Our family is part of a new church plant in our community. Our pastor has asked Steve and I to take the lead on global missions for our church.
We have been doing massive amounts of reading and learning the best approach and models to follow when stepping into a project in a developing country. We have made connections with people running organizations and have continued those relationships. The information we have taken in has been eye opening, overwhelming, interesting and for the most part has caused our views and our understandings to be the opposite of how we use to think. It's been very humbling to say the least.
We hope to educate others through all that we have learned. (Disclaimer: we do not know everything and will not ever know everything but our hope is that others will be intrigued enough to learn along with us.)
I'm writing this blog post today to share one piece of advice with you. And that is, unless you are willing to sell all of your possessions yourself, pick up and move your family to a developing country, support those who have made the LONG TERM commitment to serve in a different culture.
According to David Platt's "Radical Together", there are over 10,000 people groups in the world. And today, there are still 6,000 people groups that have not heard the Gospel.
Ideally, the work of spreading the Gospel is less costly through indigenous people. However, in many areas of the world, the Gospel has to be brought there first. Then the indigenous people need guidance and discipling, which can take years.
Many people are confused and don't understand the work of missionaries. I believe that the #1 reason why some are skeptical is that we live in a culture of wanting quick results. We want to see the fruit of the labor now.
Most of us have heard the stories of missionaries living in areas for decades, maybe even are martyred and only a few come to Christ. This is quite the price to pay and a lot of time invested. But someone has to do it! And just because it is a difficult culture to convert, doesn't mean we walk away.
I personally know missionaries who are serving in parts of the world where there is civil war and lots of unrest. They may be there for several years before they lead ONE person to the Lord.
Discipling takes time. Back in the US, we want to hear reports about how many orphanages are being supported or how many churches are being built but the only thing that missionaries may be building is relationships. To us back home, sometimes hearing about the relationships isn't enough for us. We measure progress in numbers: How many people have they saved? How many children attended VBS? How many orphans did they feed this month?
If we measure progress by material goods or by numbers, we will be disappointed in the progress our missionaries are making. When we allow ourselves to become disappointed, we tend to judge the work God has given them, thus we sometimes walk away from those who are truly doing God's work.
One question I hear consistently is "Why is this missionary family living in a decent house?" Another common question I hear is "Why do they need a $40,000 vehicle to drive?" AND "If they are living in a developing country, why does it cost so much to support them?"
These are questions that I used to ask myself. But over time, my questions have been answered. For one, I know that vehicles are far more expensive than what we pay in the US. And, road conditions are such that unless you own a 4 wheel drive, you can't get anywhere.
Missionaries to developing countries in particular, most often move across the ocean, away from friends and family, immerse themselves into another culture, learn a new language, minister in unfamiliar surroundings and face uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous situations. How much more uncomfortable do we want our missionaries to live? Are our missionaries also suppose to go without transportation and live in a hut without running water?
Are you questioning the work of missionaries you support? Get to know them better. We have 3 sets of friends who are living as missionaries in developing countries. All will be in the US for the next few months on furlough. I plan to meet with them, spend some time with them and ask them many questions. My goal is to learn more about the work God has assigned each family, ask God for discernment and let the Holy Spirit direct our family's giving from there.
So, when you are deciding on whether your financial support is being channeled the best way possible to further His kingdom, get to know the missionaries you support. Meet with them when they are back on furlough, get to know their hearts. Ask lots of questions and really get a good understanding of the purpose they are serving.
Never judge the work of a missionary. Don't look for immediate fruit especially in situations where it could take decades for hearts to change. The work of missionaries is complicated and often times messy work. They deserve our support and encouragement.