Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interviewing the Elephant

1046431-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Detective-ElephantNo one likes talking about it. No one likes asking about it. But we all know what I’m referencing—that elephant standing in the corner, trying to be inconspicuous with his trench coat and sunglasses. Money? Who me?

But an elephant won’t disappear any easier than mosquitos in summer. So I say let’s be radical! Let’s interview the elephant!

Hello Mr. Elephant. I hear you are going to Papua New Guinea as a Bible translator! That’s quite a ways from your native Africa, isn’t it?*
Yes, it is, but I’m very excited to be directly part of translating the Bible for the people still waiting there!

It must be very expensive to fly over there and all that, especially since you, uhh, probably need a military jet to fit your lovely gray mass.* It’s so nice that you had that job at the counseling clinic!
Actually, my receptionist job was unable to finance my position in Papua New Guinea. Because I will be living there for a long time (some projects can take upwards of 20 years) with only short trips back to the US, I can’t earn enough money before I go to pay for the entire thing. My job  only covered immediate expenses, such as insurance, gas, start-up expenses for support-raising (like printing costs for newsletters), and other small items.

Oh, I see. But when you get over there, you will get a job like one of those tentmakers, right?
Actually, I will need to be focused on linguistic work full-time—it takes a lot of time and energy to learn a language well and then translate all those verses of the Bible. In addition, if I take a paid job over there, then I will be depriving the opportunity from nationals who need it more than I do. Furthermore, most people live as subsistence farmers, so they aren’t able to support me full-time either. That’s why I’m in the middle of support-raising right now.

Too bad you aren’t retired and can live off Social Security or have a long-lost rich uncle who dies and leaves you his fortune. Then you could go and wouldn’t have to raise any support!
That might be a whole lot less complicated, but raising support is far more than money. Missions is the work of the church, not of individuals or of agencies, and so by having a wide base of partners, I’m joined by many more workers for the Kingdom! They help keep me accountable, provide encouragement, and make a huge impact in world by their sacrifices. Living through support is actually a biblical concept that God ordained for the Levites, and even Jesus and His disciples lived it out (Luke 9-10). Some missions agencies are connected with a specific denomination and receive funding that way, but Wycliffe is non-denominational, so that means all Wycliffe workers--including our organization's president--require support.

So, are you just raising one large amount, like my church’s youth group going on a missions trip?
No—a short-term missions trip (where the individuals are planning on coming back to their home country and staying there) is able to provide a total amount simply because it is short. Imagine if I tried to figure out expenses for a trip that had a 20 year duration! It would simply be too overwhelming and inaccurate, since my budget can easily change depending on many circumstances (such as when the dollar fluctuates). Instead, I re-evaluate my budget yearly and determine a monthly amount that best fits my needs. Then, I need to find people who will partner with me in regular giving so that this monthly amount will be fully covered.

I see. So what does the monthly amount go towards?
About 50% of it goes toward taxes, retirement, insurance, ministry and operational expenses. The other half covers my basic living costs, including housing, food, education, tithe, travel, furlough tickets, incidentals, and ministry needs.

When do you need this amount by?
I need 100% by the beginning of June. Right now, you can see the remaining dollars-per-month that I need in the rain-gauge on the left.

What happens if you don’t get it?
Then I can’t go in to PNG in August. PNG personnel are asking for me to come in August 2011 because there are so many people groups ready and waiting for translators—they have to keep turning them away because there simply not enough linguists (like me) available to take projects. Due to the remote nature of Papua New Guinea, I must go through an intense 3-month orientation course offered only twice per year (August and January). If I don’t have 100% of my budget by the beginning of June, then I will be delayed until the January session.

Oh my. I don’t think I could ever do that! I hate asking people for money, and I’d never want to live without knowing if a paycheck was coming or not!
You’re right, I don’t think I could do it either if I was just asking people for money like a robber at a bank. Stick em up or people will die! But actually, my job is simply to present the opportunity for people to become involved in the ministry of Bible translation—a chance for them to have an eternal impact in a way that might not be possible otherwise. It’s not up to me to convince them; rather, their involvement is completely between them and the Lord.

The reliability of living on support is no different than a normal job—it just strips away things called economy, severance pay, and disability. When I’m in my native Africa, I never know whether a drought is coming or if locusts will come and destroy my tasty acacia leaves tomorrow, but God knows all my needs. Will He really allow me to starve when He’s called me to this place Himself?

I understand now. I really am excited for what you are doing, but there are just so many things that ask for my money... infomercials, ads on Facebook for the Japan tsunami, even political parties who call me during dinner! What should I do? How much should I give? How long do I give for? Give me the concrete details.
I can’t tell you whether to support me or not—that’s a conversation you need to have with the Lord. Is this a ministry He is calling you to be involved with? However, I can help you out a bit with the other questions.

The amount that you give is completely determined by you. Every gift, no matter the size, has a huge impact! Don’t discount any amount :-) The interval for giving is also based on your budget (yearly, quarterly, monthly), and you can request your bank to withdraw funds automatically at a set interval, if that’s helpful. Special (non-regular) gifts are always appreciated, but they do not count toward the 100% that I need in order to leave. Finally, how long you choose to regularly give is between you and the Lord. I plan on being with Wycliffe as a career, starting in Papua New Guinea.

Giving can occur online (go HERE), over the phone (go to www.wycliffe.org) or through the mail (email me for details).

What if I really can’t support you financially at this time, but want to stay involved?
Your encouragement and prayers are invaluable! I send out monthly prayer updates by email to help guide your prayers (you can sign-up for those HERE), and I always love to hear from you. You can stay in touch with through this blog or my Facebook page and you can always continue to spread the word about Bible translation! If you want to get together and visit before I leave in June, let me know!

You know, you can probably remove your trench coat and sunglasses now.
Oh. Oh yes, I suppose.

In All Seriousness...
If you have ever asked or even thought of any of these questions, you certainly aren’t alone (and please don’t feel offended). I hope this little dialogue helped clarify some of those pesky financial elephants that are a part of many missionaries’ lives. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask—no question is too irr-elephant! :-)

If you are thinking of partnering with me financially, I encourage you to pray about making a decision soon. Your partnership now is what will enable me to leave in June like planned. No gift is insignificant!

*Disclaimer: All questions reflect actual scenarios …except that I am not an elephant, and I don’t own a trench coat. And I won’t be needing an army cargo plane to fly over to PNG…