Every Christmas season, the International Mission Board launches its annual fundraising campaign, “The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.” All of the money raised through the drive goes to missions. That’s the money that pays our rent and covers our ministry-related expenses. If you are Southern Baptist, I would encourage you to give generously.
The above paragraph is true. It also happens to be the only that way I, as an IMB missionary, am allowed to ask for money. The Board has clear policies against “solicitation of funds.” These rules make sense for an organization that does not require its workers to raise their own support. Were we allowed to, I’m sure at least a couple of us would make a career of raising money (for ministry, of course) . This would be a distraction from church planting, to say the least, and would result in what amounts to competition between missionaries for funding. In order to avoid such chaos, I cannot, and will not, ever ask for money.
Despite the restrictions against soliciting funds, there is quite a bit of “channeled monies,” and “designated offerings” floating around the mission field. I’m not insinuating any wrongdoing here. The logical limitations on my freedom to ask for money does not preclude Stateside sponsors from offering it to me. It happens quite a lot, actually. A partner church might ask, “What are some of your ministry’s financial needs?” An extended family member who hasn’t spoken to me in years might try to assuage his guilt for never having shown even the slightest interest in our work here might ask, “You doing okay money-wise?”
The answer is always: “If you’d like to contribute financially, I’d encourage you to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.”
But there’s something more I need to say here. Something that you, dear reader, need to know: None of us are getting rich as missionaries.
The cost of living here in Wester Europe is high. Add to that what we spend on hosting parties and going out with nationals, and joining clubs/gyms. On top of all that, there’s the trip back to the States every once in a while, and, well, you can imagine how difficult it can be to respond with the party line when someone offers money. Of course my Starbucks habit would love a little extra pocket change.
I’m not asking for money. I don’t want it or need it. But I have a suggestion: give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and then consider paying for a missionary’s family to fly to the field for a visit.
We don’t get to see too much of our families while we’re on the mission field. We usually chalk it up as one of those small sacrifices God has called us to. But many of my colleagues have never had their parents come to visit. There are MKs on the field who have never met their grandparents. It’s expensive to fly half way around the world, so if you really want to minister to us, by our parents a plane ticket.
Think about how great an encouragement it would be for a missionary to have a church send their parents for Christmas. Consider how far such a gesture would go toward making our people on the field know they are appreciated. Sponsored family visits would help family members back home get an idea of what we’re talking about when we share stories of our life here. They would be able to pray more specifically for our ministries. They would know what we go through. They would stop wasting their money sending packages of peanut butter (which, by the way, we can actually get here)! The parents and siblings of missionaries would be even better missionary advocates in our churches, and they’d be able to help our churches keep up with what’s happening on the field.
We could even make it a big, shiny new denominational program. Operation: Missionary Family (or some other, pseudo-militaristic task-oriented brand name.)