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Challenges African American Missionaries Face

Mar. 18, 2015By: David Crabb

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about African Americans and Missions with Timothy Byrd,a missionary with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our conversation will be posted in five parts.

Part 1: Why don’t we see many African American missionaries?

David Crabb: What particular challenges do African American missionaries face both pre-field and on the field?

Timothy Byrd: In my personal experience, and in the experience of several of my African American contemporaries, the pre-field challenges are (1) finding long-term financial partners or support, (2) skepticism and (3) opportunities to be a missionary.

For example, many people in my church community loved the idea that I wanted to do crossmoney-sign-300x300 cultural missions, but there were only a few who had a clear category to put me in. These were godly people who loved the Lord yet had never met a missionary who wanted to live in another country just to share the gospel for a lengthy period of time (3 years or more). Therefore, getting people excited was easy. Finding partners and churches to send me was the challenge. I have met very few African American churches that have mission committees or a missionary selection process. This makes it hard for the church to find out about you, encourage you or challenge you regarding your potential calling. 

The second challenge which is skepticism. There are so many scams people try to pull on churches that some churches are very guarded.  Therefore, when someone you know (and especially someone you don’t know) comes with a new or foreign concept, in many black churches it can feel like you must prove over time that you are a legitimate missionary. If a number of churches operate like this, the missionary may waver in hope and give up, or never get enough support to even go overseas.

The last thing that I would mention is the biggest pre-field and on the field challenge for African American missionaries: money! The bottom line is many long-term African American missionaries battle with raising support from African American churches. Love offerings and one time gifts do go a long way, but if missionaries are going to live in a foreign country with their only source of income coming from sending churches and individuals, there has to be significant partnership.  I have had several friends who have full-time support raising jobs in the U.S. who have had to get jobs because they couldn’t pay every day bills.  In some instances “tent-making ministry” is encouraged, but we can’t expect full-time ministry workers working part-time jobs to give the same time and energy as their counterparts who are doing ministry full-time with full support.  When support does not come in for a cross cultural missionary this typically means you go home.  Some requirements for work permits or visas are so restricted to special gifts sets it is nearly impossible to get a job. It is even more complicated when locals may feel like you are taking their jobs. I have heard it said money follows ministry, and I agree. But if the money does not follow soon enough, many agencies (and missionaries!) begin to wonder, “Is this what I should be doing?”

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Dependency and Missions - An Indian Perspective - Part 2

Feb. 4, 2015By: Vijay MeesalaAuthor Bio

This is a continuation of yesterday's post in response to this email question:

Hello Vijay, 

……..As for more churches and organizatons for support… I will think and pray and let you know if any come to mind. However, I would also like to ask you if you have done your best to invite local churches in your area to contribute to your ministry. Please don’t be offended by this question…. But I want you and the churches of your area to experience the blessing and testimony of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.

At the most fundamental level there is little comparability between the typical India village church and the Western church. Below are some areas of comparison (The following is from a Westerner missionary with more than 30 years of experience).

 

Issue

Western Church

Indian Village Church

1

Cultural Hostility                     

Little or none                   

serious differences

2

Level of believers employed     

high 97%    

Perhaps 40% full time

3

Level of education                   

near 100 % high school   graduates       

very low %

 

4

Care of widows and Orphans           

Less/no care given        

Cares for widows and orphans

5

Economic situation                   

wealthy

Hand to mouth existence

6

Spiritual development            

reflects society 

more than Kingdom        

prays, fasts and actively involved in evangelism

 

7

Church outreach                    

self contained                 

involved in starting new fellowships

 

I'm sure there are many other areas of comparison. 

I hope you understand my heart, I am not saying these things to judge which church is superior and which is not. But there is a general misunderstanding from the Churches in the West that we (Indian and Asian Churches ) only and always seek help from the West. I don't believe this is true for all the Churches. Frankly, it is a great exaggeration.

I am not denying the fact that, there are many who seek help including our own mission work, and also receive unbelievably large and generous support from the West. Praise the Lord! I also want to acknowledge that there is a dangerous side of being dependent on the West or on some other. But to think that the Church in India or elsewhere is existing only with the support of the West and there is no local support - is something that I firmly disagree because it is not true. In our contexts - that is in Andhra Pradesh rural area - (I may not be very accurate on this but I am guessing in general) I suppose that less than 25-30% church only receive help from outside of India .

