How to Pre-Raise Support Before You Actually Raise Support

Do you see missions in your future? Then this is for you. 

Right now, you’re just planning, and dreaming, and hoping. But one day it will finally be the right time, and you’ll find yourself filling out an application with a mission organization, packing your bags, and moving overseas.

There’s just one thing you might not be thinking about very much: Raising support. Before you can get on that plane, you’ll need to find an army of people who are willing to partner prayerfully and financially with you each month to make your missionary service possible. 

Raising support to become a missionary may just be the most challenging thing you will ever do. Trust me, raising monthly support will be a whole lot harder than raising $3000 for a short-term trip. Fundraising may require more faith on your part than even moving to a new country. But it’s necessary, and important. And guess what? There are things you can be doing, right now, to make that process much more effective when the time comes. 

So here’s my advice:

Starting now, get deeply involved in a missions-focused church. 

What do I mean by “missions-focused?” I mean a church who loves missions, and it’s obvious. They support missionaries, and they’ve got their pictures plastered in the hallway. They invite their missionaries to speak. They give regular updates on those missionaries, and pray for them often. The leadership intentionally encourages their people to consider missions (and not just for short-term trips). This is the kind of church you will need behind you when it comes time for you to raise support. If you are at a point in your life where you are looking for a new church (for example, starting college or moving to a new city), then make it a priority to choose a church that loves missions.

But what if you are deeply involved in a church that isn’t missions-focused? Should you leave and find a different church?

Not necessarily. Could you be an advocate for missions at your church? Could you meet with the leadership to discuss what a missions program would look like? Could you offer to host a Perspectives course? Could you contact your denomination to see if they offer any missions training or resources? Maybe God could use you to bring a fresh vision to your church that wasn’t there before.

And if that’s not possible, or just isn’t working? Well, I would never encourage someone to leave their church without understanding their unique circumstances, because I think it’s a big deal to leave a church. But you do need to consider how much more difficult your journey to missions will be if you don’t have your church behind you. Not only will it be significantly more challenging to raise financial support, but you will need your home church to give you spiritual, emotional, and prayer support as well. If you don’t think you’ll get that, then you should be fervently praying about your options–starting now.

What do I mean by “get deeply involved?” I mean that you need to be known at your church as someone who serves widely, frequently, and whole-heartedly. You need to take advantage of social events, men’s or women’s retreats, and church camping trips as opportunities to get to know people. Volunteer to be a greeter–that person who meets everyone at the door. You should be someone who is “always there.” Of course, I’m not encouraging you to over-stretch yourself, but your reputation should be as the one who is happy to volunteer for just about anything. Serve cheerfully, in any capacity– not just the “up front” jobs. 

When the time comes for you to talk to the missions committee about your plans to go overseas, their reaction should be “Well, it’s about time!” not “So who are you?” When your support raising coach asks you to make a list of people who know you well, the list from your church should be a mile long. It’s going to take intentionality on your part–starting now, not just when you are ready to start building your support team.

There’s a fine line here, because I don’t want to encourage you to attend the women’s retreat or volunteer in the nursery just because you’re hoping people will add you to their budget someday. You don’t want your motives to be manipulative. Hopefully, these ideas will just give you an ‘Aha!’ moment, not a guilt trip. If you find yourself resisting, you need to ask yourself, “If I’m not willing to serve here, how do I know that will change overseas?” “If it’s too much effort to build relationships here, how do I know I will be motivated to build them cross-culturally?” 

When the day comes to start humbly asking for financial and prayer support, a lot of your success will be dependent on how deeply involved you have been in your missions-focused church. Most likely, there will be a connection to how well you pre-raised support before you actually raised support.

An Appeal – A Life Overseas

Yup! We hate to ask but…!

On November 14, 2012 Laura Parker, co-founder of the A Life Overseas blog and community space posted a “Welcome Video” to the site. That was the beginning of what has now become an online community thousands strong.

