Pastor Blake Williams
Missions & Outreach Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
Over the last 8 years in full-time ministry I’ve had the chance to lead short term mission
teams to: Czech Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica (4X), South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania. In a few weeks I’ll be taking a team to South Africa to support the missions work of our former executive pastor Eric Dalrymple, who is now on staff with Reach Global. Our team of 9 has struggled to raise the needed support for this trip and it got me to thinking about how often this has happened over my years in missions. With each trip there are elements that are very much the same and others that are dramatically different.
Things that change depending on the trip:
1. The people you take with you
2. The destination
3. The scope of work
4. The amount of preparation
Things that always remain the same:
1. Lots of administrative tasks
2. Team building exercises
3. Servants heart
4. Support Raising
It’s this last one that is simultaneously one of my favorite and least favorite things about the experience. I remember in 2009 when I went on my first trip to the Czech Republic and our needed support per team member was $2250. I freaked out a little bit when I heard that, but listened to my team leader and mentor Bill who told me to trust God and just begin to send out support letters to people letting them know what I would be doing. I sent out over 50 letters to people because I was convinced that it would take that many to come anywhere close. Even then, I fully expected to be contributing a large portion of the trip cost myself.
Now there are a few times in my life where I have been so wrong it’s been comical, this was one of them. Over the next few weeks I watched my letters roll back into my mailbox with checks and notes attached. Within a few weeks God had used these wonderful people in my life to cover almost $1500. I was amazed, humbled, and thankful.
Then one day I went to the mailbox and opened up a letter from a friend who was a co- counselor of mine at a summer camp the year before. He was in medical school, was engaged to be married, and was unable to work because of med school. In his envelope was a check for $225 and a letter telling me that after praying he felt God telling him to take care of 10% of my trip. This gift is one of 5 over the course of my life that has brought me to tears. For so long, I had put God in a box of whom He could use and how He could use them. My intention in sending Adam that letter was for him to pray for our team and to keep him posted on my journey with God.
In a conversation with him not long after I was telling him how I had watched God not only provide the entire amount for my trip, but more than double the amount needed. This money was used to help teammates who were unable to cover their full amount and made sure that our entire team could come. He said something to me that many others have over the course of my time in ministry and missions, “you have to let people know the need, and then let God work.”
One of the most difficult things about raising support is that it sucks to ask people for money. Bet you didn’t think you’d get something that blunt in this blog post did you?There are a few reasons it’s terrible, and this list is not exhaustive. First, we are prideful. Second, it’s embarrassing to express a need. Third, we don’t want to lose friends or strain relationships over it.
I’ll speak to each of those in different ways. First, pride is a sin, and as such should be dealt with. If we can’t be honest with our needs within the body of Christ, there is something broken not just with us, but with the body. Second, asking people to walk alongside us as we serve the Lord shouldn’t embarrass us. If you truly feel embarrassed your motives for going on the trip might not be as pure as you’d like to think. Third, if your friends or family don’t support or understand what you’re doing, that’s on you to explain it. There should never ever be pressure to give towards a trip, especially with close friends and family. But I would hope that all friends and family at least know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what the need is.
Another thing that I’ve learned through this process is that there are so many more people involved in the process than just those who go. I’ve had people support me over the years that genuinely enjoy giving money towards it because they either can’t or don’t want to go. They believe in the work, they believe in me, and they also can’t or don’t want to do it themselves. I’ve been rebuked by some of these folks for not letting them know the need of a team that was falling short on fundraising because I’m stealing their blessing. Talk about a reversal!
I shared in a video blog a few weeks ago about coming back from trips and sharing the
story. This is the most powerful part for those that supported you. I try with each trip to
have at least one story that I can share with supporters that shows them their investment
was well founded. Sometimes it’s a salvation story, sometimes it’s a story of complete transformation, but no matter the story, it wouldn’t have happened without their help.
Each team is comprised of those who go, those who pray, and those who provide support; each is indispensable.