In 2008 my husband and I faced the daunting task of raising funds to support our family as we were preparing to live overseas as missionaries. It was a crazy and amazing time in our lives and I want to share some of the struggles and blessings (yes blessings!) we experienced through fundraising.
I think I can safely speak on behalf of most missionaries when I say that fundraising in not on the top of the list of favorite things to do. It is probably the biggest hurdle standing between the missionary and getting to the field. I have even had people tell me that they would become missionaries themselves if they didn’t have to raise support.
Asking your friends and family (and sometimes complete strangers) for money can be awkward and uncomfortable. It seems to go against everything our culture tells us… Be self-sufficient, Be independent, Be in control.
I think most missionaries (ourselves included), if given a free pass on raising support, would probably just take the check and run! They would gladly skip the fundraising step to go straight to their destination and get started on the work that God has set before them. In hindsight I’m really glad that we personally were not given that option! If we had skipped the fundraising process, we would have missed out on so much that God wanted to teach us. We would not have been nearly as prepared for our work on the mission field. We learned so many valuable lessons during our fundraising period that we wouldn’t trade for the world. Here are the top three lessons we learned.
1) Learning to be dependent on God and on others
We were embarking into uncharted territory in many ways. As I mentioned before, being dependent does not come naturally for most adults. However, it was something we had to learn for a few reasons. First, our family was entering a culture in which the way of life was VERY different than what we knew. We would need to learn how to do the simplest tasks all over again; how to communicate in another language, how to buy food, how to mail a letter, how to greet people properly. (We even needed help plugging in our refrigerator properly so it would work!) Multiple times each day we found ourselves being DEPENDENT on others. We had to ask what seemed to be very silly questions and were in a lot of awkward situations just to get through the day. It was uncomfortable and at times very embarrassing. (Oh the stories we have!)
Secondly, we were sharing the gospel message with people who spoke a different language and lived in another culture, and we hoped it would change their lives. That in and of itself is nothing short of a miracle. God was going to have to do…well all of it! Dependence on God was all we had!
Our journey of fundraising actually prepared us for that kind of dependence. Fundraising helped us practice being uncomfortable. We learned to ask for help from others. But most importantly we learned to trust and depend on God. It was an incredible journey of watching God ultimately provide for us…and all in his timing, not ours.
2) Learning that we weren’t the only ones on a Faith Journey
Perhaps one of the biggest blessings of our fundraising journey was seeing how God used it to increase the faith of others. We have countless stories of how God spoke in amazing ways to others about supporting us through prayer and through their finances. Mothers would tell us stories of how their children were praying for us, and for the children of Bolivia. Some kids were selling lemonade along the road to help support us financially.
Fundraising certainly increased our faith, but we also saw how God used what He was doing in our lives to increase the faith of those around us. We were quick to realize that we were going to need these people who God called to be on this journey with us. I can’t imagine what life on the field would have been like without knowing we had a team of people who had invested in our lives and were lifting us up in prayer. They showed concern for how we were doing. It helped us to not feel so isolated and alone when we were so far away from everything that was familiar.
3) Continued affirmation of our calling
Incase you were wondering we did eventually reach our financial goals and left for the field in 2009. We have been living on support now for 6 years and realize that fundraising never ends. It’s an ongoing process with ups and downs. Asking for money is still uncomfortable and awkward. But God continues to provide for us in amazing ways. It would take just a few people to drop their support and our boat would be rocked pretty substantially. With the snap of your fingers we could not be able to pay our bills. If I am 100% honest there are moments here and there where it’s kind of scary. But this journey of fundraising has taught us that it’s all out of our control and all in God’s control. He has showed us time and time again that this is the work that He has for our family and he has been so faithful in his provision for us.
If I could summarize all of these lessons into one it would be this:
The journey may be more important than the destination.
At the end of the day God doesn’t need us to help Him accomplish his plan in this world. He can do that all in his own power. He does choose, however, to invite us along because the journey draws us closer to Him. Fundraising has taught us invaluable lessons of dependence on the Lord and on the body of Christ. We have learned how to better hear His voice and trust in His leading. God used the fundraising process to prepare us for the next step. There are days of anxiety and frustration but by the grace of God I can honestly say…
Fundraising has truly been a blessing!Image courtesy of loopoboy 2.0 / Flickr.com Jennie serves part time in the Member Care department for Reconciled World. She, along with her husband John and her two daughters live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.