We are a diverse group linguistically, culturally and theologically, but we all agree that taking the step to live, work, and raise a family overseas takes our lives to places and into circumstances we could never imagine. In this community, life is definitely far stranger than fiction.

We exist to support those in cross cultural work. Whether you’re a business person, a diplomat, a humanitarian aid worker, an educator or all those above, but you are first of all a Christ-follower this community is for you.

Cross-cultural workers cram a life into a suitcase and begin a journey into foreign places, both geographically and spiritually. Assaulted by cultural stress, ministry challenges, learning a new language, and the trauma of culture shock, these workers long for community– a sense of connection, regardless of if they are the boiling water alone in an African hut or battling public transport in a crowded Indian city. No doubt, living overseas can be brutal — on a family, on a faith, and in a soul. But, there’s no doubt, too, that it can be one of the most depth-giving experiences an individual can embrace. Like all of life, though, our stories are understood best when we have a community to share them with.

About A Life Overseas

We are in a place right now where we need funds to continue the site. We are largely funded through the writers and administrators of this blog, but we need help!

So we ask you to consider making a donation to keep the site going. Five dollars, ten dollars, fifty dollars – it doesn’t matter. Our leadership team here at ALOS is committed to keeping this going but we need your help!

Through the past eight years, if you have benefited from reading and interacting with A Life Overseas, would you consider helping?

Click this link to make your donation! And thank you!

Should Debt Disqualify a Missionary?

I don’t usually start a blog post with an “I’m sorry” . . . but I’m not above it.

I offer my sincere and heartfelt apologies to anyone who clicked on this link looking for a solid, definitive answer. I don’t have one . . . but maybe you do so I would love to engage in the conversation.

Here’s the scenario:

Young couple. Just had a baby. Know that they know that they know (or at least think that they know) that God has called them to live and work overseas. They’re willing to do the due diligence. Hit the road. Raise support. “Develop partners”.

Everything lines up with the org they’re applying to. Good fit theologically. Passed the psych evaluation. References check out.

But.

They have debt.

And so . . . rejected.

Here’s the question:  

Should debt be an automatic disqualifier (or postponer) for missionary deployment?

I want to be careful here.

If you’re like me you probably have a visceral reaction. “Absolutely it should” or “No. Absolutely not” but I dare you to try to argue for the other side (whichever side you land on) if for no other reason than to see from a different perspective.

It’s a two handed issue.

On the one hand, you have qualified, clearly called, willing and able candidates who have been duped into a system that says, “we won’t send you unless you have a degree” and “we won’t give you a degree unless you pay us ridiculous amounts of money” and “the only way you can realistically get that money is to borrow it” and “now that you have borrowed it . . . we won’t send you.”

On the other hand, you have supporters giving hard earned money for the sake of the Kingdom. They want return on investment and frankly paying off someone else’s bad decisions doesn’t qualify.

On the one hand, saying, “get a job and pay down your debt first” may make it harder for people to quit that job five or ten years down the line once they have settled into a certain lifestyle. We might lose them.

On the other hand if they are really called . . .

On the one hand, debt is a heavy weight to carry when you’re adjusting to an already stressful, cross-cultural life.

On the other hand, so is a newborn baby or a new marriage, or a new language, or EVERYTHING ELSE IN YOUR WORLD.

On the one hand the Bible and Dave Ramsey say certain things about debt.

On the other hand do past choices make you ineligible for future service?

On the one hand I support you because I believe in you.

On the other hand I support you so I’ve earned an opinion in your finances.

On the one hand God is patient and His mission is timeless. We can wait.

On the other hand . . . last days and urgency. Hurry up.

On the one hand stewardship.

On the other hand respect.

On the one hand school debt. Like Bible college. Jesus degrees.

On the other hand credit cards. Car payments. Couldn’t afford pizza one night so . . .

 

It’s not an easy topic. There are multiple angles to consider.

So consider away.

What has been your experience?

Where do you land on the issue?

Can you see the other side?

Comment below . . . I look forward to learning something.

