Do missionaries mooch?

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by Pergamum, Dec 26, 2011.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Are missionaries mooches?

    How? and when?

    How should they curb this? What habits/actions need to change?
  2. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Do you desire to limit this to stories from the Reformed community?
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Any and all stories will help, as well as tips to missionaries to save them from even the appearance of moochericty.
  4. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    I guess a 'no' still warrants participation in this thread, as it might attract more who will say 'yes.'

    I've never seen or felt mooching from a missionary, in my opinion or that of my church regarding those we support.

    The missionary's job is to care for his family, preach the gospel, and build disciples and churches. Our job is to pray for them, love them, and take as many of the earthly, financial pressures off of them as we can, so they can be free to do those things. Our missionaries fulfill their calling, and we do ours, though we are both subject to human failings and imperfections in them.

    So, no, I can't think of any missionary in my personal awareness where mooching as been any concern at all. Our church sends far more missionaries than our body is able to support (denominational funds help the rest), although our giving is quite strong.We have one family in Western China that has worked for two years, with no real converts. But they are preaching and testifying, and that is what they are there to do. Not once has anyone questioned our continued support for them. The only concern I hear is to add more prayer.
  5. Weston Stoler

    Weston Stoler Puritan Board Sophomore

    If the missionary isn't doing his job by proclaiming the gospel in a clear and credible way then i can say yes. All other cases (with few exceptions) I would say no they are not a mooch.
  6. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy


    Most missionaries have to raise their financial support by going out and asking for money. One cannot do that for long before one gets over our cultural hangup about asking for things. Over the years I've talked to some missionaries who claim to not "enjoy" asking for money and other things (but they are nonetheless all pretty good at asking anyway). I've talked to others who openly profess to have absolutely no qualms with asking for things. One expressed shock at my surprise and said - I'll never forget - "I ask for everything. I'm doing the Lord's work and when I ask I'm enabling them to be a blessing. And to be a blessing is to receive a blessing." Isn't that the logic of Swaggart or Baker or a faith healer?

    While I have experienced a few things that I definitely think cross the line into mooching, I believe that the seeming appearance of being a mooch stems from the missionary having a lifestyle and livelihood based in large part upon the generosity and giving of others and as such they are comfortable with receiving and being willing to allow others to pay for them, etc. Whereas the predominant cultural norm in our society is that there should be some degree of reciprocity and/or standing on one's own feet, i.e, continually or merely repeatedly allowing someone to pay for one's own way is a surefire strategy for becoming known as a mooch.

    Some things I've seen that really irked me:

    1. Most recently, a couple came to stay in our house overnight as they were en route to another city to raise support. They asked if they could do "a little" laundry, we said "sure," and at that point they brought in 5 stuffed kitchen-sized garbage bags filled with laundry.

    2. About 6 months ago, another couple on furlough was at our place giving us their "sales pitch" replete with stories and pictures of the extreme poverty in their area of service. I asked how much money they needed monthly support - it's just the 2 of them, no kids - and I was cited a dollar amount a mere few hundred a month less than I make in one of this nation's most expensive cities, a monthly income almost 21x the average in that area. Don't tell me sob stories of all the poverty in your area and then tell me that you need over 100k per year for 2 people to live in that poor place. Don't tell me that you're just heartsick and desperate to do the Lord's work, but oh, we need almost 21x the average income in order to do it. How many pastors in this country make even 2x the average, much less 21x! Gimme a break.

    3. A missionary I support is regularly - about once a quarter - sending out an email asking for extra gifts ("I could really use a new chain saw to help cut firewood, would you consider giving?" "My truck is acting up and it is proving to be a burden on time and resources to fix, would you consider donating so that I can purchase a new 4x4 with towing package?" "The tuition at the private school we send our son to has gone up unexpectedly, would you please send money?" "We want to do an add-on to our home to be able to host larger Bible studies, would you consider donating to the project?" My favorite was last summer: "Due to some unexpected expenses this year we don't have money to take a vacation, would you consider a one-time donation to help us enjoy a much needed trip home?".

