Ending Well Costs Money

Jun 27, 2024 | 5 comments

This is part of a series of letters Elizabeth writes to a fictional pastor. Have you read Taking Down the Ministry Pedestal or watched What We Wish Senders Knew (Senders’ version or the Goers’ version)? Once a month, Elizabeth will write to Jerry and flesh out another area related to the pedestal or the survey results. You can find previous letters here.


Dear Pastor Jerry,

I’m writing you this time, not for us, but for Jack and Linda, the global workers Pine Creek has supported for the last 29 years. They just got the letter from your global outreach team that your financial policy has changed and Pine Creek can no longer support “home staff workers.” They are a little down, and I volunteered to write you. 

You see, they have only one more year to retirement. One. More. Year. Their support is running about 82% right now, and though their organization helps fill in the gap with contributions from other workers, they want to finish well and carry their full load. Most of the last 29 years they have been over-supported enough that their support helped others. Losing a major supporting church right now is painful. 

They are also concerned that they are “off the books” because of what they do. For 27 years they worked outside the USA, and for 15 years before that they served in pastoral work in the USA. In the last two years, they have taken all that experience and poured it into the lives of new appointees joining their agency. 

Can you imagine the value of sitting — meal after meal, evening after evening, during your training time — with people who have lived abroad for decades, raised kids there, educated their kids, planted churches, worked with all economic levels of society, and survived? I would wager, if I were a betting person, that there isn’t a question asked that they can’t answer. And if perchance they can’t answer themselves, they know exactly who in the organization can answer. 

When a church decides not to support home staff, it equates to saying that the training and ministry that keeps cross-cultural workers out THERE is not important. But the church, even a church as globally minded as Pine Creek, is not prepared to effectively train global workers for all they will experience when they leave their home country.

Further, what church is able to handle all their finances, their insurances, their medical plan, their retirement fund, their travel fund, as well as counsel them spiritually and emotionally? What church can help families plan out their children’s education when there are no schools? What church is prepared for crisis management in some remote part of the world? What church knows how to evacuate a worker in a medical emergency from a distant village, and where to take them? That’s what agency home staff do, and they do it well. 

Home staff do it well because often they have lived through all those crises themselves–somewhere outside their home country. They are probably in their home office because they have served well overseas and, as outstanding leaders, have been asked to serve the larger organization. Many times they aren’t “home” because they really want to be home; they left their hearts in some other corner of the world. But they recognize that just as someone older got them started–maybe 29 years ago–they can do the same for the next generation.

So, as to that last year of Jack and Linda’s service before retirement. Wouldn’t it be exciting for Pine Creek to double their support instead of taking it away, so all of you could finish 30 years with a celebration, not a discouraged whimper? 

Sorry, I’m just frustrated and hope for sending churches to help all people they support end well. I bet I’m not the only global worker who feels this way. 

With blessing,
Elizabeth

P.S. What would you add to my letter? Am I alone in feeling disappointed?

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Elizabeth Givens

Global journalist, TESOL prof, church planter in Asia

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5 Comments

  1. Janette

    Thank you for writing about a subject I am living. My husband and I served in South America for over 53 years, and he died in a traffic accident in our little village, surrounded by those we love and buried under a mango tree. I am believing that it was God that took him home, in spite of the circumstances.

    I think we realized early on, when our home church died after our 20th year overseas and couldn’t support us abroad, that we needed to be self supported. My husband did some wise investing, and also we farmed and taught our students in our vocational technical school to do bivocational work. Teaching pastors and young leaders in the church to work bivocationally so that they were not a burden to the young congregations. Like Paul, be “tent makers”. That is to say that others also took up supporting us, and God supplied through many that wanted to join us in God’s work.

    We were able through the Lord’s help and people who also joined us in ministry, to start a technical training center, an orphanage project, and build houses for missionaries. We lived on our farm, and raised cattle and did fish farming. It sounds amazing and it was!

    Now, I am finally trying to adjust to living in the US, slowly transitioning but still visiting our field home when I can. My daughter and her family still live and serve there. I am not a burden to our family because the farm still gives me income, and supports several families in the church overseas. God has blessed us in amazing ways, but I believe missionaries need to be also self supported. God gave us many talents that can help unburden the church and home office.

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      Hey Janette, in cased you missed it (since it wasn’t directly on this comment), below is a response from Liz :).

      Reply
  2. Debbie

    This is a very common situation. The evaluation of who merits funding: people overseas or people in their home country. The home country allows us to get a job and not navigate fluctuation in exchange rates to name just a few. The overseas ministry leader is seen as a super christian because of the sacrifices and the demands of living in another culture / land. We need fully funded ministry leaders overseas and in the home country. One is not better than the other. We seek to follow wherever Jesus takes us to be with Him in building His Kingdom. Let’s rejoice in these servants willingness to do just that for he Church.

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      Hey Debbie, in cased you missed it (since it wasn’t directly on this comment), below is a response from Liz :).

      Reply
  3. Elizabeth Givens

    Thanks Debbie and Janette — in our time working out from the home base, we often needed to explain to churches and individuals the importance of support staff. While self-support is valuable and can be very helpful, the oversight and care of an organizational hub is also good for both accountability and safety/security.

    Reply

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