When people hear the word “missionary,” the words “poor” or “needy” usually come to mind. Being a missionary does require sacrifice, but what do you do on deputation when the love offerings and monthly support start piling up? Go on a cruise? Hopefully not. If you are thinking ahead, you’ll know exactly what to do….SAVE!
Before we get into this article, let me clarify several differentials that will influence your outcome from following the suggestions below.
- The size of your family. More mouths to feed equals less money to save.
- The vehicle you drive. If you are in an RV or pull a trailer, you will be putting more in the tank than in the bank.
- The housing back home. If you have a mortgage to cover each month while on deputation, those love offerings will go very quickly. If you are living with a family member, you should have more ability to save.
- The health of the family. Medicine and doctor bills that are reoccurring quickly add up.
- The length of your deputation. If you are only on deputation for a year, you will not have had as much opportunity to save as a missionary who has been on deputation for two or three years.
- The number of meetings you have each month. More meetings mean more love offerings and a higher opportunity to save.
The list above does not involve any criticism but simply states the fact that all missionaries on deputation have different situations that will affect your saving for the field. Depending on where a missionary stands on the above list will determine whether or not he/she will be writing a letter at the end of deputation asking churches for $20,000 or $30,000 to get moved to the field, buy a vehicle, and set up house. The goal of this article is to eliminate the need or at least decrease the amount you need to request before departing for the field. Now with this preface, let us continue.
When you start out on deputation, you will most likely be living love offering to love offering and praying for simple needs like food, clothing, and a place to pillow your head at night. The last thing on your mind is saving money. As you continue on visiting churches and your monthly support starts increasing, you are now faced with decisions on what to do with it. Even with the accountability you have with your sending church and mission board (if you have one), you still need to make wise, ethical, and God-honouring decisions.
Determine the amount needed to leave for the field. This is not including your monthly support. Here are some items that may be included in your departure/setup costs: passports, visas, immunizations, shipping costs, shipping container, vehicle, furniture, appliances, home decorations, attorney/lawyer fees, airfare, special clothing (i.e. parkas), and anything else I forgot to list. This list can easily add up to $30,000. Sit down and figure out your projected costs.
Allocate funds correctly. This is mainly for those of you who have or will have two accounts, one for personal and one for ministry. When you reach the mission field, a good portion of your expenses will NOT be ministry expenses (or “business” expenses in IRS terms). Furniture, appliances, and home decor that you buy are personal expenses. Clothing is a personal expense. Your main vehicle will also most likely be a personal expense, too. So how do you get the love offerings and monthly support saved in your personal account for these expenses without jumping up your personal, taxable income? Two ways: per diem and mileage reimbursement. We have used these two during deputation to get the ministry funds ethically and legally allocated to our personal funds. As you drive your vehicle, eat meals while “on the road,” and stay in hotels, you can receive a reimbursement that is greater than your actual costs if you live economically. The reimbursement will cover your actual costs and the excess can be set aside for the expenses that will come from your personal account. If you have any further questions on this or need clarification, please write me.
Manage what you can from the differentials listed above. You cannot change certain aspects, like decreasing the size of your family or eliminating a chronic disease, but you can control some on the list. For example, you could fill your schedule with more meetings, reduce your housing costs by downsizing or renting, eat healthy to cut back on medical costs, or thoughtfully choose your mode of transportation. What you can’t change, don’t worry about, but what you can and should change, do it.
Live economically. Don’t stay in expensive hotels. Stay in prophets chambers or with friends when possible. Eat less food (missionaries may see greater success on deputation if they fast and pray). Cancel your cable or dish satellite bill. If you do some fun things with your family or vacation (and you should), keep it within reason (both with cost and amount of time). Shop at yard sales and thrift stores instead of always at department stores. Good old common sense and good stewardship will take care of most of these.
Keep designated gifts designated. You may be blessed to receive a special offering or large sum of money from a church or Christian school during your deputation. If it is designated for your airfare, guard it for that purpose.
If you have done your God-given part, then trust God for the rest. Why should we ask God to do something that we should have done ourselves, if God had already made provisions for it? If you have been a good steward through deputation and still are in need of items or funds, then by all means, take it before the Father. “Ye have not because ye ask not.”
Following the suggestions above may or may not delete the need to ask for passage and setup funds, but I believe it will at least decrease the number you would need to mention in a prayer letter to supporting churches. May we be found faithful stewards of what is God’s.