The support that we seek from the west is to enhance or further the work of God more efficiently and faster. It is also because more than 75% of the wealth is in the hands of Western Christians (according to some mission statistics about 5-7 years ago). Someone said that if the Church in the West thinks that they are doing a favor to the Churches in developing countries by giving money and other things, then that is not a biblical attitude but an attitude of worldly superiority. Church belongs to God and God will raise His Church. But by supporting each other I believe we are doing our part in God’s family.

From this, I am in strong faith that the Church in India enjoys the joy of 2 Cor 1:5 much more like other Churches with similar contexts. Believers in Indian villages give to the Lord out of their extreme poverty and they give it willingly as said in the scriptures.

1509301_4680181a878de078I hope to continue to dialogue on this and am willing to learn more on this. I just wrote what is in my heart with much prayer and reflection. These are my general feelings about the Church in the West but not particularly against any individual or Church. Please let me know what you think of this. I will be happy to hear from you.

My conclusion is this, please do not generalize and make hasty decisions based on some past experiences or because someone said it so, but rather, let the Western Church/Pastors/Mission leaders examine themselves if they too are dependent. Perhaps they are not seeing while pointing fingers at the Indigenous missionaries.

One last thing, I am saying this with much caution and love: I am not sure if a Western Pastor/Mission Executive/Leader/staff of a mission of organization would continue to serve and minister in the same ministry/organization if/when he knows that the next months check/money/support is not going to come or he will try to find another placement of job because he has a wife and children (I am not generalizing there may be exemptions)….But I know and am sure that almost all the Indigenous missionaries I personally know of in Asia or Africa will continue to serve the Lord no matter what may come…may it be persecution/famine/or anything.

Please do not misunderstand me for being harsh…I will be happy to hear and learn from you.

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Dependency and Missions - An Indian Perspective - Part 1

Feb. 3, 2015By: Vijay MeesalaAuthor Bio

I once received an email that read:

Hello Vijay,

……..As for more churches and organizations for support… I will think and pray and let you know if any come to mind. However, I would also like to ask you if you have done your best to invite local churches in your area to contribute to your ministry. Please don’t be offended by this question…. But I want you and the churches of your area to experience the blessing and testimony of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.

Here is how I responded:

These following reflections are my general thoughts on the Issue of dependency and theATO-ID-2014-6-financial-dependency Western Church. This gives me an opportunity to share my heart. Correct me if I am wrong, we can continue to discuss this matter. In fact, this email made me reflect prayerfully on this issue of dependency. There may be some sweeping statements and generalizations, please forgive me for that. I am willing to continue to dialogue and learn from you. Thanks.

Surely, many of you have seen many examples where the Church in India and other parts of the world are seeking help from the West and Europe and so on. I have also seen the same. It is true in many cases that help is sought from the Churches in the West, but this does not mean that there is practically no support given or raised from the local Churches. I guess this is dangerously misunderstood.

2 Corinthians 8:1–5 (ESV)
1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

I believe that the Church in India is not so different from Churches elsewhere. They do give for God's work. I am 100% sure that not all the Churches in India are receiving the support from the West and surviving only because of the help from the US or elsewhere. Indian churches do raise support locally for various things in small and big measures. I suggest it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the Church in India experiences the joy of 2 Corinthians 1-5 just like or maybe more than most of the Churches in the West.

I can tell from my own experience, that with some of our Churches in villages, they show their support of the Church and pastor by bringing a glass of rice, a chicken or egg or a little money from all they have. Another example, I came to the US only in 2005 for the first time in order to receive some support from the US, from 2006 October onwards. I can testify on behalf of churches around me, who have zero support from outside but yet they still exist, survive and give birth to new congregations with the support of the local church. They do God's work in their own capacity. Just like it is said in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. This happens with most of the Churches in India and it is very encouraging.

Speaking from our own ministry experience with Reach All Nations – my father, with support of God and local churches could establish about 30 churches without any support from West. His support has been less than $5 month. And I can share many more example of this nature.

Here is an example of an average village farming believer’s financial situation and contributions to Church and mission work:

Average members in the family: 6-8

Average annual income (approximately) : Rs 36000 – 50000 ($860 - $1190 - $1 counted for Rs 42)

The contribution to Church and Mission work per year:

1

Tithe (Most of  the believers bring tithe to the Church at least in our mission context).

