How to Measure Real Missionaries

We’d gone to the mission field full of big dreams and great plans. But as finance trickled in we struggled to put food on the table. And as we also had an unsettled debt eating into that already small pie, it made things even harder. So in 1992 we moved back to the USA to get things in order. But we were going back for our hearts had already been firmly transplanted in Italy. 

But after sharing how difficult it had been for us financially, we were told, “Well you’re real missionaries now!” With the obvious inference that real missionaries live in poverty, lacking even basic needs. Like new shoes or winter coats for their children.

“Lacking basic necessities makes someone a real missionary?” we wondered.

How could we respond to such statements? What response would you give?

We had none. Mostly because we didn’t know how to deal with such a mentality. Which would require first dismantling the notion that missionaries are super heroes. And also because we realized they were really trying to relay that they were proud that we had kept on in spite of difficulty and hardship.

But today we know how to answer. Now we would respond, “Missionaries are not super heroes, but people just like you, with the same fears, struggles, difficulties, and dreams. They are simply called to a specific task, often in a different land. And being poor does not make them either real missionaries or super heroes. Nor does it help them do their task. It just makes them poor folk! That and nothing more.”

A real missionary is one with a task, sent out to complete a mission.

Most of the missionaries we know, and have known, dread raising support. They know that in these tough times others also struggle to make ends meet. But mostly because they hate being a burden. I don’t think anyone likes feeling they are a burden.

So please don’t misunderstand. This is not a plea for financial help. Nor are are we trying to reprove or make anyone feel guilty. We have all that we need and then some. Partially because offerings have greatly increased and partially because we are tent-makers. And inspired by Hudson Taylor, we decided long ago to never ask for funds. God can provide far better than we ever could through support raising; and he does!!

But we would like to call you to prayer. And to sense and sensibility.

Equating missionary with poverty is illogical.

Common sense tells us that doing any task requires resources.

And that workers who are not constantly struggling to obtain those resources can better apply themselves to their task, to fulfilling their mission. Common sense helps us see that thinking missionaries are supposed to be poor can only hinder and slow missions work.

And common sense leads our hearts to sensibility.

Urging us to ask about the sent-out ones we know, to learn how they’re doing. To ask what they need to get on the with their task. To discover the dreams and goals they’ve lined up on shelves. And what provisions they lack that keep them from being real missionaries, in the true sense of the word.

Real missionaries are people called by God and who are able to fulfill that call, because they have a good support team behind them.

People who give, yes that is important. But mostly people who pray. People who offer their support, who are with them through the hard times. And who stick by them with love and friendship, even though they may not see them for many years. People who say in many ways: “We care about the work you are doing. It’s important, and we’re with you in it.

So please remember the missionaries you know. Not us, because we truly do have all we need. (Although we always need and welcome more prayer!!) But those your church supports, or those you have met. Be there for them. Be that support team. Not because they are special or super heroes. But because the work they are doing is important. And please don’t think that they need to be poor or else they cannot be real missionaries!

Have you ever questioned whether the missionaries you know are real missionaries? What yardstick did you use?

And what yardstick will you use to measure missionaries in the future?

God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him. — Hudson Taylor


8 thoughts on “How to Measure Real Missionaries

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  1. I can relate to your situation. In the mid 80`s we were missionaries in Japan for two years. Our poverty was real and it made us extra grateful for God`s provision when it arrived. I am encouraged by your perseverance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU David for the encouragement! And we do thank God for all of it. The good times and the rough ones. Because those have helped to grow our faith and bring us closer to the Lord! But I’m sure that Japan was a lot harder in many ways. So I know that you really understand when I say that only God gives the strength to keep on keeping on. He is ever faithful!


  2. We were really shocked by the attitudes of many people when we entered full time ministry. “Suffering for the Lord” was something that was considered part of the package. We’ve seen attitudes change, though, and many churches are far more generous these days. I hope that your supporters will also be generous with you. We are surrounded by many small churches. Some pastors run from church to church to preach on Sunday mornings, and many others have to work a job on the side. Yes, it slows the mission work and churches who have struggled with decline are not able to get back on their feet with part time pastors. Breaks my heart.


    1. That’s it exactly, Linda. It’s hard-breaking to see how much some of this slows the work. Time is of the essence, and there is still so much to do! I pray that folks will also give generously to your work there. Reaching young hearts is so important. That’s the stage when their lives can still be really molded. Thank you for you continuing encouragement to us in the work here, and we pray that we also may be an encouragement to you. We may be on opposite sides of the world, but we’re on the same team!! God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

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