Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What it Really Costs

I know that every 60 seconds a woman dies from a pregnancy related cause, malaria kills more than one million people per year, and there are approximately 34 million refugees in the world. I know $3 will purchase a birthing kit that can increase maternal health, $6 will purchase a bed net that can reduce malaria infections, and teaching English at a refugee center in Nashville, TN is free.

I come from a denominational line of people who tend to give more when economic times are hard. I grew up with their stories of sacrifice and service. My GA leaders taught me the value of a dime and a dollar.

If I say, “I can’t afford to buy a birthing kit,” and still pay my XM radio bill each month, then I don’t know sacrifice. If as an organization we say, “As financial resources become available, we will appoint career personnel again,” and office staff continues to increase, then we don’t know sacrifice.

It’s time to get serious about our priorities. And getting serious about our priorities is bigger than lagging donations.

Lead me and I will follow.

“Speak, Lord. Our souls are hushed to hear what Thou shalt say. Overwhelming is the responsibility, but speak, Lord, and tell us what our duty is – how high or how low – and then, great God . . . give us strength to do it.”

(A prayer by Miss Nannie Helen Burroughs, 1911 BWA Women’s Meeting)
**statistics provided by WHO and UNHCR



Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Action expresses priorities.”- Mahatma Gandhi

“Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are.” - James Frick

9:35 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Missiologist Miriam Adeney said "Why do we say no? In order to say to wheat really matters."

I guess I just think different things matter.

6:05 PM  
Blogger ALB said...

Suzanah, I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Sorry it took so long! The questions and points you’ve raised are extremely valid and appropriate for one to ask of an organization they support.

If supporters understood the needs or opportunities which are limited by not having enough funds, they might respond with giving. In order to get that understanding, I think there needs to be more transparency from CBF Global Missions. I am guessing the average CBF supporter sees people being commissioned each year and assumes everything is fine financially. It’s hard to really understand the numbers--the website says that there are more than 160 field personnel. I am pretty sure that fewer than 50 of those are career. If one wanted to count, it’s not made clear in publications and on the website which people are serving as Affiliates, GSC or career. Most of the new personnel in the last several years have either been GSCers or Affiliates, and considerable numbers of career folks have resigned or retired.

I think another reason for deficient funds is that support is given in other directions, and the difference is not made up. For example, if a church has a couple who become Affiliates, it’s likely that they will divert part or all of their Offering toward that couple’s support. Those who resign inadvertently take support with them when they go. In my case, I had several people tell me they were only supporting CBF because I was with them. Despite my grief at having to resign, I tried to give an unbiased explanation of why I had to do so, but once they knew I had to resign, they stopped giving. (I had to resign because I was getting married; it’s a policy.) In other cases, field personnel have resigned but have continued with their ministries, just not with CBF. They need to raise their own support, and I’m assuming a lot of those who support them probably used to send it through CBF, but now give to those missionaries directly.

I think Suzanah is right, that those who support CBF need to be led and challenged to give. I think people would be more inclined to really give, even sacrifice, if they understood the situation. Historically as Baptists, it has been the women who stepped up to the plate. In 1888, Lottie Moon wrote a letter and the women of Virginia raised enough to send 3 single women to China. Since 1888, 3 billion has been given toward the offering. In 1895, the Home Mission Board asked WMU to raise $5000 to prevent missionaries from leaving the field. They initially called it, the “self denial offering.” (It was later named for Annie Armstrong.) Has a plea gone out? What could happen if we were really asked to sacrifice?

I’m so sorry for your friend, who has been anticipating for years being able to live out her calling, being sent out by the people, the family, that she has been supporting and with whom she’s been in fellowship. I know how sad it is to want to live out your calling, but find that it’s not currently possible for one reason or other. There aren’t a lot of good options for one who is a moderate Baptist, but to someone who is looking to pursue a “career” as a missionary, I would advise this:

-If it doesn’t pose any moral or theological dilemma for you, consider becoming or remaining a Southern Baptist and try to go with the IMB.

-Consider being a “tent-maker,” which you could do with CBF (as an Affiliate) or not. To do this, you need to get an appropriate education that will make you marketable in the world. Develop skills that you can use to meet a felt need or find a large corporation for whom you could work in a place where you could also be an incarnational presence.

-Look into other mission sending agencies (there are over 800), and see if any of them might be a fit. You would mostly likely be raising 100% of your support if you go with one of these groups. (It takes missionaries an average of 3½ years to raise their support in a normal economy.)

Anne Burton Djebonhol

10:27 PM  

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