Rs3600 – 5000

$86 - $119

2

Other offerings per year to support pastor’s family (in the form of Rice, Chicken, lentils, paddy, and so on) and Sunday offering.

Rs1000– Rs 1500

$24 - $36

3

Church Electricity bill payment for the Church per year:

Rs100

$2.38

4

Support for other local Churches and other Church mission related activities

Rs600 – Rs 1000

$14.28 - $28

 

Total

Rs5300– Rs7500

$126.19 - $178.57

 

This table explains that the village Church believes in giving to the Church, pastor, and mission work more than they could and they give it even while they are under great poverty. That is such a joyful thing. If the Churches are bigger the missionary or the pastor has enough to support the family in a very average way, but not really sufficient. If the Churches are smaller, then the missionary and pastor will have a very difficult time to take care of the needs of the family. In spite of insufficient income difficulties, they continue to serve the Lord. Praise the Lord for this.

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Integrity Has a Price - Part 3

Jan. 28, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

It's 2 AM and I'm wide awake... usually a good sign that the day didn't go as planned.

Long story short... nothing happened.

The squatters argued that they were not served a notice to appear, which is a bit funny because their lawyer was in court on time and they were all standing outside of the courthouse (so how is it that they didn't know to appear in court - seems fishy to me)... so now the seller of the land has to provide a legal document (insert a technical name that I can't remember here) which states that he really did serve them notice.

Due to this technicality the judge delayed the hearing until April 3.

But here is where the whole issue of integrity comes in. We could have had the whole thinggavel1 taken care of today for just under $1,000 (remember this is a $100,000 land purchase so we are talking less than 1%). All we had to do was pay the judge and our case would have been heard.

I believe this is where the Western influence (or let's get more personal and say missionary influence) has added to the corruption in Uganda.

To a westerner "time is money" so it has become common practice to "pay" (insert "bribe") to speed up service. This happens with missionaries getting work visas at the Ministry of Immigration. It happens for missionaries seeking to register their NGOs (Christian organizations). It happens for missionaries who pay to get out of traffic tickets so they don't have to stand in long lines at the bank to pay the real tickets. It happens with couples who want to speed up their adoptions. The list goes on and on.

I'm not saying that all missionaries do this, but it is also more common than it should be among this crowd.

Our cultural (not biblical)  impatience has created a system that encourages corruption.

Part of me wonders if "being slow" has become the most profitable business practice in the developing world?

So today the squatters took a calculated risk and delayed the process. Now all eyes are back on us, the school with a mizungu (white) director. Will he bribe the court? Or better yet, will he pay us (the squatters) to stop fighting this case in court?

So here is the updated prayer list:

1) Pray that the judge, seller and squatters all show up in court on April 3 with all the legal documents filed correctly 
2) Pray that the judge grants us favor and makes his decision on the evidence
3) Pray that the squatters don't pay to win
4) Pray that the judge acts on his decision in our favor and sends his bailiffs to clear the squatters off the land
5) Pray that the squatters don't retaliate against the school or my family
6) Pray that the testimony of this purchase inspires our staff, students and everyone else involved to seek God's favor rather than paying for man's favor 

Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  missions, money, uganda, west, corruption, patience, integrity, arcc

Integrity Has a Price - Part 2

Jan. 27, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

For three days we are featuring posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.

It's the halfway point... just over a week since being asked for the bribe to settle the land dispute and a week left until the trial.

A number of you have been praying with us and are curious about how things are going.

It's been quiet, really quiet. This is normal and if I keep calling the lawyers, seller, judge or409053_6753035_lz anyone else involved I will look like the worried mizungu. Then they will get confident that I will cave in and pay the bribe, so it is true that Philippians 4:6 really works (be anxious for nothing) even for handling corruption.

But I did check in with our lawyers today and received some great news. The seller and judge are showing up to court on March 6 and they are both aware that we will not pay a bribe. This is great news because at least our case will be heard and then ultimately the decision is in the hands of the court.

Personally I feel more at peace about the whole situation than I have at any point in the process (prayer is working!). I'm also excited for the students and staff. I really believe that a strong stand against corruption will be a testimony for the institution and a legacy for the students to follow for years to come.

Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  missions, money, uganda, answer to prayer, arcc
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