As a full-time missionary, I am all too aware that the words “privilege” and “fundraising” are not often talked about in the same sentence.
The majority of us on the foreign, and local, mission field have experienced the time and faithful persistence required to continually share our need, meet with churches, all the while praying that we would reach our goal.
I am no stranger to this, and can honestly admit to times imagining what it would feel like to be fully funded, never again having the need to fundraise or cringe at the thought of asking for money.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many organizations that provide the full financial support needed by the missionaries they send out. This is not to say that these ministries are somehow hurting their missionaries or doing it incorrectly. In fact, I am grateful for these sending organizations that have given a freedom to their missionaries to fully focus on ministry. With my own eyes, I have seen the fruit of this.
However, as one missionary who has spent the last 9 ½ years cultivating relationships, building a foundation of support, and receives most of my financial funding from churches and individuals, I feel that God has lovingly corrected, shaped, and given new sight over the years to the initial groan many of us have felt at the shear thought of fundraising, and replaced it with a beautiful reminder of the great joy, yes the JOY, we can have in partnering with those around us.
For those of you already in ministry across the globe, or those who are considering going into full-time ministry, this message may be for you, as it has been for me over the years.
A Holy Calling
Let’s take a look back. In Acts 13, the church in Antioch recognized the God-given call on the lives of Saul and Barnabas. Coming together, they laid hands on the pair and prayerfully sent them out. Throughout Paul’s missionary journeys, we see that he was passionately committed to work of the Gospel. At times, he was supported by the church (Philippians 4:15) and also encouraged the church to give to other ministers of the faith, such as Phoebe in Romans 16. Paul was grateful for the support he received, which allowed him to turn his focus on proclaiming the name of Jesus. Even Jesus Himself encouraged His own disciples to rest on the support of others when they went out to minister (Matthew 10:5-15).
As full-time missionaries, the word “fundraising” can often come with a full range of emotions, and perhaps social stigmas.
Our western culture often teaches us from a young age to be successful, and mercilessly offers a standard for what that success looks like. What job you should have. How much money you should make. We are taught to provide for ourselves, so that we have the freedom of financial security. A good job and a good paycheck are in-and-of-themselves not wrong. I have dear, godly friends who have been blessed with wonderful jobs, and use their lives to bless others. It’s when our focus turns to trusting in ourselves, rather than in God, where problems can arise. When we find security in our own idea of success, rather than in God.
The kingdom of God looks different.
It’s full of generosity, rather than stinginess.
Whole-hearted surrender, rather than a need to desperately hold onto what we have.
A Holy Partnership
Fundraising creates a space for us to come in humility. We are reminded that God is the true provider of our lives, and we are put in position where we must walk in the life that God intended for us – in deep, meaningful relationships. Everything we have belongs to God – our time, our finances, our material blessings, our lives. He is Jehovah Jireh, our great provider, and He calls us to leave our hands open before Him, recognizing that all that we have is surrendered to Him when we surrendered our lives to Jesus.
It’s all because of Him.
It’s all for Him.
Whether we work in a foreign country or the mission field of our local workplaces, we are called to be good stewards of all that God has given to us, invest our lives to share the Gospel with those around us, and trust Him with everything we have.
As I move in the act of fundraising as a missionary, I put myself in a position to be reminded that it is not by my own ability or strength, but only through the power of God my Father and the faithful commitment of those who send me out.
While I have countless stories of how God has provided miraculously for me throughout the years….
The exact financial provision, down to the dollar, showing up right in the moment of need.
A time when breakthrough seemed impossible, and yet it revealed itself in the most unexpected place.
These are great stories of faith, when we are strengthened and reminded that He is our great Father and all comes from Him.
However, many times God chooses to provide for us through the support and community of those around us.
It creates humility, sometimes with us first fighting against the independence that our culture has taught us, to bring ourselves before others and lean on them for what we need.
God is all about relationship.
We were created for relationship. With God. And with one another.
While I have privilege to go to another country, many others have the privilege to stay.
When I am raising support and meeting with those who have faithfully prayed for me, I am reminded that I am not alone in this journey, and that it was never intended for us to be in it alone.
Every newsletter update I write
Every thank you card I send out
Every coffee date I have with a supporter
Every opportunity to share at church
In these humble moments, I have the honor of inviting others into what God is doing, just as God invited me into it. They are not my stories to keep, but to share, so that those who hear them and choose to be a part of it also receive the blessing.
