A supportive sending church

It was at a dinner gathering when a fellow missionary said with a sigh, “Sometimes I feel that my sending church is too result oriented. It is as if they sent me out to plant potatoes and they want quarterly reports about how big they are. At times I feel that they want me to dig the potato up, take a picture for the mission notice board, and then put the potato back in the ground.” 

That comment sat around in my mind for a few days. Fortunately , I had a different story as I have a very encouraging sending church that cared more for my family’s physical, emotional and spiritual health that about any ‘results’. My fellow missionary’s comments prompted me to thank the Lord for some of the things my own sending church had done well. 

Early in my own developing interest in mission, I signed up for a mission conference. One of the elders in the church found out about this, made an appointment to meet me and encouraged me concerning mission. He gently slipped me an envelope containing a gift that covered the conference fee. I was student at the time and that gift really helped. 

Personally, I was not comfortable with the idea of pursuing my own pathway in to mission work. Our leaders understood that mission was not about a person going solo, and they came alongside and assumed the responsibilities of sending us. One elder on a business trip took time to check out the seminary that we were considering attending. Another elder invited me on short preaching trips in the countryside of a neighbouring country. Yet another elder accompanied us in our meetings with mission agencies, giving his input and the church’s support in decision making. When my wife and I resigned from our jobs, some elders met with our parents (who were not Christians then). They befriended our parents and helped assure them that this was not some misguided youthful adventurism. It helped our parents to see that there were serious minded older people involved too. This is important in the thinking process of Chinese parents. Moreover, our parents resented the idea that we would be supported financially by the church, as they likened this to charitable handouts or even begging. Our church elders were able to help provide a different perspective. 

Later, the church decided that for our financial support, they would consider the fact that we were giving our parents an allowance from our salary, as is the custom of many Singaporeans. Our parents did not really need the money, but in our culture it was an important sign of filial piety to give them part of our salary. It was a wise and generous gesture of our church to take that in to account when they were figuring how much financial support we needed as missionaries. 

The process of sending us took a few years. Throughout this time, my wife and I felt surrounded by mission minded church leaders who were concerned for us and who were with us in prayer. This ingrained in us the biblical truth that mission is teamwork in the body of Christ. There were times when my wife and I would wonder about why we had left our comfortable home and secure professions to move in to a less developed part of the world. At other times, when there seemed little progress in what we were doing, we wondered if we were ‘wasting God’s money’ in being out there. During those times, the backing of the sending church made so much difference. 

We often recall the one final formal meeting we had with the church leadership before we left Singapore. Mywife, and accountant by training and meticulous by nature, asked the leadership, “So what do you expect of us in the next few years?” The leaders considered the question in all seriousness. After a while, one of them replied, “Remain happily married!” 

As Singaporeans who are often too result oriented, we have found the nurture and care of our church to be corrective and wise. We were frequently encouraged that our sending church was concerned about us growing, as much as they were with the ministry we were doing. 

Reprinted by permission from Asian Mission, journal of the Asian Cross-Cultural Training Institute, Singapore. Author’s name withheld at his request. 

Used with permission from Rev. Dr. Bruce Dipple, Sydney Australia.