Answers to common questions about missionary life:
What is a genuine call to missions?
What does it mean to support a missionary?
What is an MK?
How does postmodern culture affect methods of ministry?
Seven Common Features of a Genuine Call
(by Dr. Esther Schubert, who has worked with numerous mission organizations providing psychological screening for applicants and counseling for missionaries.)
- There is usually a spiritual and mental struggle culminating in a crisis experience of consecration resulting in willingness to do whatever God asks.
- A genuine call is confirmed by external sources - providences of God, validation from Christian friends, support of local church, etc.
- A genuine call endures over time - nature of assignment may change, but the heart of the call remains the same. This is evidenced by patience and by perseverance through difficult times.
- Those who answer the call develop interest and hunger for training and experience to prepare them for their calling. This comes with humility and a teachable spirit.
- Those who answer the call find their eyes open to the lost-ness of those around them, manifested in a present, genuine concern for others.
- Each member of the family may have an individual calling, the sum of which is greater than each individual's call.
- A genuine call is Christ-centered - the Caller is more important than the call. This means the call is not built around a personal agenda or aspirations.
Possible Characteristics of a Counterfeit Call (which is often sub-conscious)
- A desire to win God's approval - especially if there is any background of abuse.
- A need to belong - to find a family to fit into.
- A need to do penance - in an effort to deal with false guilt.
- A rash promise made to God at some point of duress.
- Family pressure.
- A need to be a hero or rescuer.
- A need to go home - especially for MKs.
- Personality disorders.
- Cultural pressure of the Christian society - from church or Christian college.
What is support - something you get or something you do?
Raising support is unique to faith missions. Through a process called deputation, missionaries identify churches and individuals who pledge a certain amount of money to cover their living allowance and the expenses related to their missionary work. This money is called support. Those who pledge are known as supporters. Supporters support a missionary when they give support. Gifts are acknowledged with a tax-deductible receipt from the mission office.
There are about 110 individuals/families who contribute to Paul and Ellie's ministry in the course of a year. About half of these contribute on a regular monthly basis; the others give periodically as they are able or give a pledged amount each year.
Are there different kinds of contributions?
Yes, there are four types of gifts.
- Regular support. This is monthly, quarterly or annual support contributions, given through the mission agency, which cover the missionary's basic living and ministry expenses.
- One time gifts. These are also tax-deductible contributions which cover unexpected financial needs or can be used toward regular, monthly expenses.
- Project gifts. Projects may include anything from a special ministry opportunity to a car. Project donations should be clearly marked so that the money will be assigned to the purpose you intend. Project gifts are also tax-deductible.
- Personal gifts. - Cash gifts for birthdays, Christmas, a new baby, or just something extra are over and above regular support and are not eligible for a tax-deductible receipt from the mission. Write “personal, non-support gift” on a note accompanying your check.
How much of my contribution goes toward living allowance?
Depending on the field, about $.80 of every dollar goes to living allowance (salary), tithe, taxes, housing and retirement. The balance is used for other items such as travel, insurance, ministry and administrative costs.
How does RCE International demonstrate accountability for money contributed?
RCE International is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which monitors and reviews all member organizations on a regular basis. A financial statement can be found on the RCE International website.
What happens if the missionary receives support beyond the monthly requirement?
Because individuals contribute on different schedules, the support averages out over the course of a year. If there is a considerable amount (several thousand dollars) remaining at the end of a year, the mission has the legal right to designate it to another ministry, but in practice this does not happen without the missionary's consent or specific request.
How do I begin support?
When should I begin support?
Please begin as soon as you are able. It will encourage your missionaries to know you want to be actively involved in their ministry in a tangible way.
How long is my support commitment?
Support for career missionaries should continue at least until they return for their next home assignment (usually every 5th year). Missionaries usually assume that you will continue your support indefinitely unless you advise them differently. If extenuating circumstances make it necessary for you to reduce or discontinue support, please inform your missionaries, giving them as much advance notice as possible, so that they can make the need known to other existing and potential supporters.
What happens with support when my missionary is on home assignment?
Please continue to support your missionary during home assignment, if possible. The funds raised during this time will be used for living allowance, housing, and administrative costs. Health insurance and retirement savings continue as well, even during home assignment. These funds make it possible for the missionary family to travel for deputation, report on their last term of service, recruit new interest in missions world-wide, and to visit you! Any additional funds raised will make it possible for the missionary to return to the field as soon as possible to continue the work they are leaving behind.-back to top-
MK is the abbreviation used for a Missionary Kid. Being the child of missionaries myself gives me an understanding of what many MKs experience and the identity formed in being the child of 2 or 3 cultures at the same time. Whether still living at home or grown up and on your own, being an MK is a complicated issue and involves many self contradictions. There is a profound sense of connection as well as disconnection with people and with places around the world. There is a keen ability to integrate and understand groups of people as well as inability to relate to individuals. There is a degree of comfort in cultural diversity and a fear in trying to relate to others of our own nationality. Family to an MK may mean not so much those of blood relation who happen to live in another country, but those who have shared the same diverse life experiences (other MKs) who we have just met. Identity means thinking in two languages at the same time and always being frustrated by those who can't. Home is less a location, and more a feeling of wanting to belong somewhere. It is this self contradiction which shapes our lives and gives us unique abilities as well as needs.
