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What Missionaries Really Need While Support Raising

Two years is a long time to ask for money. That’s how long my wife and I spent raising support.

As we prepared to leave for the field, and I surveyed those two years, I realized that I had developed some insight into how to best care for your friends, family members, and fellow believers as they embark on the support-raising voyage. We feel very blessed that our friends, family, and church family have been very supportive and understanding of what it is we’ve been called to do.

These are what I consider to be the most practical things you can do to do help your friends as they raise support.

1. Pray! This isn’t just a throwaway option, or a secondary way to support missionaries. It is the primary way you can support your missionaries, and in turn, work to expand God’s kingdom wherever they go. Ask your missionary friends how you can pray for them regularly; their prayer requests will change frequently.

2. Point them to the gospel. Raising support can be very trying emotionally and spiritually. Like anyone else, we missionaries can lean too much on our own abilities and efforts. When we see our support-raising efforts not working, it’s easy for us to become depressed and to forget that the gospel is a message not of “do,” but of “done.”

3. Ask them how their support raising is going. Most support-raising missionaries would love to have someone to talk to about the challenges that support raising entails. Trust me, they won’t use this as an opportunity to ask for your money, and it’s comforting to know that someone wants to know how they’re doing. You can also encourage your friend by reminding them that this time of support raising is part of their ministry. God has called them to build His Church overseas, but a part of their call is to strengthen and encourage the Church here in America as they build relationships.

4. Don’t be afraid of not knowing what to ask. Asking anything at all, rather than nothing, is encouraging to your missionary friend, especially while they're raising support. Frankly, we were rarely asked about what was a huge part of our lives. We are always happy to talk about what God is teaching us and calling us to do, so don’t hesitate to ask what may seem to you to be dumb questions. Simply asking is a way of demonstrating that you care.

5. Continue to invest in your relationship with them, even though you know they will be gone for a long time. Raising financial support can be an alienating and lonely process in many ways. Please don’t pull back: it only makes the prospect of leaving that much more difficult. Missionaries will continue to need you, especially when they are on the field (even if they don’t say as much), and it’s hard to see the separation begin even before they get on a plane.

6. Support your missionary friend financially. Nothing was more encouraging to us over those two years than to hear from close friends and family that they had decided to support us, in whatever amount they could. If all you have is an extra five dollars a month, don’t be afraid to send it! Time and time again in Scripture we see that the smaller gift, given with a glad heart, is the gift looked upon with favor. That said, if you aren’t able to support your friend or family member, let them know up front. They won’t be crushed, and you will have actually done everyone a favor by clearing the air.

7. Know your friend’s ministry inside and out. It was very encouraging for us to have friends and family intimately know the ins and outs of what we'd be doing in Slovakia. Take the time to read their newsletters, learn the names of people they’re ministering to, give them feedback, and ask them specific questions about what they hope God will do through them on the mission field. Knowing your friend’s ministry well also allows you to be an advocate for them as they are in the support-raising stage.

I’m certain there are other ways that you can think of to help your friends as they endeavor in their efforts. The best way to find out is to ask them. Be intentional in how you develop your relationship with your missionary friends: you have no idea how important this has been to us.

Our two years of support raising were fraught with difficulty, setbacks, disappointments, and hurts. Raising support is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Though the other side of this difficulty is that we also experienced unexpected joys, continuous confirmation of our call, and affirmation after affirmation to keep working towards our goal of leaving for Slovakia to pursue God’s calling for us there.

Most importantly, we were given a deeper understanding of the gospel and its far-reaching effects in our day-to-day lives as we parent, develop friendships, and preach the same message of gospel grace to ourselves every day.

MTW missionary Bo Lancaster and his family completed their support raising in early 2013 and served in Slovakia for nearly four years. They are back in the U.S. for another season of support raising in anticipation of opening a new MTW field in The Netherlands in 2017. 

This is an edited version of the article originally published in InVision in 2013 as “What I Want For Every Support Raising Missionary.” 

 

Bo Lancaster, Reflection Mar 16, 2017
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Pray for current missionaries, future missionaries, sending churches, and donors to be willing to ask the question, "How could God use me?"

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