God has called many of His finest servants back to the USA from foreign fields. Why? What should be response of the local church?
Recently I was in two missions conferences involving approximately 150 missionaries and missionary leaders. These men and women are some of the finest Christians servants in the whole world. It is a joy and a privilege to be around them and to rub shoulders with them. These are saints who have hazarded their lives for the sake of the Gospel. They are servants who have sacrificed much to take the Good News to lost people in some very undesirable, uncomfortable, and inconvenient places.
I, too, have been a missionary for 30 years. I think that I have a good feel for missions and for the ministries of missionaries. I feel that I know when to be impressed and when not to be impressed. Many of the missionaries that I have met recently impressed me greatly.
What is interesting is that God has called so many of His finest servants back to the USA to promote the cause of missions here. Most of these folks, I know as a fact, would rather still be out on a foreign field today, and not here in the USA. But they have taken even a greater step of faith than going first to the foreign field by obeying the Lord in returning to this land of plenty. When they returned, most of them left a large part of their hearts in some other country with some people they won to the Lord and who greatly valued their lives, families, and ministries. I listen to their stories and hear their hearts throb for lost souls in lands from where they came and in other lands where they have been. They do a great job transmitting their burden to others.
These are true soldiers of the faith, genuine warriors for the Lord. They are worthy of the title “ambassador for Christ!” Valiant for the truth, ready to suffer (and they have,) stout and stately men are they who represent Jesus Christ first, lost souls of some specific group or geographical location second, and their mission boards and agencies third.
These are the kind of men and women I would support if I were a pastor or a church leader. They have proven themselves faithful to God, to the cause of Christ, and to a needy people group. They have merited, yes, merited the support that many churches have given them over the years.
But I see something very sad happening to these giants of the faith, to these folks of whom future books and articles will be written, telling of their feats and exploits for God. I see them losing financial support. I see them suffering more financially here in the USA than ever before. (Now do not get me wrong; they are not complaining of this phenomenon. It is just that I have noticed it and felt that I should say something on their behalf. I hope you will understand my heart here.)
The question comes: Why is this happening? The answer is not singular in number though singular in importance. Here is my conclusion on the matter.
First, these faithful men and women are back in the USA where the cost of living is higher than in most of the countries they have left. That factor can not be changed.
Second, these proven men and women, with a greater vision and passion for their ministries due to their years of experience and new responsibilities, are traveling more than ever before in hopes of doing more for the lost whom they so passionately love and want to see won to Christ. These trips and these projects cost more money, not less. So their expenses, their work funds, their burdens are costing more! But they have returned to the USA where their support accounts diminish quicker rather than build up quicker.
Third, these godly men and women are losing their support back in the USA because churches do not want to support “office personnel” who have returned to the home land from off a foreign field of service. Some churches prefer to support only those on foreign fields (and they have this prerogative.)
But as I look around me and see some of God’s choicest servants suffering financially in their ministries, which actually reach more people than ever before when they were living in some foreign country, I find cause to wonder what some pastors and leaders are thinking. They are dropping support from those whom God has blessed and who have proven faithful, those who have years of excellent experience, from those who are leading a younger generation of missionaries to unprecedented heights and challenges in missions, yes, they are dropping their support in favor of the new candidate who is still untried and unproven.
Then the older, experienced missionaries, now in the “home office” (God rest their souls) go out and preach in missions conferences to raise support for the new missionaries! What a humble sacrifice! What an example of servanthood! Yet some churches choose to cut this type of missionary off.
(Maybe in the future I will write an article about the need to support younger missionaries and give many reasons for doing so. But in this article I want to make a point that has long been silent, that of maintaining the support of your veteran missionaries who have proven with their very lives, in spite of returning to the USA, that they deserve your continued backing in prayer and finances.)
Besides, if left up to each of them humanly speaking, just how many of them do you honestly think would have chosen to return to the USA to serve here? Most of them, if not all of them, are back in the USA because God unmistakably led them back here for a greater ministry. Some of them, if the truth were to be known, only came back when God forced the issue with personal or family health issues. Some returned only after their mission board asked them repeatedly to come back to fill a very obvious void that the leadership felt would best be filled with the veteran from the field.
And I repeat, they returned to take a greater responsibility with a greater possibility of a greater, broader- reaching ministry than ever before.
I came to this conclusion: Missionaries on the foreign fields who are doing the best job for the Lord are often the ones who get called back by God (I repeat — by God) to take up the slack left by those promoted to Glory. These are the ones who deserve the support, not only “on the field” but also on their “new field of service,” no matter where God may lead them. Selah!