Why Is It Always About Money?

Nik Ripken wrote an excellent article a few weeks ago about how foreigners need to be better at being needy, how we need to grow in dependence on the people around us. The specific example he used of a man doing this well was about money.

I appreciated the article but one thought lingered: Why is it always about money? I feel like our conversations about how to engage well abroad are often myopically based on money. We talk a lot about it. I’ve written a lot about it. Poverty. Beggars. Giving. Wealth. Vast differences. How to live wisely and give wisely…But living abroad well and growing in dependence on local friends has to be based on more than economics.

Money

I came home last week from a terrible day at work. A local friend lives with us on weekends and she was at the house. She watched me cry, listened while I debriefed, and then gave me a big hug. She said, “I don’t know what else to do but I feel like I should hug you.”

In that moment, I was needy. I was revealing my brokenness, my exhaustion, my frustration and disappointment. I didn’t need money. I was the one providing her with a place to stay on weekends. I didn’t need help with school fees or to beg for food to put on the table for my family. But I needed her to listen and to share my emotion.

Being needy can’t only mean needing money or being financially interdependent and I have to wonder if the man Ripken references in his article was married, a father, or a single man. Because honestly? If I had to scrape together school fees from coins proffered by neighbors and implore local people to help me feed my kids, I might not choose to live here. Call me faithless, but you can also call me honest. And feel free to pray for me to have more faith!

Ripken’s point is excellent: we need to be needy. But there are more ways to rely on each other than financially. What are those ways and how do we foster an attitude of interdependence?

holding-hands

Emotionally. We need to be vulnerable and honest about our joys and our struggles. It is easy for language or cultural barriers to hinder this kind of sharing. And, it is easy to imagine that showing our true selves, especially on a bad day, reveals weakness. Guess what? That’s true. It does show our weakness. Guess what else? We’re all weak and in our weaknesses, God is revealed as strong. So we need to get over our pride and be willing to be broken in front of and with our local friends. As if we were in authentic two-way relationships with them. Go figure!

Culturally. Anyone who is outside their home culture is clueless. Clue.Less. This lasts much longer than we would like, for some of us it lasts the entire time we live abroad. We will never learn everything there is to know about our host culture and we need to constantly be ready to reveal our ignorance and ask for help, wisdom, direction. I’ve been here thirteen years and still have to call a friend for advice on what to wear to certain events.

Spiritually. I love when my friends pray for me. Christian or Muslim, when they take the time and the empathy to bring me before the throne of God, it is a gift. I have so much to learn about faith, submission, service, hospitality, conviction, and more from my Muslim friends. I depend on them to challenge me in fasting and giving, in commitment to spiritual disciplines.

Community. We need community. We can find it in the expatriate world and there is nothing wrong with that. But if we really want to learn about and engage in our host culture, we need to build authentic community with local friends. This happens by simply doing things together. Volleyball, picnics, going to cafés, birthday parties, painting, boating…obviously the possibilities are endless. Find someone you love, find someone who loves the same thing, and do it together.

Emergency help. We’ve been robbed, we’ve had car accidents, medical emergencies, extreme loneliness, marital stress, death threats, harassment…Local friends have stepped in on our behalf more times than I can count. We don’t know how to handle the thief or who to ask about getting the internet turned back on, or which doctor is reliable, or how to respond to the threats. I am forever grateful to the people who have shepherded us through incredibly stressful situations, who have stood in the gap, able to act and make wise decisions while we can only cry or scream or sit.

There are so many more ways that we can be dependent on our local communities. They don’t have to involve money. But they do have to involve humility, authenticity, knowing our needs, and asking for help.

How do you build interdependent relationships in your community?

*image via Flickr

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Money and Missionaries: Do You Have a Plan for Retirement?

I start this off with a bit of fear. I want to talk about a topic that makes me feel uncomfortable, and I have little expertise when it comes to financial planning, but it is important so I’m going to push past my excuses.

