As I prepare for a furlough in September there are many challenging issues that need to be dealt with such as contacting Churches, putting together a schedule of meetings, and preparing others in the Church to take over some ministries in my absence. These and other tasks are definitely important, but insignificant compared to the struggle of finding a balance between my love of ministry in Melbourne and financial need.
On January 8, 2007 I said goodbye to my family at an airport in Charlotte North Carolina before leaving for my first term of service in Melbourne. They were incredibly emotional in that moment and it was the same way with me, but we experienced greatly different emotions. My loved ones where filled with sadness about watching me leave for another Country, I on the other hand was filled with excitement about finally going to Melbourne. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any sadness of course by my sorrow was drowned out by exhilaration over the culmination of a three year deputation ministry.
That emotional high lasted for the first week of my ministry as the Lord revealed His will for my life there. Then after about ten days the Missionaries who I stayed with at the time sat down with me and we had the financial need talk. They showed me the budget of some Missionaries who had served in the past and the Lord had greatly used, then put my budget beside theirs. As we worked our way through the financial information it became apparent that my budget matched theirs but only barely and there was need for some extra expenses. So I simply cut back on the expenses in my budget to create more financial breathing room.
Over the years of my ministry in Melbourne that cutting back response became a regular part of my ministry whenever faced with tight finances. This isn’t because those needs weren’t viewed as important, but I knew that coming back on furlough and raising more support or creating a campaign to raise finances here would take me away from the ministry that is God’s Will for my life. So it was easier to live off of less and continue serving in Melbourne.
This choosing of calling over financial need led me to use a budget that had been tightened three or four times as a gauge of how much support was needed during a 2009 furlough instead of the original one. Initially this wasn’t a problem but then the Australian dollar exploded in growth during late 2010 passing parity with the US dollar for the first time in twenty years during 20011. Suddenly instead of gaining thirteen cents on the dollar Missionaries started losing seven cents which of course affected our ministry.
Now please don’t worry about me, I am fine financially. Don’t believe me? Come over to my house and I will let you sit on the best bean bag while eating a bowl of twenty-five cent ramen noodles out of a cool whip container on my bucket/coffee table. The point is this, I personally haven’t suffered instead MY MINISTRY SUFFERED, which is a big reason why the Lord is leading me to come home on furlough in September. The funny thing is the one thing I wanted to defend (my ministry) is what suffered because I refused to focus on support raising for a short period of time.
I am well aware that Missionaries all around the world are suffering financially right now, many of them are close personal friends. It is true that God desires for us to trust Him with our financial needs, but in my personal opinion we are also obligated to raise the needed support so our ministries can glorify Him. My encouragement to them and those preparing to go into Missions is this….don’t allow the calling that God has placed upon your life blind you to your financial responsibility.