The e-mail title read “Committed Support Change Notice.” My automatic reaction was disappointment; more often than not, these e-mails are bearers of bad news. Understanding the current economy in which our supporters live, it would come as no surprise. What came as a surprise, then, was to find that a young family already sacrificially supporting us for many years had – in the midst of their own raising of four children, paying school bills, saving for college and the many other expenses of life in this world – instead chosen to double their monthly gift to our family’s missionary support fund. A humbling, unexpected blessing to begin this New Year.
Growing up as a missionary kid and eventually growing into a missionary wife, I have hardly known a time when my life was not dependent on the generosity of others. For many, it is an awkward subject and an often uncomfortable one. A range of emotions accompanies the reality of financial backing from churches and individuals which makes possible full-time ministry on a foreign field. Certainly foremost is gratitude. The early years of support raising often entail anxiously watching almost imperceptible increments in percentage, each of which is cause for rejoicing. In the later years, gratitude deepens as givers’ faithfulness enables longevity in ministry.
In our humanness, however, gratitude may sometimes be coupled with embarrassment. Often our emotions can lead us to feel indebted and insecure, questioning whether our output is measuring up to the investment poured into us. At these moments I am reminded that my focus fails when it turns inward rather than upward and outward. Upward at God who is the One who calls us and will do His work in and through us. (1 Thess. 5:24) Outward at those special people who stand behind us and who are truly the unsung heroes of missions. Without their quiet and faithful commitment it would all be impossible.
What is God’s heart towards those of us who receive from others on a regular basis? I believe His heart is reflected in each individual He uses in our lives. His Father’s love is shown by the retired couple who once traveled over two hours each way just to deliver handmade stockings to our children while we were on pre-field ministry – and who every month, year after year, dedicate a sacrificial amount from their fixed income for our family’s needs. His faithfulness is demonstrated by the husband and wife who have known my husband since his infancy and have supported us in countless ways since long before we were formally known as missionaries, continuing to do so until this day. His boundless generosity is visible in the family whose support was not limited to “official” ministry but overflowed to the adoption of our children as well. And so it goes on and on. We are unworthy of His goodness, yet He reveals it abundantly through each church and individual on our support team. May our own hearts overflow with thanksgiving for what He has done and those He has chosen as vessels of His great love!
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus .It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” –Philippians 1:3-7