10 Reasons Living on Support, Even at Home, Is Awesome

by Laura on December 16, 2012

So I recently wrote about the awkward moments of living on support stateside— the guilt, the paranoia, the un-cool factor that works its way into the monthly newsletters.  And, while all of that is true, I also wanted to talk about the positive ways living on financial support has affected me– at home and abroad.

10 Reasons Living on Support is Awesome

10. You don’t feel like you have to argue quite so hard when someone else offers to pick up the tab at a restaurant.

9. Your pride takes a hit and so does your self-sufficiency.

8. You get to run into people around town and know that they support your work, because, like, they do, literally. You see their names and their giving on your financial reports each month, after all.

7. Sometimes people let you use their vacation houses for free.

6. You get to see God provide through people in unexpected ways, often at the last minute, usually out of left-field. And you write the checks for the bills each month with this intense understanding that God knows what you need. That his eye really is on the sparrow.

5. Your independence from others gets body-slammed on a consistent basis.

4. You become more excited over small things– a friend’s offer to buy you a Starbucks, the provision of your kid’s soccer cleats (in his size! nearly new!) at Goodwill for $3, a free piece of furniture, a random check in the mail.

3. You suddenly have a deeper sense of compassion for the college kid who’s trying to sell Mary Kay or the 5th grader at the door trying to raise funds to go to his band camp this summer.

2. Your kids get a front-row seat to both watching God provide and living the reality that they can’t, actually, get everything they want.

1.  HIT{Pride + Self-sufficiency + Independence from others + Sense of entitlement} + SEEING {Provision + Supporters regularly} = Not So Bad, After All

******

What are the GIFTS of living on financial support? Other than the obvious– financial support?

You can catch the first part of this post about the difficulties of living on support HERE.

  • Heather

    I love this post and this conversation. The pride, self-sufficiency and entitlements are wrecked as the humility, interdependence, and gratitudes seep in. It really is amazing, even miraculous, to see the provisions happening—so often unexpectedly and at the last minute. And not just for my family, but for others too. Such infinite abundance of grace and mercy.

    Also, for me, asking for and accepting support keeps being such a beautiful process of healing my broken trust. Trust in others, trust in God.

    Again, thank you so much for your courage, honesty, and vulnerability, friend.

    big hugs :)

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Thanks, friend. Loved your point about how trusting in others, and being in a position to be forced to do that, can be a way God mends our own brokenness. Loved that. And find it to be very true. We fight so hard to be independent when I wonder if what we really need is so much more dependence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richelle.wright Richelle Wright

    Another gift, at least from my parenting perspective, is having to “walk the talk” of depending on God for sometimes very literally daily needs in front of my kids… and the challenge of doing so joyfully because when I’m not, they clearly reflect it right back at me. As missos, living on support, we get to practice what Paul talks about – learning to choose contentment in whatsoever state God places us.

    Kind of a slightly different topic, but we’ve often discussed how we prefer the relative poverty of living on support in the States compared to the relative wealth of living on support in our country of ministry.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Loved that last paragraph– what a cool way to look at things, and you are right, in many ways living on support seems easier/more comfortable (emotionally and financially) overseas than stateside.

  • somewhat cynical

    I like the honesty with which you write, but I kind of wonder about a few things. For instance the missionaries I know who live in Central America have a budget of 50,000 to 60,000. Now I don’t know what they spend it on, but we are living here, supporting ourselves on about 1/3 of that. Most have very nice homes, even maids. Seems to me that some of the supporters back home don’t live as good as most missionaries do. As someone who believes in supporting ourselves, I would say that it takes just as much faith each day to trust that God is going to provide that day our daily bread through a job as it does that God will move someone to donate. The other question I have wondered is this; if your (generally speaking) support dried up, would you stay with the people God has called you to minister to? Would you, as one indigenous friend of mine asked, suffer hunger for the sake of the gospel?

    I know I must sound a bit cynical…but honestly, after sitting for years in churches having missionaries ask for money…and giving a lot of my very hard earned cash, I was shocked to find out that for many, life is very good on the mission field. Although there are very hard workers, there are also a lot of slackers and even a lot of false advertisement going on back home.

    Honsety in all areas should be a fundamental requirement of missionaries, beginning by not using the, “I’m at 80% of my support”. Just tell us you need $60,000 before you can by faith follow God’s call.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Thanks for your honest comment– there’s a lot here, obviously.

      Let me say that I totally get what you are saying, and I think as with most things there is a huge huge spectrum. Yes, some people take advantage. Yes, some people spend money really unwisely. Yes, some people mislead supporters. Absolutely.
      BUt.

      Some missionaries don’t do any of that. Some bleed out on behalf of the people around them and go and do things that many would not consider. Some struggle daily to make ends meet and don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from either.
      Like in life, I think it is totally a case by case basis, and the best advice i can give is to know who you are giving to financially. Build a relationship with that person and pray to see if you are to be involved in their ministry. I think most of the misunderstanding comes when people give without really having a relationship or understand of what they are giving to.
      Also, I will say that there are lots of expenses that are incurred living overseas that people stateside don’t realize. Plane tickets and visa expenses. Translation service, language classes. And it may seem strange, but having a maid is almost essential when living in most places overseas– life is just way harder oftentimes (dirt floors, hand washed laundry, etc) and having a maid provides a local woman with a solid job, too.
      Anyway, just some thoughts! Thanks for your work ethic and for your good questions!

      • somewhat cynical

        Absolutely! I know some really good people out here and I know some of the others too. My advice for missionaries raisinng support is to separate out the ministry budget and the personal budget. Those two things are totally different and should be itemized for your supporters and clearly stated.