    4. A number of years ago I agreed to meet over lunch with a missionary candidate who was raising support. He wanted to give me his "pitch" and I agreed to listen and consider. We had lunch and THEN when the bills came he said he was low on money and needed to buy gas to get to the church he was visiting that night and he asked if I would pay for his lunch.

    Anyway, perhaps there is no genuine mooching going on, but sometimes it seems that way.
  7. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Sometimes missions agencies set absurd amounts. For instance, one mission says that a couple in Mexico City needs about $36,000 a year in support; it's certainly possible to spend that much, but it's also possible for a family of six to live decently on that amount, so a couple would probably be able to do it for less.
  8. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I once was supporting a missionary who started out good and went off track. He got married and naturally, that required he raise a little bit more support. However, the update letters were becoming more like post cards from every place they were going on vacation. When they bragged about how they were doing a no cost to participate bingo, to attract people to fill out contact cards, I wrote them a letter informing them I was dropping my support and why. I considered them to be a mooch because they were using support money for things I considered excessive and not true to the original mission that was presented to us.
  9. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    The other side of this is that missionaries often do without so much that many of us take for granted. My mom told me that when they went to Korea as missionaries when I was little -- 3 children and a 4th on the way -- the mission board at first supported them at the same rate as a single, elderly lady, who had been there long enough that she had many private gifts. We spent our first winter in South Korea without hot water, in a mostly unheated house, my mom unable to take language classes because there was not enough money for her bus fare, eating noodles and tomato sauce. I wasn't aware of this (for my mom rarely speaks of her own hardships) until a few years ago when those years came up somehow in conversation, and she mentioned to me how hard that time was for her. I gather that eventually someone inquired and the data was adjusted.

    This would make me think that perhaps mission boards/churches should be careful to inquire regularly to make sure the missionary is adequately provided for and weight their suspicions on this end of the scale. Presumably sending churches/denominations have some confidence in a man's character and dedication, so thinking of him as a moocher without evidence of his attempting to use the ministry as a means to a life of ease would seem unwarranted (especially when he is are working in places where 'a life of ease' would be a ridiculous characterisation -- exposed to illnesses and hardships and risks which most people would not wish for themselves or their families).
  10. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    SO... since this was a thread about whether or not missionaries mooch and not about whether or not some missionaries have difficult field assignments, what I'm taking away from your post is that we need to bear in mind the horrible burden of being a missionary and remember that they therefore deserve to be treated to this that and the other whenever they have the chance. Am I right or wrong?
  11. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Ben, I think that probably the 'treats' they get are as well deserved as the treats many of us have more regularly or more as a matter of course. However I was just posting some of my own firsthand experience of missionaries, because I think there is an 'inside' of hardship and doing without, to the external appearance of 'mooching' which many don't have a lot of contact with, and so may not be taking into consideration (and I think it ought to be considered in such a discussion).
  12. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    I don't understand why so many missionaries have to seek their own support. I hear tales of that often, but I've never seen it.

    If they are sent by their individual church or denomination, their individual church or denomination should support them, with no need for any regular (or irregular) sales pitches. The sending institution, of course, has every right to receive general accounting of the money, or to insist on paying directly for the non-personal expenses themselves.

    The task of planting or pastoring a foreign church is essentially the duty of an elder, and good elders are worthy of double honor. Double expectation, double responsibility, double honor and support.

