I worked overseas a few years back a research assistant for a national Christian charity in Wales, UK.
While I was in Wales I met a missionary team that I really loved and planned to join them on the field. However, I was unable to raise enough financial support at that time, mainly because I had no real home base having gone out of my home state and home church for college.
Timing is part of calling and I have been waiting ever so long it seems and have had a really difficult time finding a good job stateside.
I really feel like the days of raising financial support for mission are winding down, at least in the west. The International Mission Board has suspended sending new missionaries to the field for the first time in their history due to the financial crunch.
I would be happy to be a tent maker, but then the problem becomes a matter of visas. Religious workers in the UK are not allowed employment.
What do you think about the future of American missionaries working in Western Europe?
Thanks for your question, Kathleen, though it takes me out of my area of expertise and personal knowledge.
I’m sorry, first of all, that you have had difficulty finding employment back in the U.S. I’m sure this is a source of tension and frustration.
But let me deal with the question in your last sentence: What do you think about the future of American missionaries working in Western Europe?
1) It may well be that future American missionaries in Western Europe will have to follow other than the traditional patterns we have established in missions circles during the last 100 years or so. You mention two issues: finances and visas.
2) However, it is instructive to take a look at the history of missions during the last 2000 years. What an incredible variety of avenues the Lord has used to introduce His messengers to places where the Gospel has not been preached!
Down through history relatively few have had the opportunity to be fully supported by faithful friends and be awarded visas for their work, as I and those of my generation have experienced. Teachers, traders, business people, adventurers, etc. all have had their part.
3) It has been interesting to me to see how Latin Americans, most coming from a financial source of far fewer resources than what we have in the U.S., from an evangelical population of only a few percent, somehow manage to get supported to work in the most remote places, including Western Europe.
This does not mean that they don’t go through hardship, struggle, and even much stress, but somehow they get where they want to go and the Lord uses them.
4) Bottom line – I think that every generation has to find the Lord’s timing and way to reach the places He wants them to go. He is immensely creative and resources are no problem. I think you know this.
I think of my own father. An older student, senior in seminary, and just married, he felt called to Korea, the land of my mother’s birth. The year was 1929.
The “crash” effectively put an end to the Presbyterians sending any new candidates abroad. Yet, in a pattern unheard of in his context, he was able to raise his full support from one congregation which stuck with him and my mother for 35 years!
I’m reminded of Hudson Taylor’s famous phrase: “God’s work, done in God’s way, meets God’s supply.” God is the great missionary, and if He indeed calls us, and we learn of Him, it is amazing how He is able to place us where He wants us to be.
This is my theology and my theory, Kathleen. How it fits Western Europe in general and your life in particular in this moment of time, I really can’t say. But don’t get discouraged. His mercies are new every morning.
But God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work (2 Cor 9:8).