        And just so you don’t get the wrong impression of me, we are actually on the “field” in a third world country. We have a very small income (about 1300 per month) which we trust will continue to come in each month and if we are careful we can live on this. We live in a decent home, no maid, but have running water and store bought wheat bread. Our house is dusty all the time, but our children help clean which teaches them responsibility. We do not have health insurance or retirement, but we didn’t have those things in the states either. Being self employed, the cost always seemed prohibitive. Now being here, decent medical care is so inexpensive even in a good hospital it doesn’t seem nesassary.

        When I look back on our life in the States and how hectic it was even trying to live more simply, living here is not a chore or a struggle or even giving up so much…it is a blessing.

        At any rate, I was not trying to cause disunity, but rather promote honest discussion because I see both sides of the issue now. Most missionaries I know would absolutely hate to go back home and back to work in the private sector. The demands that place puts on you are far greater than the mission field in many ways. Now that’s a chore!

        God calls all of us and he calls all of us in different ways. The sacrifices we make here on the field are no greater than the sacrifices your supporters make to keep you here. I know so may elderly people who give faithfully to missionaries each month who cannot afford a meal out, let alone maid, but believe in what you are doing and in God’s command. We need to be careful that we don’t set ourselves up as super heros for the faith. That elderly lady sacrificing her $20 each month and praying for you is my hero and they will someday be recognized for that in heaven.

    • Erin

      As a missionary, I feel a need to respond by sharing a few of my observations, and maybe a bit of a defense.
      Maybe some missionaries are required to raise 60,000 a year, but what is it going for? Have you asked to see their budget? How much of that is funding projects and not just living expenses? Do you think missionaries do not deserve to have things like health insurance, retirement funds, a decent education for their children? They are making some big sacrifices, do they need to make every sacrifice? I am sure that there are some people who are not good stewards of the money they raise, but lets not judge all by a few bad apples. I find that it depends mainly on the expectations and demands of the mission organization that the missionary is with, some organizations require that their workers raise huge sums of money and others much less. So it is often not the missionary who decides how much they are trying to raise, and some organizations will not let them return to the field without reaching 100%.
      Many of the missionaries I know live off of shockingly little and go without many things that others would consider non-negotiable.
      As for having a maid, I could either spend 5 labor intensive hours a day cleaning floors, dusting every surface in the house, and scrubbing out all of our laundry in a basin, or I can pay a local woman about $20 a week to do all of that for me which frees up my time (and energy) to do what I actually came to the mission field to do. It also gives her a job and she is exposed to God’s love and truth in our home each day, we pray that she will become a Christian. Compared to in the states, just to live and eat here takes tremendous amounts of time and energy. We don’t have the conveniences of washing machines, dishwashers, vaccum cleaners, or one-stop grocery stores here. Everything we eat is from scratch – if I want whole wheat bread I have to get the wheat washed, dried, and taken to the mill before I can knead and bake the dough. The dust in the air settles on everything in our house making it necessary for everything to be cleaned several times a week if not daily, and we need to keep the windows open because we can’t afford air conditioning (besides the fact that our power is cut 4-5 hours a day on average) and it is over 100 degrees every day.
      Our house is nicer than some of our neighbors in that we have electricity and running water and a sit down toilet. But we live 24/7 in a place that is not easy, and there is constant cultural stress to deal with. If I didn’t have a decent home to live in as a refuge from everything that surrounds us I don’t think I would last long on the field.
      I agree that missionaries should be honest in their appeals for funds. But I also think that if you could walk a mile in our shoes you might be a lot less cynical.

      • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

        Erin, thanks for this.

        I get this, and I am really grateful you took the time to share here.

        I do know that for us, we didn’t have a separate budget for living and ministry– it was all in one pot. Also, I agree that life overseas is hard– brutal. While the locals didn’t pay for air-conditioning, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it if I didn’t have it, so there is just so much, i agree, that goes into budgets/spending/living/etc.
        Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to give this on the ground perspective. Its a valuable one.
        Hang in there. Keep going, girl . . . .

      • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

        Erin, thanks for this.

        I get this, and I am really grateful you took the time to share here.

        I do know that for us, we didn’t have a separate budget for living and ministry– it was all in one pot. Also, I agree that life overseas is hard– brutal. While the locals didn’t pay for air-conditioning, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it if I didn’t have it, so there is just so much, i agree, that goes into budgets/spending/living/etc.
        Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to give this on the ground perspective. Its a valuable one.
        Hang in there. Keep going, girl . . . .

      • somewhat cynical

        Erin,

        I like your question “Do missionaries deserve health ins and retirements?” I don’t have all the answers. We personally don’t have those now and didn’t prior to leaving for the field. Maybe a foolish decision, maybe just trusting God will provide. I have asked myself several questions and one of my indigenous pastor friends asked me in a very honest conversation we had when he saw how well we Americans live in third world countries. He asked this, “Are you willing to suffer hunger for the cause of Christ?” I wonder if our income dried up if we would head back home? i ask myself that question often. I ask it of you. Would you be willing to live as poorly as the people you are witnessing to? I personally don’t have an answer for that. I trust that God would give me the strength to do that at that time. Or what if the bullets start to fly. Leave or stay? I am reminded oftent hat Christ gave up the riches and glories of heaven to come to earth to suffer and die for us and that we, his servants, are not to be greater than the Master, but are to follow his example. Food for thought we wealthy missionaries might do well to consider from time to time.

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