    I cannot imagine feeling mooched upon by any missionary, unless I had doubts about their dedication or discipline in their calling. If your'e convinced of the necessity of their work, and they are doing it, mooching doesn't enter the question. And I don't care one bit if they are able to live on much less than I am in their location, while they make more than I do (now that I think about it, all of our missionaries live in cheaper places than me, and make more than me). If I felt the need to lower the support of a missionary, whatever reason gave me that feeling would likely make me question their call itself.
  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    There may be others, but the only denominational missionaries I know of who are fully funded by the denomination are those sent by the SBC and OPC.
  14. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    But what is the rationale for other denominations and churches not doing the same?
  15. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    A problem that may be as big or bigger is alleged waste on the mission field with spending a lot of money on things like building unnecessary buildings, etc. I think Pergy has talked about this and I have heard it from a brother who was asked to work with the International Mission Board of the SBC but who later became an independent missionary (i.e. not sent by a denomination.) In at least some cases this is not the fault of the missionary but it's seen as the way to do it, etc. by the sending agencies themselves.
  16. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    It is true that the IMB fully funds their missionaries, but so many who want to serve are not approved by the IMB because of some violation of one of their thousands of rules. A couple who lived next to us in seminary were denied because their son has a lazy eye and there were no optometrists in the area that they wanted to serve. Really? Because of a lazy eye? This is the reason that many choose to go it on their own. I get a little tired of IMB types always talking about how the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. The truth is that there are many who are qualified and would love to be missionaries but organizations like the IMB turn them down for silly reasons and then they are reduced to being "moochers"
  17. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    I'm down with that, big-time. This is why many of the missionaries from our church are directly supported by our church. We do give to the IMB and have some missionaries sent by them. The waste is a big problem. That doesn't seem to be a problem with the model of missions - it's a theological problem of believing a steeple, organ, more committees than church members, and a bad chain restaurant next-door are necessary to do church properly. The model, I think, is self-evidently superior to missionaries doing door-to-door begging rather than evangelism.

    And Bill, that's an even bigger issue for us than the waste.
  18. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    FYI, the Christian and Missionary Alliance also fully supports their missionaries.

    Some churches (Park Street Church in Boston, for example) fully support their missionaries, as if they are a full-time employee of the church. There are additional restrictions in that. Park Street Church disallows their missionaries to seek support from others, and expect that the missionaries will spend their furloughs working at their church.

    Some at my home church favor the full support model, but as of now the philosophy of the missions committee is that, as the sending church, we want to be the primary sender in terms of financial support, but we also want to give the missionaries an opportunity to partner with individuals and other churches and give them the privilege of supporting and partnering with them.

    I believe the epistles support the idea that Paul received financial support from a number of churches and individuals.

    One of the major concerns is that missionaries often lose the support of their home church. They leave the country for a number of years, people forget about them, and when the leadership changes and finances get tight, the new pastor or elder board decides, hey, we need to cut something. If a missionary's eggs are all in one basket, then if that church fails to meet its obligations, then the missionary could be left high and dry.
  19. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    When the PCA started, there were few churches that could support full time missionaries, and there was no denominational funding available. If the denomination had adopted a model that called for the denomination (or individual congregations) to fully support a missionary, the impact would have been far different.

    One of the large churches did propose a different administrative model, and the partnering with other agencies has also been shown to have drawbacks, but neither would have changed the need for multiple funding sources.

    ---------- Post added at 06:37 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:36 PM ----------

    And since Joshua hasn't joined in this thread, let me say to the original question, I'm sure that some missionaries, somewhere, at some time, have been mooches.
  20. Keith Tacey

    Keith Tacey Puritan Board Freshman

    Allow me to share my personal experience as someone who does the Lord's work here in Vietnam.

    First let me say that (while many will not agree with this) I was not sent by a denomination or church. Friends and family have been praying for me since birth to go overseas, and after much personal prayer and seeking of wisdom, I knew that it was exactly what the Lord wanted. So, I may not be your traditional M, but that is who I am.

    I praise the Lord that I am using my degree in education here and I have a teaching job that pays the bills for me, my wife, and our baby who will be arriving in February. Most of the time I make enough money to provide for our family.

    I have only had to ask for money a handful of times. Most of the time when I have asked for money, it was for the locals. We payed for a life-saving heart surgery in which Truth was proclaimed to the family that we supported, we paid for a brain surgery for an infant and the entire family put their faith in Christ, and have helped others with basic needs.