It is a humble, holy privilege to fundraise as a missionary. But only when I see it as it should be…the building of relationships, not the building of my bank account.
A Few Thoughts on Fundraising
So, as you consider building a foundation of support, whether you are already in ministry, or prayerfully considering doing so, consider these things:
1.It’s first about the relationships, not the money
When I first begin talking with a church or individual about the ministry I am a part of in Thailand, my focus is not on the money, but about building the relationship. I love to sit down and talk with them about the things God is doing across the world, and in return hear how God has called them personally or wholly as a church to reach out to their community. While the financial support is needed, and appreciated, the partnership together is far more important.
2.Don’t be discouraged by small beginnings
It can take time to build a foundation of good support. You are not in this alone. Many others have experienced the joys and struggles of fundraising. If God is leading you to a new country, a new season of life, a new step in ministry, hold tightly onto Him as you take that step of faith. While the need may seem great and the future unknown, it is not impossible for God. Do your part, no matter how small it may seem, and let God do the rest.
3.Good communication is important
One day I was talking with a supporting church back home. The pastor openly shared with me a story of a previous missionary their congregation had supported. However, after receiving the donation for their ministry, that missionary no longer communicated with the church. The members of that congregation were left disappointed, not knowing what had become of the ministry, and were cautious of supporting missionaries afterwards.
Unfortunately, this is not the first story I’ve heard. If a church or individual chooses to support us in any capacity – whether financially, prayerfully, etc. – we have a responsibility to communicate well. Send out a newsletter to share how you are doing. Write a thank you card to that individual who gave generously, no matter how big or small the gift. Meet face-to-face with supporters when given the opportunity. They have given to you and desire to hear what God is doing! It is our honor to share these stories with them. As we do, it not only strengthens our relationship and shows that we are faithful with what has been entrusted to us, but we have the joy of celebrating in these stories together!
4.It’s not us and them. It’s WE
When I meet with supporters, I am always quick to remind them personally that we are in this together. I don’t feel somehow superior because I had the blessing to go, while they stayed behind. If everyone were called to go overseas, there would be no one left at home to share the Gospel in our communities. We are ALL missionaries. Our mission field just looks different. Without the support of those back home, I could not go. Their partnership is important to what I do, which means my ministry is their ministry, too.
5.Be ready at a moment’s notice
In my early years on the mission field, I remember being called on unexpectedly during a church service to share about my ministry. As you might have guessed, I had nothing prepared and scrambled for the right words to explain in 5 minutes what I had done in one year. I learned a good lesson that day.
Whether you have been in ministry long-term or short-term, you might have experienced this. It’s a good idea to always be prepared with a presentation for different amounts of times. Also, you may find carrying business cards or your most recent newsletter helpful, so that if people want more information, you have something to give.
6.Use your gifts
As you fundraise, you might already have skills that could be used to help you raise support. I once used my love for photography to create a unique collection of photos, inscribed with different scriptures, that I then sold to help with extra ministry expenses. Consider taking your hobbies, gifts, and passions and use them as a part of your ministry.
7.Remember that God is with you
How do we respond when it seems like the provision won’t come or our desperate prayer hasn’t been answered? Hold tightly onto God. He is there with you, through every mountain, every valley, and every barren desert.
May we be encouraged and strengthened in the fact that above all else, we have a loving Father, who knows every need that we have.
“Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)
When the future seems unknown and life doesn’t go according to plan, as it so often does, we can rest in Him and hold firm to the truth that all we truly need is found in Jesus.
So, dear missionaries, the next time you hear the words “fundraise” or “support raising”, I encourage you to see it with fresh eyes. Instead of a task to be done, an opportunity for long-term partnership.
When we turn fundraising into the humble joy of building community, we might discover that it doesn’t have to be as tedious as we’ve come to believe. Maybe, just maybe, what we need is a change in perspective.
Photo Credit: Hermans, Bjorn. Support. 2010. Flickr. 18 April 2017; ThoroughlyReviewed. https://thoroughlyreviewed.com. 2017. Flickr. 2 May 2017; Luyckx, Alex. Jehovah Jireh. 2007. Ontario, Canada. Flickr. 2 May 2017.