The Challenges of Mission Work – Stacy Ferguson

Mission work is an area where many challenges exist.  At the same time, it should be stated that there is much for which to be thankful. This missionary, for example, is thankful that he can do mission work in the Pacific Islands; have good overseeing elders at the Forest Park Church of Christ in Lake City, Georgia; and have many good additional supporting congregations.  Challenges are opportunities for growth. Everyone has them. As challenges are met, maturity and development occur.  Until this writer became a missionary, he never dreamed of some of the real life issues that confront those in the mission field. What are the challenges of Mission Work? Four of them will be highlighted in this article.

In this missionary’s experience, and from what he knows from other missionaries, one of the primary challenges of mission work is raising sufficient funds for one’s family as well as the work.  There are individuals known by this missionary who have not gone to the field because they were unable to get the support needed.  More missionaries would go into the field if finding financial support were not such a problem. Even if it is assumed that a man has zeal, a love for God and the lost, and has his heart dedicated to the place he sees the need to labor, challenges still exist in the area of raising funds

First, in raising support, a good overseeing congregation is required. Most congregations, known to this missionary, want to send their money to an eldership instead of an individual. This plan is wise, and, perhaps, best.  Finding an eldership and congregation that will be involved, supportive, and devoted to a missionary, as well as his work, can be difficult.  The elders do not simply need to handle finances. They also need to go where the missionary lives. This effort keeps the Lord’s work and the missionary’s family’s best interest in mind.

What makes getting funds so difficult?  When recalling the first raised funds for full-time mission work, this missionary remembers that raising those funds was a huge task. A man must have many congregations to contact, spend countless hours on the phone, travel thousands of miles, and talk to many elderships and congregations in order to have the support needed to do the work.  Building a list of good sound congregations, while finding a key person to contact in that congregation, is possibly the greatest challenge of all when it comes to getting the necessary funding.  Even after contacting potentially 100 to 200 congregations, there is still the remaining challenge of finding enough congregations, among those contacted, to commit to supporting the work. This task can seem endless.  From this missionary’s own experience, a personal contact in a congregation is more likely to lead to getting support.  After raising funds, the challenge of fund-raising is then further complicated. Specifically, a missionary must try to retain his current support while raising even more support as the work grows.  Reporting to supporting congregations in person and by newsletters is extremely important in this additional fund-raising effort.

This missionary is involved in the Pacific Islands Bible College work.  In this school, there are teachers that go on two or three week trips to conduct college classes.  Personally, this missionary has often heard of the difficulties that workers have experienced in raising funds. Unfortunately, these difficulties prohibit some from going while discouraging others from even trying. Thus, this missionary would like to encourage elders and congregations to truly consider both the person seeking support as well as the work that they plan to do.  It is very easy for a congregation to turn a missionary away by stating that they are unable to help.  Instead of this response, it would be better for a congregation to give missionaries, seeking support, an opportunity to share the work with the congregation.  Even if a congregation does not have money in the budget to support a missionary, they may be challenged to increase their giving once they see the need. Additionally, individuals in the congregation might be willing to help even if the congregation as a whole cannot.

A second challenge in mission work relates to time. It has been said that time stands still for no man.  How true that is!  This missionary just turned 50, and he is thinking that he should not be this old.  Where has the time gone?  While the work in the Pacific has many opportunities for growth, there is simply not enough time for missionaries to do all that needs to be done.  For example, as this article is being written, this missionary and his wife have just finished a trip to Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia.  “Busy” would certainly be the way to describe this trip.  Indeed, this missionary is glad to have had so many opportunities to teach on this trip, and he thanks God for them.  However, a one-legged man in a soccer match would be a good description of this particular effort.  Many things needed to be done while in Chuuk that time simply did not afford. Specifically, people needed visiting, studies with the lost needed to be conducted, other islands needed to hear the gospel, etc.  Each day, this missionary and his wife were working from early morning till after sundown. Time to eat lunch was barely taken during this trip. Even so, there was still not enough time. When there is not enough time to do the things one knows are so necessary, it can be very disheartening and challenging.

A third challenge in mission work regards workers. This challenge fits right in with the previous point.  Since there are only twenty four hours in a day, more workers are needed.  Often, this missionary thinks of what Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).  One thing noticeable in the Pacific is that the denominations have people living and working all throughout it.  For example, many Mormons live and work in Chuuk.  The challenge in regard to workers, then, is having men and women of all ages willing to make the selfless sacrifices necessary to live and work in the mission field.  Since those who are teaching false doctrine can be so devoted, should not those who know the truth be more dedicated to the spread of the gospel?

It should be noted that not only are Christians living in the mission field important, but, also, short-term workers are very important and beneficial.  Those going on short-term mission trips should be going to teach God’s word.  The most important needs of men are spiritual.  Several preachers have been willing to help with the work in the Pacific, but often congregations where they work are not willing to give them the necessary time to help. This unfortunate reality sometimes requires preachers to use their vacation time.  It is this missionary’s prayer that God will bless the work in the Pacific with congregations willing both to support and send laborers into his kingdom.

A forth challenge in mission work is meeting the needs of the congregations while continuing to spread the gospel to new areas.  Usually, on the mission field, the congregations are relatively young.  Therefore, they need a lot of teaching, edifying, and equipping.  When spreading the gospel, it may be very easy to have a new congregation established because of people being receptive to the truth in different villages or islands.  This fact, of course, leads to another church needing edification and equipping.  It is useless to plant churches if they will not remain faithful.  Providing for the needs of the congregations in assisting them to grow and develop takes much time and teaching.

Some additional challenges in mission work might include developing leaders, dealing with language, understanding culture, understanding customs, food challenges, transportation challenges, and the list could continue.  Mission work is indeed challenging, but it is very rewarding.  While bringing up these challenges, this article has not presented detailed solutions.  This missionary knows that the reader can determine the changes that need to be made in order to help mission work be done throughout the world.  The solutions begin with each local congregation considering the challenges presented while learning, growing, teaching, and training all the members to be true self-sacrificing servants of the Master.

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