    I have only asked for money personally 3 times. The first time was to send me here. My friends, family, and supporters paid for my ticket, my passport, my visa, and 2 months living expenses. The second time was because I needed an emergency surgery on my pacemaker and didn't have the money to fly home. I paid for the long haul flight out of my own pocket, and friends and family picked up local expenses and a local flight. The third time is just recently as my wife and I will be going back to America for 3 years so she can get US citizenship. As soon as she gets it, we are heading back home to Hanoi. We are doing this to be more "one" then we already are. Currently for my wife to leave the country and go to the US she needs to get a tourist visa which is not guaranteed. We will be covering a lot of the expenses to get back to America on our own, but we have also asked for help to lighten the burden on us. I don't consider any of this to be mooching.

    With all of that being said, I have seen Ms who live lavish lifestyles in 3rd world countries asking for support all the time, and the most they are doing in country is giving someone a drink of clean water. They go home multiple times a year on other people's dimes, and they spend way too much where they are working.

    Do Ms mooch? Many do, there is no doubt of that. How can we stop it? If an M is a member of a local church, that local church should get behind them fully spiritually and financially. If an M is not part of a local church, like myself, then I think it's ok to periodically ask for money, but don't expect it and don't guilt people for it. If you listen to God's call and you GO, then you should be ready to provide for your family even if you don't receive a dime in support. Another way for an M to avoid mooching, is to not join an organization that charges an arm and a leg in membership fees. I am not totally against M agencies, but many charge $10,000/year just to be a part of it.

    That's my experience; take it for what it's worth.


    ~Keith Tacey
  21. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks, your candor is appreciated.

    ---------- Post added at 01:43 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:37 AM ----------

    My own amount that I gather is divided into two; (1) personal funds and (2) ministry funds.

    The minimum amount set by me and the agency together totals more than 4k per month. This would seem like an absurd amount were it all spent on personal funds. However, half of the raised funds are used for ministry needs (eg., I think I spent over 10,000 USD on medicines, surgeries, medivac flights for sick evangelists, bibles and ministry materials for poor evangelists).

    In one year's time I gathered about 80,000 USD, but my own personal funds still remained the same (W-2 has read 27.5k, 28k and we might break the 30k mark this year with baby, who let's us raise our amount a bit. However, supporters send me free books, gifts, etc, that - if their real value were counted - would be worth another thousand or so per year).

    So, this all gets a little embarrassing when supporters ask how much I have gathered in the last 12 months, etc.

    ---------- Post added at 01:47 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:43 AM ----------

    Before dropping this missionary did you ask about the details of these trips?

    In the last 3 years I went to Manila for Asia-wide discussions on mobilization, and then twice to Bali for agency-directed meetings, Australia to accompany a medivac patient, and then the western part of our country 4 or 5 times to meet guests, receive new people, etc. Generally, when we take these ministry-related trips, we try to take family and incorporate something fun into the mix, too. And when we take photographs, it is not usually of these long meetings, but are usually of the restaurants or pool or beach with the kids afterwards.

    ---------- Post added at 01:49 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:47 AM ----------

    p.s. I see you are from Covenant Baptist Church in NJ. When Nate came over here, he met us first in Bali, which was a lot of fun, and then we travelled to several different areas within the country and we travelled much. It took me three months to pay off all the expenses from those travels.

    ---------- Post added at 01:51 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:49 AM ----------

    Wow, thanks for the story. We have never personally lacked, but I know several couples here who are chronically under-supported and sometimes they live very, very plainly during those stretches.

    ---------- Post added at 01:52 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:51 AM ----------

    The religious version of secular "hardship duty" pay?

    ---------- Post added at 02:00 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:52 AM ----------

    Maybe this is a subject for another OP (the advantages/disadvantages of denominational support from the denominational agency versus each missionary weaving his or her own network of support). I prefer modes of support raising which maximize the face-time between missionaries and congregations...even if this means more missionary travel on furlough.

    ---------- Post added at 02:08 AM ---------- Previous post was at 02:00 AM ----------

    I am supported by several SBC churches. The common complaint I hear is that they want closer interaction with their missionaries ("we don't know any of our missionaries, nor can we choose which one to support if we just put funds into the pot").

