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Raising Support—an Uphill Struggle

From the series Missions from China—A Maturing Movement

For a missionary, raising support is no easy task. When we were preparing for our first term of service, I wasn’t sure how we were ever going to raise the required budget. But for Chinese missionaries, the task is even harder. Coming from a culture that is not accustomed to supporting missionaries, obtaining financial backing is an uphill struggle.

One of my close Chinese friends sensed a call to be a missionary in Indonesia. I asked him if he needed financial support. He told me that God had taken care of everything. The institute where he was appointed to work would pay him a living stipend. It was only years later that I found out the financial arrangements with the institute had fallen through.  He had been dependent on the good will of local Christians who had brought him rice. It isn’t that rice is a bad food. It’s just that I sensed that he felt hurt by his sending family, feeling that they weren’t really a part of his service in Indonesia.

It isn’t that Chinese missionaries are unwilling to receive financial support. But making financial needs known in the present context can be difficult. I received a phone call earlier this week from one of our medical teammates preparing for a short-term medical outreach among refugees in Turkey. She had connected with a local church. Leadership of the local church was resistant to her coming to share. Why was she going? Besides medical care, was there anything else that she would be doing for the people? Why wouldn’t the church just gather the money and send it to the local Christians? Why should they pay to have someone travel all the way there for a short-term mission trip?

It is not wrong to ask these types of questions. However, an undercurrent of resistance to financially supportive relationships that often lies just beneath these questions adds to the difficulty of connecting into Great Commission work for Chinese missionaries. Some short term-missionaries have expressed a willingness to go to hard places to serve, but a reluctance to visit Chinese churches in advance of a trip to raise support.

Church-based support raising is one option open to Chinese missionaries that I review in my article, “Financial Considerations in Chinese Missionary Sending: Sources of Chinese Missionary Support and Difficulties in Raising of Finance”.  Though churches like to claim a missionary as “sent” from their location, they often provide little or no support. Most Chinese missionaries operate independently and much of the financial assistance they receive comes from individuals. Tentmaking is an option that may to a degree free a missionary from financial dependency. But tentmaking absorbs time and, in some cases, interferes with the purpose of missionary presence. Foreign mission-sending organizations at this time provide a significant part of the mission-sending budget of many Chinese churches.  For more discussion on sources of financial support for the Chinese missionary task, read “Financial Considerations in Chinese Missionary Sending: Sources of Support and Difficulties in Raising Finances.”

Image credit: Uphill by Jim Gourley via Flickr.
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Si Shi (四石)

Si Shi (pseudonym) has lived in China for more than five years and has many friends who work in the medical profession.View Full Bio

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