Why is ministry to the children of missionaries (MKs) important?
This subject touches the heart of who we are and what we do because of our long-term involvement with MK education and out of concern for our own children. Take a look at this quote from an expert.
Years ago, a major mission agency did a study on why missionaries go home. Children's issues, including children's education, was one of the most commonly stated reasons for families leaving the field prematurely.
The family headed overseas can be so focused on ministry strategies that before they get there, the mundane issue of how their children will be educated can get “lost in the shuffle.” When the family gets off the plane, how to educate their children will be a daily issue. As God calls couples with children overseas, He cares very much about those children, as well as the parents' ministry.
- Dr. David Brooks, first president of SHARE Education
In 2014, Paul prepared a presentation that addresses many issues of education for those who are transitioning to another culture. This may be very valuable information for you or for others you know. Please feel free to share: Planning Ahead
This is why we are convinced that God does not call one family member to serve on the mission field - He calls each family member. The official ministry of the parents is only one aspect of how God uses our lives in service to Him. Children (MKs) are most certainly called to ministry in that God will use them as a blessing within the new culture/language setting even as they are learning of their own need for a personal relationship with Jesus. Young people who understand their calling as Christians have their own unique potential for ministry in the host (foreign) culture, often with a better practical understanding of that culture built on their experiences growing up there.
What are some particular concerns that the MK has in relating to people and cultures?
Usually the adult missionary views himself as a foreigner or as a mirror of the culture for the first few years of ministry. This allows him to transition in and out of the host (foreign) culture with a level of stress that may be expected because of the change he has determined to make. The MK, however, if their early years have been in the culture of their parents' ministry, may experience a much different and intense level of stress because they are well adapted to host culture but experience a huge cultural transition when they return to the home culture. This is particularly stressful because it is unexpected and is not a result of a choice that they have made; they are simply going to a “home” that has never really been home to them.
In 2014, Paul collected a survey of various MKs and TCKs (Third Culture Kids) that examines the issues of transition and its impact on them personally. This may be very valuable information for you or for others you know. Please feel free to share: TCK Interview (pdf).
What is the role of the Christian school in the education of MKs?
The issue of the Christian school in a mission context is often taken for granted by those who have not spent time and effort in developing an understanding of the tasks involved. Some of the things to consider are: the temporary nature of the teachers and staff, the multi-cultural setting in which it functions, the task of nurturing a diverse community (often of multiple languages), the need to develop outreach within the school and in the community, the specific educational needs of students from a minority culture and/or language group, and the enormous task of coordinating and developing curriculum which meets the standards of the families, the accrediting association, the Biblical worldview, the stated level and method of educational preparation, and at times the host country's requirements. We have been part of this evaluation and development in the MK school where we worked. Paul continues to aid in the evaluation and accreditation process of international and national Christian schools with ACSI. You can read more on the value of Christian Education here: ValueOfCE.pdf (feel free to share).
Although there may be other options for schooling such as homeschool, a local national school, a boarding school, or an International preparatory school, many missionaries prefer the distinct advantages of an international Christian school (or MK school). These schools provide an American style curriculum which will prepare their children for college in the US with the personal attention of Christian teachers who are also deeply concerned about the spiritual and social needs MKs have. Paul also serves on the board of SHARE Education, which provides support for the educational needs of missionaries and expatriate families living in Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.-back to top-
This is a major concern in European cultures and affects all our interactions with people. The primary concern is developing a relational ministry. This means that instead of focussing on programs or projects, we build relationships with individuals. These relationships are real, honest friendships with a commitment to spend time with and pray for people who don't know Jesus as their Savior. We trust and pray that each of these friends will begin to see Christ's love in us by our attitudes and actions, not by being preached at or even going to church. The reason for not introducing “religious activity” into a friendship is the natural distrust of religion in today's society, particularly in post-Christian cultures. Many churches provide events designed to give insight into what we as Christians believe in a casual environment. We really like these types of activities which often center around a discussion topic, a concert, a movie, teaching or learning English, an outdoor activity, sports, technology, or even food! If you are wondering how to reach people for Jesus, try experimenting with one yourself - if you enjoy it, chances are good that someone else will be interested too and you will have an opportunity to demonstrate God's love for them!