    Therefore, rather than even the possibility of supporting an Arminian, and due to the increased face-to-face (and email) interaction gained by supporting a missionary who travels to raise support, several SBC churches support me and seem to like the fact that they know me, can ask me questions, etc.

    People support efforts and people they know, a faceless entity has a harder tim of gaining support.

    Also, the question of control comes into play. Centrally-funded missionaries usually find that these central headquarters also set policies from the center, also, which sometimes disallows varying fields to vary a bit. If the SBC sets your income, this shows a certain tendency to set other policies from the agency headquarters, leaving less room for a missionary and his local church to vary a bit from other missionaries on other fields, even within the same org (my own org allows quite a bit of freedom and I would not characterize them as authoritarian at all).

    ---------- Post added at 02:15 AM ---------- Previous post was at 02:08 AM ----------

    Many baptists cannot cooperate to the level needed.

    Others don't like the idea of throwing money into a facelss pot and trusting a board to support the most worthy missionaries.

    Others want to see and talk to their missionaries and know their names and more personally have a connection with them (hard to do when support comes from a pot).

    ---------- Post added at 02:30 AM ---------- Previous post was at 02:15 AM ----------

    Yes, some orgs are too strict. Often, this is not due to "spiritual reasons" but due to a desire to insure missionaries on a group life plan or to minimize the health problems of those once on the field.

    Mission orgs are, shamefully, often very risk-averse.

    Here is a link to a snippet about Elinor Young, a women I admire greatly, who - despite polio helped minister to remote peoples:

    Missions - a Sovereign Grace Perspective: Elinor Young - missionary hero

    ---------- Post added at 02:44 AM ---------- Previous post was at 02:30 AM ----------

    Yes, I now know (or know of) 2 or 3 missionaries whose support (85% or so) came from one solitary church.....which then split or had internal troubles. Each time, this resulted in a loss or drop of support for the missionary because their eggs were all in one basket.

    I read that the average pastor's pulpit time in the same church is less than 3 years. This means that most mission orgs are more stable in policies and philosophies of ministry than local chrches in these days. Therefore, having a broad base of support is better insurance against drastic changes in missionary policies by local churches (which often do not even give 6-month's warning to the missionaries that they drop or reduce).
  22. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Yes, that is what I was thinking of, along with extra hardships, which should be considered in any discussion of missionaries mooching.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks for the story.

    A clarification on "membership fees" - I know of no missionary orgs that charge a "membership fee" but what is being charged is an admin fee which pays for the org's accountant and for advertizements and publications and the smooth running of a home office (which is, hopefully, very simple). Most of the time, these expenses are well worth it (especially the accountants, since I would not want to file all that paperwork with the IRS myself and know very little of accounting). Also, health and life insurance benefits are often part of this admin fee, which usually ranges from 10-20% of a missionary's gathered funds.

    There are times when I have resented this fee, but I also profit from my org's publications and their insurance saved our bacons two years ago when Teresa had to be medivac'd twice in a 8-month period due to severe tropical fever and then miscarriage requiring emergency surgery.

    I have also seen varying levels of work-ethic among missionaries on the field. I have found in some cases, later, that much of their work was low-key discipling or literature-production for locals (easily done at home behind doors).

    About lavish lifestyles: In some parts of the world even having a shower and a toilet is lavish. I live a lavish lifestyle by comparison to the locals here.

    Finally, you are not part of a local church? How does that work? I am sure many churches would want a connection with your work.

    p.s. I would love to hear more of your work there. I have friends in Cambodia who are trying to reach out to displaced Vietnamese populations on the coast.
  24. Rich Koster