Money and missionaries: do you have a plan for retirement?

retirement

 

Let me set this up with a bit of back ground information about me and what has both formed and informed me after working with hundreds of folks on the field. I’m going to make a list, because lists help me bring (some) structure and order to parts of life that feel large and chaotic.

  1. My personal financial history is that I come from a relatively stable, healthy family when it comes to money. Both of my parents are educated and successful. During my childhood my dad started a company that ended up not taking off and then had a serious disease and was unable to work for over a year. Before and after this period, he was employed as an engineer. They modeled and taught how to handle finances when you have a steady income and when curve balls get thrown.
  1. I had a strong sense at a young age I wasn’t going to live a “normal life” (whatever that is) and started saving for retirement at 16. Let it not be said that I don’t like to be prepared! I’ve been thinking about this subject for over thirty years.
  1. When I went to the field, it was after working in a public school where I had a job that included retirement benefits. At that time, I thought I was stepping out of the system for two years. I was still in my 20’s, so it didn’t seem like I was making a HUGE life decision or weighing much when it came to life decisions. I was simply, taking two years off at a time when two years wasn’t a big deal. That was 20 years ago.

Like me, you might be thinking this is only for a few years so you don’t need to factor in the idea of retirement. Or like me, your journey could evolve over time and “suddenly” it’s been nine years and you think, “Um, this might be a career. When did that happen?!” Or you might have entered the field thinking this was for the long haul.

You can see how any of those mind-sets could influence your approach to money and the long-term view.

  1. Coming from the west, money has been relegated to the “private” part of a person’s life. For Christians, two of the greatest areas of shame involve sex and money. We often have such shame about our finances and have no idea how to initiate talking about them, that we end up isolated and ignorant. Which, ironically, only feeds the shame. And then years pass and you might now be in an overwhelming situation.
  1. When it comes to missionaries, this discussion is complicated because instead of just the individual/family and an employer, there are often three parties involved.
  • The individual or family
  • The sending organization
  • The sending church (or churches, many churches)

Who, ultimately, is responsible for thinking about your retirement? And then let’s also throw into the discussion that there are many countries represented here at A Life Overseas. Meaning we have a myriad of philosophies and government programs when it comes to retirement.

  1. We are Christians who do live by faith and believe in a loving God who provides. Money is not to be our idol, source of security, or source of identify. (But I would also say, neither is ignorance to be our idol, that’s why I want to talk about this.)
  1. Though I could share many stories, I’ll share two here. I don’t want us to be so theoretical we miss that we are talking about real people. People like you or me.

First story involves a family of six. A surprise came up with their visa and they needed to pay an additional $50 for five of the family members. When I called to tell them, they freaked out. F.R.E.A.K.E.D. O.U.T. I get that money stuff can be stressful. As I brainstormed with them about the situation, it turns out they had $18 USD in their bank account.

And then it was my turn to F.R.E.A.K. out! Because we so rarely talk about finances, I assumed that others would have enough of a cushion in case of an emergency. Six people on the field with access to eighteen dollars. People, this is not good.

My second story involves a friend who is a mission’s pastor. Because the church had not historically had plans for retirement they have several people who need to retire now, but can’t afford to. One situation involves a man with dementia. I do not know him, so the picture in my head is purely of my own making. Can’t you see him? Doesn’t your heart go out to this man who has worked faithfully his whole life? But without much provision for this later state?

///

I am hoping this post is just the start of the conversation. I don’t want to stir up fear or undue concern, but to help bring this area a bit more into the light.

  1. When you think about preparing for retirement, do you have a plan?
  2. Who do you feel is ultimately responsible for your retirement plan? You, your organization, your sending churches, or your government? Have you talked with each of these players and asked their philosophy on their role?
  3. What is your organization doing well in this area? What is/are your sending church/churches doing well in this area?
  4. What do you wish your sending organization or church would do differently?
  5. How have you seen God provide for you thus far in your experience on the field? How does this foster hope when it comes to your finances long-term?

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

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.

————————————————

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