I have written about how I ended up on the mission field a couple of times. You can read those stories here (teachers told us not to move to the Caribbean with our daughter) and here (how I went from a diesel mechanic to TWR Canada President). When people inquire about joining the mission field full-time, preparing people for how difficult it can be to raise (and maintain) your support is very important.
Because it’s hard.
We were accepted and we were excited, but there was an incredible challenge ahead of us. We still had to raise our support. We did not realize at the time how difficult this is. We were, for the most part, on our own which meant we had to speak in churches we were not known in.
I had thought Sandra would do all the speaking. We were in Chatham, NJ when I was informed that I had to do the speaking. The only time in my whole life I had spoken publicly was when I was baptized and I shared my testimony. I think I spoke for less than a minute.
As always, I had a solution.
If Sandy couldn’t do the speaking then I would write out what I was going to say and read it. On our flight home, Sandy slept and I wrote 7 pages. This works for some people, but I wasn’t a good reader which complicated things. It also helps if you can read your own writing. I remember clearly the first time I spoke. It was in our home church (a forgiving audience) on a Sunday evening. In less than 5 minutes, people were either asleep or had tuned me out.
Raising support is difficult for almost everyone. When people contact us now about joining the mission field full-time, we expect they’ll need, on average, about 12-24 months to raise support. At the time, we lived in Kenora, ON (a town of about 15,000 in northern Ontario). We had a small circle of friends and were not connected to a lot of other churches. Most of our extended families had no concept of missions. In fact, I remember one family member saying to us, you will never get to the mission field. No one can raise that amount of money.
I have to confess at that point I had my doubts too.
I was very fortunate to have a best friend who was so faithful in encouraging me not to lose heart. We also worked with a TWR representative who had been a life insurance salesman and taught us how to make cold calls. Cold calls mean you stop at a church you’re not connected to (or known at) and ask the pastor if you can share your testimony. When you are done, you ask if you can speak in his church. With help, I got to the point where I could share my testimony and be successful much of the time in being allowed to speak at a church on a Sunday.
**As an aside: Cold calling is not something I see a lot of missionaries doing now. It’s very difficult to get time to speak in a church where you are not known – it was more common 30 years ago. Today, people are sending letters and emails to their friends and family (even people they’ve haven’t spoken to in a while), they’re utilizing social media and other things. TWR Canada will post on Facebook or feature people in our weekly E Update which can help also.**
I was working 50hr weeks and raising support half time. I was also renovating our house so we could sell it at some point. I shaved my beard so I looked more presentable and combed my hair before I spoke. I bought a suit and wore a tie. We drove thousands of kilometers going to and from Winnipeg every weekend for over a year.
In those early days, my kids had to come to every meeting and they took great joy in counting how many times I said “Umm” in my presentation (it was usually in the 60 to 70 times range). Somewhere in the process of sharing I discovered if I told stories instead of rattling off a whole bunch of facts and statistics, people found that more interesting. People could identify with our life story. They could see how God was preparing us to serve Him.
The memories of that first year are burned in my mind. After one year we were at 37% of what we needed to go to Bonaire.
We had to move 2000km in order to raise the final portion of our support, but that is another story.
With practise, the sharing got easier. Eventually, Sandy and I would share our testimony together and people really enjoyed that. One night, when we were close to being fully supported, Sandy and I were told we should be a stand-up comedy team. (Did you read this post where Sandy took over my blog when I was away?)
I really enjoy writing these stories, so if you enjoyed this let me know and I will write the next part of the story.