    Rich Koster Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    To follow up on my post, Pergamum, I was in contact with him. I explained my concern about his methods. This was at a time when I was in a 5 point non-confessional congregation. I didn't like the methodology and his enthusiasm about getting people to say the sinners prayer either. I was becoming more Reformed and he was leaning more towards operating like an Arminian Baptist.
  25. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    As someone who has a considerable amount of interaction with the CMA through my Campus Ministry, it has its advantages and disadvantages. The CMA is very good at putting missionaries in the field, but is very broad theologically. The missionaries also will take time out of the field every few years to come home and "do the rounds" to encourage people to give to the Great Commission Fund. The "one big pot" approach allows for a considerable amount of missionaries to be sent out, but I really only know the missionaries that I (or people I am close with) have done short term trips with in the past. But, many are doing wonderful work on behalf of the gospel and as long as the gospel is being preached it doesn't matter if I know who is preaching it.
  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I think that in support-raising something like this already sort of happens. I find that though I am younger and less knowledgeable than some, by virtue of the remoteness of my area (it makes for good pictures) I have an easier time raising suppport, whereas some urban missionaries discipling key leaders in a nice office often have more strategic but less photogenic duties and thus have a harder time raising support.
  27. Keith Tacey

    Keith Tacey Puritan Board Freshman

    "Finally, you are not part of a local church? How does that work? I am sure many churches would want a connection with your work."

    Thanks for asking. I will try to make a long story somewhat short.

    I put my faith in Christ 6 years ago while in university. At that time, I was not attending any church, but I was involved in a Christian organization that had a program every Tuesday night on campus.

    Being a young Christian, I simply attended my girlfriend's church for 2 years, but they never mentioned the need to become a member, so I was just a regular attender that was only starting to get heavily involved in the church. I left this church as it was Pentecostal and I was seeing opposing truths in the Word of God.

    After continuing to attend a bible study on campus, and attending a local seeker sensitive church (which I would learn later was a complete waste of time), I realized that God was calling me to missions. I immediately got connected with a friend of a friend who had a school in Vietnam, and I moved there 3 weeks after graduating from university to work as a teacher and as an M. As far as the M work, I teach a Free English class every week where we pray and the Truth is boldly and frequently proclaimed.

    I have been here since early 2009 and I got married in April 2011. My wife (from Hanoi) is a nurse. She goes to the highlands to do medical trips, and also holistic development, with an emphasis on Evangelism, Discipleship, and training.

    Through personal study and discussion on sites like "Puritanboard" and Facebook groups, I have come to the understanding that what I now believe, by the grace of God, can best be categorized as "Reformed Baptist."

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it...
  28. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    First, if anyone thinks you are a moocher I am happy to talk to them and tell them that you are very disciplined and generous.
    In remote areas where you are compensating for a lack of infrastructure, of course there is a need for an expense account. A missionary to Liechtenstein probably doesn’t have to do very much at all in the way of diaconal assistance. Given the kind of work you’re engaged in, I’m glad you have a relatively healthy expense account.
  29. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Pergs, I am glad to hear that the hardships get extra consideration and that people facing those do not often have to face the undersupportedness as well. However, to take an example of a missionary who faces a lot of hardships and yet still does not seem to have the same financial ease as the rest of us -- recently while on a sort of 'break' in a place that should have been more restful, the family had to stay in a place with a leaky roof and other water supply issues while the wife was recovering from giving birth and adjusting to the new little one. Many of us would have simply found a better hotel.

    Also, I wonder what happens in a situation of undersupportedness where one does not have spectacular images -- does the missionary simply pray and wait (as my parents did) until someone inquires, while watching their family go without things that may be critical to their well being? Or do they ask, at the risk of seeming like 'moochers'?

    I've had occasion to think a lot about this. :) I used to wonder why missionaries will often have nicer homes and vehicles than many people they are working with, and at times, than many people I know in the states. After being around more missionaries I understand that in general their homes and cars are used with so much more hospitality, or in more critical conditions, and simply *so much more*, than many American homes/vehicles. Again I used to wonder at high amounts of support requested for poverty stricken areas until I realised that logistics in such areas require more expensive equipment and services; and that much more is being given charitably. I wondered why missionaries on furlough would eat out so much, or get more convenient and slightly higher priced items -- until I had some insight into what it is to try to live with small children out of a suitcase (my mom told me about her experiences, and I've lived in hotels myself for a bit). So it's hard for me to know where to offer points of criticism. I think a man is usually trying to balance being willing to suffer for the sake of gospel with trying to be a good provider for his wife and family -- how much does he ask of them? And it is often the wife and family, at least in circles where wife and family are not directly involved in ministry themselves -- who give up most in the way of being isolated and just enduring whatever there is to endure. While they don't carry the major strain or stress of the labor, there is often a lot of added labor to a wife's calling; and she doesn't have the 'rewardingness' of the man's vocation, nor the normal enjoyments or comforts the man's vocation would provide for her and her children at home. So many things we see as unnecessary indulgences for a missionary are probably something a man is trying to do to offset the impact of this on his family, so that they can stay on the field for a longer term.

