The Cost of Becoming a Missionary
With a title as grandiose as that, you’re probably expecting more than I’m going to say, but, hey, it got you reading didn’t it?
I’ve been doing a lot of research on the cost of living in Romania. When I first talked it over with a missionary friend of mine in Arad, he said a salary of about $1,000 a month would probably be fine to support our entire family, but $1,500 would be safer. A seasoned missionary to Russia I talked with told me $1,500 would probably be fine but $2,000 would be safer. As I looked at websites online, it appeared that $2,000 might be about right, but $3,000 would be safer. A long-time missionary to China I met with said he figured about $4,000 a month would be right. And last week I met with a man who served in Romania for almost 20 years. His estimate? $6,500 a month. And then a friend of mine told me he has some friends going to Czech Republic who are raising $7,800 a month, for a couple!
What the heck?! This begs a number of questions…
1) Which number is accurate? Should I raise $1,000 a month or $7,800? I feel like about $2,000 should be fine, but I really don’t know.
2) If $2,000 should be fine, what’s with all the huge salary requirements? Let’s look at $7,800 a month. I’ll assume half that is for administrative fees and costs from the sending organization. So we’re at $3,900. Then maybe you add on really nice health insurance, life insurance, rent for a big American style home, regular flights back home for the whole family, and a few modern conveniences of American life transported to Eastern Europe. Yeah, OK, the cost could go up pretty quickly.
3) What are we doing if we make it so expensive for someone to become a missionary? Shouldn’t it simply be a matter of hearing from God and then going wherever He told you to go? Why should only those who have large houses to sell or huge retirement accounts or lots of contacts who can support them financially be able to do missions? Have we created a professional missionary, who spends his time pillaging the pockets of Americans so he can live like an American overseas?
OK, that last one was more than one question…
Seriously, though, whatever happened to missionaries like John G. Lake, who showed up in Africa with his wife and kids and not even enough money to make it into the country? Or Bruce Olsen, who had just a one-way ticket and a vision of God impacting a community? Or like this missionary to South America I met recently. His dad left to South America (I forget which nation) with only $40 a month in committed support. Missions boards turned him down, friends and family thought he was nuts, but he took his wife and four kids and drove to South America to reach the native tribes. This was back in the early 1900s, before the Pan-American Highway or anything.
Since when did being a missionary mean you get to live in the biggest house in the community, make more money than the locals, and have all your medical, dental, and life insurance needs provided for by businesses back in the US?
We’ve turned the missionary calling into a yuppy world-hopping adventure of ease and excitement.
I still don’t know how much exactly we should try to raise in support, because you’ve got to balance faith with hard work and common sense, but I do know this – if God called us to Romania, He’s gonnna get us there and He’s gonna keep us there. We’re going to Romania and we’re gonna live like the Romanians, not like Americans. We’re gonna trust Jesus for our finances, not our team of supporters back home. And we’re getting one-way tickets, expecting to possibly never return.
I’m not interested in being a professional missionary. I just want to follow the call of God.