When people learn about the kind of ministries we’ve been involved in one of the most-repeated remarks we hear is, “I just could never do a job where I have to raise support.”
I understand that. Throughout our early years of marriage, as we looked and prayed and planned to go overseas, it was the thing I feared the most. All that money . . . And we had the added bonus of beginning our fund-raising journey in 2009, one of the worst years for our nation’s economy in recent history. The prospect was overwhelming.
And now it’s 2013 and a big part of David’s job in this season involves fund-raising for our church plant for the next four years: for our salary, for facilities’ fees once we start Sunday worship, and for ministry expenses to see us through until we are a self-supporting body.
I find, somewhat to my surprise, that I’m at peace with this season of life, with once again needing to raise funds and live on the generosity of the people around us.
I want to share with you a few reasons why God has given me freedom in this area of our calling, why I no longer fear fund-raising, why I can even say that in many ways I’m grateful for it.
1. Support-raising has grown my faith.
It seems self-evident, but through the process of having to raise support, I’ve grown so much in my faith that it is God who provides. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. A little bit of money (yes, to Him it’s just a drop) is nothing for Him.
Yes, fund-raising involves a whole lot of hard work. But in the end it’s so out of our control. This is God’s work after all, not ours. And it’s one of the sweetest confirmations that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing when He moves mountains to provide.
The more these truths of His bigness and His ability to provide and His personal care sink into my heart, the more freedom I’ve experienced from fear and pride over having to ask for money.
Here’s the thing. We aren’t desperate for people’s money. Not at all. God provides and sure He uses people. But part of Him using them is moving in their heart to give. That’s something I didn’t really understand before we started this journey.
And so we see, time and again, that it’s really not about us. We are free to share our passion with folks and with churches (and we need to, time and again); we are free for them to listen and then say, “No, that’s not something I feel called to.” And that’s okay! The body of Christ is so big and diverse; isn’t it great that we’re passionate about giving to different things and different people?
But when they do feel called to partner with us—that is a truly amazing thing. Their excitement is as big as ours; they give generously, they give joyfully. We see them trust God for the money to give to us and see Him provide for us all!
Our supporters humble us time and again with their faith and their big-heartedness. And together we worship God.
2. Support-raising has given us incredible friends.
We’ve made life-long friends through this process. We’ve had people—some family, some friends from different seasons of our lives, and some complete strangers—carry us through our darkest moments, pray for us doggedly, cheer us on when we had no heart to keep going, pay for unexpected expenses, and shower us with encouragement.
Going into it all we had no idea how much we’d need them. But God knew.
These friends have changed our lives. They’ve taught us what true partnership means—it’s never them writing a check and then us going out and doing the real ministry. No way.
There would be no us without them.
I know that so strongly in my heart that I’m now glad we’re raising support for the first few years of this church plant. We need our tribe, our community more than ever.
And, now that I’m home from the field, it makes me long to be part of that tribe for others who are going, to love on them and cheer them on and encourage them in any way I can.
3. Support-raising has taught me that I can speak in public.
I never ever thought I’d write this, but I’m grateful for the way our experience with support-raising has grown me in public speaking. You know that I struggle with anxiety, and you’d think anxiety and public speaking would go together like oil and water. That’s what I thought. I mean, I’m seriously one of those people who was paralyzed by the prospect of speaking to an audience.
But, once again, God had a better plan.
Oh man those first days were rough. We started our support-raising experience with “interest groups” — basically dessert nights in friends’ homes where we could hang out and share about South Asia. Well I was so terrified about speaking up and sharing even in those small group settings sitting around a living room that I’d have a stomach-ache for days beforehand. I’d feel my throat tighten and gasp for breath as I started speaking.
David was great. He’d talk through it with me, do everything he could to encourage me and make it as painless as possible. But I still had to do my breathing exercises every time I spoke.
Oh how far I’ve come since then. Have I ever spoken to a sanctuary of people on a Sunday morning? No. And I hope I never have to. But I’ve shared in front of increasingly larger amounts of people over the last four years. I’ve learned that it’s okay if I’m nervous, if I fumble over my words and don’t say everything perfectly. This story is bigger than me; I’m just called to be faithful. God has helped become more transparent and honest, and I’ve seen Him use it by His grace to encourage others.
Public speaking is still really, really scary for me—and it’s not something I’d choose to do. But you know what? It’s gotten easier with practice. And it has been a beautiful way for me to learn—to experience—that God really gives strength for what He calls me to. It’s helped me to begin to trust Him and to take risks with other areas of my life.
4. Support-raising has shown me the body of Christ working together
Support-raising has given our family a greater appreciation for the many different strengths in the body of Christ and for the fact that God uses all of us. Some supporters have never been able to give financially but have committed to pray. And you know what? That’s wonderful! God has provided others who can give money but who may not have the gift of consistent prayer or the time to write emails saying they’re praying.
Some of my friends bemoaned the fact that they could never get it together to send us a care package overseas. And that was fine! Because they were emailing or calling me regularly and God provided others—who may never have emailed or called or written—to send care packages.
There have been so many examples like that, and what I want to share with you from our experience is: find what you can do well and do that to partner with missionaries and those in ministry, rather then beating yourself up for what you can’t do! Ask God to provide others for the areas in which you’re weak: He’ll do it! I promise you that whatever you can give: something as simple as a brief Facebook message, will have a huge impact.
5. Support-raising has given me a birds-eye view of God’s work.
I’ve often said over the last few years that I wish every Christian had the opportunity to see what we see. Missionaries get a “big picture view” of the kingdom of God — not just because we see Him work in other cultures, but because we travel to lots of churches and have lots of different individuals support us.
And we hear many, many stories. We’re deeply grieved by the suffering that people experience, and we’re full of amazement at the power of God to change lives (so often through the suffering). These stories bolster our own faith and they constantly humble us because God doesn’t just work in missionaries’ lives or in overseas contexts.
We see American churches big and small, traditional and contemporary, suburban and country and city, all with different demographics, different worship styles, and different personalities serve God with their resources, give generously, and love creatively.
I’ve learned that you simply cannot predict which church or which individual will be most alive to God’s grace or will be making the biggest difference for the kingdom based on appearances. I’ve learned to listen more and judge less.
This has done so much for my perspective on life. Sometimes it’s tempting as Christians to think, “The world is going to pot, churches are losing their passion, Christians have no commitment, this generation is a lost-cause.”
Well I’m not anyone important, but please let me tell you from my heart: That is not true.
God is just as faithful today as He was in New Testament times or in the 1980’s. He’s alive and He’s active. He is seeking and saving those who are lost. He’s restoring marriages, reconciling races, healing addictions, bringing joy. And He’s using ordinary people like you to do it!
The gates of hell are not prevailing and they will not prevail. Let’s live together in that joy and power.