    The two criticisms I have (and they may be of ignorance still) are 1) I think the idea of trying to lead an essentially American life in another country is an unwise use of funds. I think missionaries should be well enough supplied that their children are able to enjoy advantages of the places where they are; but trying to give them all the same experiences and the same home atmosphere as kids in the states is probably only going to make life on the field more frustrating and needlessly expensive. And 2) I think missionaries who have significantly easier lifestyles than those around them should be careful of resentment in being called on to use/share that niceness with those they are ministering to. I well understand that to some degree things like toilets etc in poverty stricken places are just to facilitate things being more manageable for a homemaker who is coping with much more daily inconvenience than she would at home. But where things are sometimes nicer than what many supporters have in the states as well, it seems like hospitality -- and not just to mission teams but to local people -- should be the end in view. Happily, the most hospitable and generous people I have known have generally been missionaries.
  30. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    A missionary to Liechtenstein......hmmm......a wine, cheese and chocolate fund is necessary me thinks (to fit in with the locals of course).....

    ---------- Post added at 03:12 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:53 PM ----------

    You asked,
    Yes, all of the above and also (D) they get stressed and eventually go home due to the cumulative effect of this stress. Chronic under-support leads ot many family problems and marital conflict. It is one of the main reasons for missionaries going home ("Too Valuable to Lose' and "Worth Keeping" are two studies of missionary attrition done on 23,000 people in order to gather the reasons missionaries leave the field).

    Money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy comfort and an ease of stress many times. I believe like any other muscle we have a "comfort muscle" and a stress and hospitality muscle, too. We can slowly build it, but sometimes we clean and jerk too much and need some rest, or we get flabby and hurt ourselves. The definition of "normal" (and also "clean and hygienic") can change after a while but many misionaries struggle for YEARS with certain aspects of the culture. A little cushion can buy a burned-out family a weekend away or somethign Western to eat or something nice reminding them of home.

    You also commented:

    I once bought a box of Fruity Pebbles for 7 USD during an intense time of stress. I broke it out at night and WOW, it was worth every penny. Also, just a few weeks ago I was on another island and has access to better goods and we actually mailed a little bit of that here.

    You also said of many missionaries that they were:

    I would claim that most are not "trying" to do this; but, rather, they are living a Western life simply because they are western and these things are hard to change.

    We carry our culture around with us. We speak English most of the time in our hom unless we are eating with local guests (which, is a common feature in our home, such that our children have picked up the language pretty good).

    We try to fit in, but we often need breaks from this. During pig roasts I often try not to eat much so I can go home and eat something that I really like instead of slimy pig cooked in a burnt hole in the ground (with a real smoky taste and lots of hair still on it). I never want to see another pig in my life.

    Every couple has a different capacity to stretch and adapt. This is why I think it is essential that missionaries get cross-cultural training pre-field. Good theology is essential, but not enough. There needs to be a good pre-field program and on-field mentorin so that this "cross-cultural muscle" can build without straining. Several very astute theologians I know did very poorly adapting to local cultures due to a certain rigidity they had in them that inhibited their ability to exchange some of their western ways for local ways. I have done better than some, but have regressed of late due to burn-out, which brings out negativity in thinking towards the local culture and brings out a desire NOT to adapt but to reject and criticize the local culture. Here lately I can find 10 bad things about the local people to every 1 admirable trait here and I have been repenting of this.
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