A few months ago, I did a series in my newsletters about partnership. I answered the questions “Why do missionaries say Partnership Development instead of Fund Raising?”, “Is it Biblical to live on support?”, and “Should all missionaries be tentmakers?” If you are interested in reading these, the newsletter links are posted on this blog. The last question I planned to answer was, “Is it okay to ask, or should missionaries just pray for their needs?” So much has happened since then that I haven’t had space in my newsletters to answer this question! So, I’m going to answer it here instead.
One of my missionary “heroes” growing up was George Mueller. George Mueller was an evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down Orphanage in Bristol, England in the 1800s. What was particularly notable about Mueller is that he trusted God for everything. He never made a need known, but prayed, and the Lord consistently answered his prayers. It is said that the floor next to his bed was actually worn away from the hours he spent on his knees! So, when I learned about Pioneer Bible Translators’ method of asking directly, I had to ask consider what the Bible says on this subject. Is it right for missionaries to ask for support, or should they simply pray and trust God?
As I studied, I found the story of Nehemiah, which is found in the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Nehemiah was a Jew who was the cupbearer for the king of Persia. I won’t go into the whole history here, but suffice it to say that Jerusalem had been sacked and burned, and the remnant living there was in distress. Nehemiah heard this news, and he was troubled. As he performed his duties for the King, the King noticed his dismay. So, the first thing I noticed was that Nehemiah didn’t hide his need. He did not pretend everything was okay, but went to the King visibly upset.
The King asked Nehemiah what was wrong, and Nehemiah explained the Jews’ situation in Jerusalem. The King asked what Nehemiah wanted, and Nehemiah immediately prayed for wisdom. It is often assumed or implied that asking people to provide a need is a lack of faith in God, but the second thing I saw was that Nehemiah was still completely depending on God even as he made his request.
Nehemiah asked the King for three things: to go and rebuild the city, to have letters to the governors in the region granting him safe conduct, and for timber for the project. The King gave Nehemiah all that he asked for, as well as an armed escort. He later appointed Nehemiah governor of that region. The third thing I noticed was that asking is effective! Nehemiah had every reason to believe the King wouldn’t help him – after all, the Jews were a conquered nation, but he asked anyway and the King responded, giving him everything he asked for and more.
Now all this does not imply that George Mueller and those who live on faith are doing something wrong. There are missionaries who still live this way, and it is an amazing life of faith, but also very difficult. I have realized through my journey of partnership development that there are many different ways to build a partnership team. I like to see how God has provided different means so that people with different gifts can accomplish the same purpose. God has given us examples so we can see that there are many ways of raising support, and He will provide no matter what!