As I explore the world of missions the two most frightenting words in the English language have become "raise support". All of the missios organizations which I am interested in working for require their staff members to raise support for several year at time. This seems like a daunting task. Is it really possible to raise this much money? I feel like I don't know enough people to establish an adequate support base.
Thanks for asking the hard question! It's one thing to look for a job, have an interview, and take proficiency exams. It's quite another to "beg for money!" And we have all had uncomfortable experiences of people who have approached us for funding, when we didn't know what to say, didn't want them to feel rejected, but quite frankly didn't feel called to help them.
However, the vast majority of Christian workers overseas (or in most para-church organizations within the U.S.) are called upon to raise their own support. I had to do it, and for 35 years we've been faithfully supported by a faithful group of people who have stuck with us through thick and thin. The key is to remember that basically we're not talking about money. The subject is far larger. As one missionary said to someone beginning the process, "You are about to embark on what can be one of the most maturing and spiritually fulfilling ventures of your life." Why did he say this, and why did he use such positive terms?
1) Support raising can demonstrate to you as never before that God is real and worthy of confidence. All spiritual ministry depends on a miracle. It is God alone who does the work, as Jesus made plain in John 15. However, when one responds to a call to a cross-cultural missionary experience, the demands can even seem more daunting - a new culture, a new language, often complications that one has not created, etc.
How well I remember facing what seemed to me to be insurmountable barriers when attempting to raise up a student group in a volatile Latin American Marxist university during the Vietnam war when Americans were seen as imperialists! The task seemed impossible - and indeed it was, by human standards. But in spite of these limitations, we feel that God created a ministry beyond our expectations or even our dreams.
One receives a call to serve the Lord, and the bugaboo of support raising seems insurmountable. Then we put before the Lord these needs, explain to Him our fears, and ask Him to do what we can't do ourselves. We learn new dimensions of what it means to pray. God often takes advantage of our desperation to deal with hidden things in our lives that we haven't bothered to deal with or were allowing to stay hidden. Now we realize that it is all or nothing at all. This kind of experience is as much a part of preparation as any Bible or theology course! It is boot-camp! And it is usually lived in the solace and silence of our own hearts. God cleanses our lives, teaches us to pray, and then leads us out to demonstrate His power and faithfulness. When the money does come in, it is a powerful confirmation that our calling is indeed of God.
2) Support raising is really more about "people raising," enabling you to bond with a group of people who will pray for you and share your ministry with you. Jesus said that peoples' hearts would be where their money was. Even if you discovered tomorrow that an unknown relative had died and left you enough money to ensure a life time of support, I would suggest that you "raise support." In fact, one English missionary of a former generation (C.T. Studd), who inherited a fortune, purposefully gave it away so that he would not be tempted to depend on his own resources.
3) Support raising is a means to sharpen the focus of your own call and carry your passion to many people who have settled down in a more hum-drum level of Christian commitment, who are not involved in projecting the truth and life of the Gospel, and who need your vision and example to give them an opportunity to be free from the natural self-centeredness of their lives.
Are you beginning to catch my drift? Some of these and many more insights can be gleaned from William P. Dillon's book, People Raising: A Practical Guide to Raising Support (Moody, 1993). The bottom line, Kelli, is that if God indeed is calling you, and you are dependent on raising support to serve Him, He is fully able to provide for this, whether you have a million contacts or none at all! I love Hudson Taylor's famous saying: "God's work, done in God's way, meet's God's supply." Taylor proved this both in his own life as well as in inspiring 600 other missionaries who joined his China Inland Mission in the last century, and with the added challenge of not allowing either himself or them to specifically ask people for money!
The means of people raising are many, as Dillon points out, but the issue is whether God is able to do what we can't. He can - and He wants to prove it to you through the raising of your support.
Blessings on you, dear sister. May your venture be more fulfilling than you can imagine!
P.S. Remember what Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi (Philippians 4:10-20). Every verse has something to teach us about missionaries, their financial need, and their friends who help them. What lessons can you find?