Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Supporting a Vision

Mission and money go together. That’s inevitable. Yesterday I had a meeting with the three largest supporters of our ministry in Swaziland. They are fortunately committed to the work in Swaziland and therefore we spend very little time speaking about money issues. Most of our discussions focus on the work itself.
In all the years that I’ve been in Swaziland there was always a need for more money. Local people were getting poor salaries, buildings needed to be repaired. But somehow it seemed as if very few people were ever really passionate about helping people get higher salaries or seeing buildings re-roofed or painted. From time to time a cheque would arrive in the post, usually given to buy Bibles. But even these were small amounts. Since we started with our ministry amongst people infected with HIV and AIDS, we experienced a change in people’s attitude. For the first time I find people getting excited about our ministry. Tuesday evening I had a meeting with the missions board of a macro congregation in Pretoria and after showing them a short DVD (which you can also watch on Youtube by clicking on this link), I sensed an excitement amongst the people.
The same thing happened yesterday during our meeting when I also showed the members the DVD about our ministry. On my way home after the meeting I had many hours to rethink what I had experienced and I asked myself the question what had changed? Specifically, why are people more open to support us now than a few years ago?
A few years ago I read a number of books on vision. One was George Barna’s book: The power of Vision and the other one was Robert Dale’s excellent book: Keeping the Dream Alive. It may have been in one of these books or it may have been in one of many other books that I read at the time, that someone wrote that people tend to support a vision rather than supporting a program or a person. Throughout the years I have tried, time and again, to link groups of people with one of our church leaders in the hope that this would lead to a good relationship and where they may eventually support the leader with specific needs. It never worked. We have had groups coming to Swaziland with the intention of helping us in some kind of building project. Many of these groups did great work, but few of the groups ever came back to Swaziland. It was as if they felt that they had accomplished their task.
Perhaps I’m starting to experience what I read in one of the books. Supporting a person or supporting a project may feel like a bottomless pit into which money is thrown. I’m not saying that this is correct – merely that people may experience it as such. Supporting a Godly vision is often more encouraging because results can be seen and therefore it may feel as if the funds are really being utilised in a responsible way.
I’m not sure whether I’m correct. But over the past few years I’ve seen people feeling excited to be involved in our ministry whereas in the past I often felt that people supported us only because they felt obliged to do it.
I still need to think this through. But I have a gut feeling that I may be correct in my analysis.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008 - Posted by | Building relations, Cross-cultural experiences, Giving, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Meetings, Mission, Partnership, Short-term outreaches, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Vision

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