“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Being a missionary is challenging in many different areas. One of the biggest challenges for me has been asking for support.
My whole life I was taught not to beg, to work hard and to earn things for that hard work. Then I joined the mission field and it seemed like all of the things I had learned on how to survive in this world went out the window.
I remember when I was planning to move to Uganda fulltime. A seasoned missionary was encouraging me to write a newsletter asking people for support. This was the equivalent in my mind to me begging on the street with a sign saying I have no work, or going up to people’s car windows trying to wash their windshields for a few coins. It felt so unnatural. So much like begging. It felt as if all of my confidence and ability to provide for myself was gone and I was at people’s mercy. If they believed in what was happening, they could send me a few bucks a month. But then of course I would certainly be under scrutiny for how I spent every penny. I better make it all count! And why couldn’t I just be independently wealthy, or make money on the field somehow? These things all swirled through my mind. The same seasoned missionary encouraged me that not everyone could go to the field, but that if I allow them to support the work financially, they have the opportunity to take part in it as well. And if I don’t let them, I am depriving them of that chance. Ouch. Now I felt a strong dose of Christian guilt. Not letting people be a part of God’s work? I didn’t want to be that person!
So I wrote the newsletter, I shared in churches, I crucified my pride and allowed people to support me (or rather, God’s work). All of these years later, I am truly thankful for the support that people have sent. I know that I couldn’t have done this alone all of these years. I don’t mind if God stirs people’s hearts and they feel compelled by the Holy Spirit (not by me, not by guilt) to support this work. But that’s just it. I want it to be God who brings the increase. I don’t want a work of the flesh. I don’t want to stand up and beg people and tell them that we are so desperate and the needs are so severe, even when they are. I don’t want to appeal to people’s sense of guilt or obligation to support orphans, widows, prisoners, traumatized people. It should be something that God tells them to do. If God is telling you to do something, you better listen. But if He doesn’t, then what is your motivation?
So on the one hand, I need to make people aware of the needs. On the other hand, I don’t need to shove it down their throats. If God is in this work, He will provide for it. And so far, that is exactly what He has done.
Side note: Another thing to consider is tent making (what the Apostle Paul did to help support his ministry work. In my case, writing books can be a way to encourage others and also “tent making” at the same time). My husband and I both believe in this and we try to supplement the support we are given with other things as well. He particularly has a business mind and I’m thankful for that.
Some missionaries have the conviction that they should never ask for support. Others think they should ask all the time. Personally, I think people should be made aware of the needs and that’s it- that God should stir the hearts of those who will listen and who are meant to give, as we focus more on doing the work that trying to make sure the work can be done. That second part is not my job. It’s God’s. When we step out and do it, as long as we are walking in what He has spoken to us, He will take care of us.