.

With my brain fully engaged in the act of classifications, a simple voice whispered at the corner of my soul, “I am your only list.” My fingers flew, filing on the floor, as I knelt before the homage to our own proficiency. I breathed out a distracted, “Yes, Lord, you are on the top of ‘List A’”.  In penitence to effectiveness, my sorting sped up.

Then the grace, oh the amazing grace of my God, came in thicker than the squelching humidity sticking to my skin. This time the voice flooded every corner of my heart, “I AM your only list.”

A a parent, I change my tone if I have to repeat myself. I recognized the tone. I let the papers slip from my hands. Palms turned upwards, I closed my eyes and leaned my head back. I repented.

That pertinent conversation, rubbing at my impertinence, happened in 2001. Have I really lived by those words over a decade? When panic attacks, I go back to those words. As I scramble to reduce, cut back, and suck it all in so we can make it, these words bring comfort.  In seasons of abundance and in times of drought I rely, by faith, on my Only Source. My God. Through tears of joy, fear, or sorrow, I can say with Paul,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

We trade independence and live in dependency. I cringe when I have to answer, “No, we are not with an organization, we are ‘independent’ missionaries.” For I am NOT independent! I am completely and utterly dependent upon my God. I take faltering steps, trusting Him to show us the path.

He overrides my lists. He requires I draw close to Him all the time. He points out His unique provision. Through other people, by creative ideas, and with undeniable miracles, He proves to me He is my only list.

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listThis piece comes as a response to the many messages, emails, and comments from newbie missionaries who read A Life Overseas.

There are millions of ways to get money as a missionary.

Let’s take up a collection right now. What?! Not a collection of money, silly. A collection of resources in the comment section below. Don’t be shy! What methods have you employed to finance your passion? My kooky list is included…

– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie work blog: House of Dreams Orphanage