I have been tentatively planning to volunteer overseas this coming summer for about a year. I was confident of the direction God was leading me, but fears are not always absent even after receiving direction. I was nervous about safety, travel, finding community, and other things, but, strangely, I was more afraid about raising support than almost anything else.
Asking people for money felt weak, in a sense. Why should they have to support me? If I felt led to serve shouldn’t I support myself? Even in my other experiences overseas I had never had to ask for support--something had always come together--a scholarship, a generous and unexpected gift, or, many times, the kindness of my parents. In fact, this summer a scholarship came through once again, and I did not have to confront the challenge that is support-raising.
I still was convicted to examine my sense of selfishness. Many of my friends do not hesitate to ask for support, humbly and eagerly. The more that I’ve worked with churches and volunteers at World Renew the greater perspective I have gained on missions, and with that, giving and raising support. Countless churches are excited to give support to mission and development efforts, especially to people who feel called to serve overseas.
Everyone is part of God’s call to spread the gospel, to help the poor and needy, to do justice. But not everyone is called in the same way. A church body will certainly play a different role in the framework of missions than a person leaving to teach at a school in rural Zambia.
A few nights ago I had coffee with one of my dearest friends, one who shares my passion for missions and is headed to India for a few weeks in May. She mentioned that she hadn’t been planning to send out any support letters, but over Christmas most of her extended family had asked for one. Surprised, she drafted a letter and sent it to a few people, only to receive more requests from others.
We began talking about support-raising, and our mutual discomfort with asking for money. Why did we have so much hesitancy? I shared with her the excitement that I had seen in churches and individuals when they could form a relationship and provide money and encouragement for a missionary. By not asking for support, we were not offering ourselves or others these kinds of opportunities. She then explained that she had once heard that there are three roles that people can hold within missions: a sender, a goer, or a stayer.
A sender is one who supports the goers and stayers, one who perhaps donates money or provides encouragement through letters or prayer. And maybe in their staying they are investing in other things, serving the Lord in countless other ways.
A goer is one who is active in that tricky thing called short-term missions. I think of several experts working in the CRC office and others who make trips around the world to check up on projects, encourage long-term field staff, or provide consultation.
Finally, a stayer is one who is called to stay somewhere indefinitely. These are people who have made lives for themselves in foreign places, people who have immersed themselves in a new place and a new culture until God calls them to a new challenge, or perhaps until He calls them to their eternal Home.
This illustration was completely refreshing for me, especially in regards to support-raising. Asking others for money, for encouragement, for prayer, is simply acknowledging another person’s unique role within the frame of mission work. It is in fact selfish for a goer or a stayer not to embrace a sender and ask them for support, in any of its forms. Refraining from accepting support is denying someone the opportunity to share in your journey, sometimes someone who does not have opportunity or ability to travel or be involved in hands-on mission work. It is imperative for us to acknowledge all of the roles within missions, both here and elsewhere.
In my work with the CRC I have seen so many blessings come from support relationships, on both ends. Perhaps it is necessary for us to reexamine how we view support-raising in order to take advantage of the abundance of these blessings.
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about raising and giving support and how do you address it within your missions role?