Missionary Support: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Play portraying the arrival of the first missionary to the Mape people in Papua New Guinea

Do you know what was the hardest thing for me in becoming a missionary? It wasn’t the culture stress. It wasn’t the transience and frequent moving. It wasn’t dealing with international borders and political restrictions. It wasn’t tribal warfare and crime. It wasn’t language learning. It wasn’t having a missionary job that is different than what most people imagine a missionary does. It wasn’t even arranging for education for our children. It was money.

I had a good engineering job and regular paychecks. I could plan out and actually calculate how much to budget for various things and live the American dream. But God called me to do something different: to use the skills he had given me full time in an activity that doesn’t directly produce any income. Instead, I was to provide services for others for free, but live on donations. Pride is an ugly thing. I did not want to beg, but that is what it seemed to me that I had to do to survive that way. It turns out that I made two mistakes: (1) being proud, and (2) assuming that I actually had to beg. It didn’t help when some beloved relatives asked when I would get a “real” job or rebuked me for not having enough saved for retirement.

So how do I cope? Well, first, I determined to obey God. I KNOW that He called me to do what I do (distributing the Holy Bible to as many people as I can in the languages they know best and the formats that are most useful for them). I also know that if I hold down a regular job for pay, I can’t devote the time to this task that it takes to do it. Obviously, my missionary journey has taken me well off the grid at times. And at other times, I am very much on the grid doing Internet Bible distribution. But it all takes focus and undivided attention. So my first breakthrough was when I realized that I really wasn’t asking for people to support me just so I could survive without a full-time money job, but so that I could devote myself to serving the people God called me to serve. Therefore, if I beg, it isn’t for myself, but for them. Then there is the good part: I don’t have to beg. Honestly, the closest I come is letting people know there is an opportunity to share in the work God has led me to do, and then God moves on people’s hearts to help. I have no obligation beyond that. No need to manipulate, exaggerate, or cajole people. Seriously, who likes that?

So, if you can’t give to me or any other missionary cheerfully and as unto the Lord, please don’t. I have learned over many years that God will find a way, and it isn’t always through the people you think it might be, or through the job, or whatever. God is very creative. But if you want to share in the joy of what we are doing, and are happy about sharing the reward in Heaven of more people coming to Jesus, escaping the punishment they used to deserve and being redeemed for life forever with Jesus Christ, then by all means, do so. It is easy to give online, monthly or in one-time gifts through World Outreach Ministries. Or for more giving options, see our partner page.