To most missionaries on deputation, arriving on the mission field after just eighteen months of raising support is an unattainable dream. I have met missionaries who have been on their deputation trail for three to six years. One missions agency says that the average deputation time is four years.
With the advantage of having a father as a missionary, much good advice from my pastor, and by God’s grace, we were able to accomplish deputation with full support in just eighteen months. I realize that every person is different and every missionary is “playing on a different baseball field,” but perhaps some of these things that we did may help you as you step out on the deputation trail.
1. Buy or Rent a Motorhome
We saved so much money by getting a good motorhome. We had an over-the cab model and were thankful that we didn’t have to worry about the upkeep of two different vehicles. The amount of money that we saved by cooking our own meals and not having to stay in motel rooms was amazing, not to mention the privacy that a motorhome affords. Not having to live out of a suitcase can greatly add to your sanity as you travel from church to church.
2. Don’t Allow Yourself to Go into Debt
Some people try to raise their support while still working a job. Do not start deputation until you are out of debt. Working a job while on deputation will actually work against you. Pastors are very unlikely to support a missionary while he has another source of income, and working the job will limit the distance you can travel to your meetings.
3. Build Good Relationships
Using a motorhome enables you to build relationships in a much deeper way. Here is the plan we followed: If we had a Sunday meeting, we asked the pastor if we could arrive and hook up on Thursday. (Don’t split up those Sundays.) If we had a Wednesday meeting, we asked if we could arrive on Monday. We never had a pastor refuse this schedule. We spent those extra days soulwinning and working around the church in whatever ways we could help. I fixed toilets, rewired church signs, painted walls, and roofed church buildings. My wife sewed baptistery curtains, made new pew cushions, decorated bulletin boards, and cleaned nurseries.
When it comes time for a church to take on missionaries, who will they remember—the missionary who came in thirty minutes before the service and left the next day or the missionary who was around to build relationships? Eighteen years after we were on deputation, my wife received a note from a lady who remembered us staying at her church and the work we did when she was just a young girl.
4. Major on Three States
When you are starting out, you will not have the money to travel coast to coast. We started deputation with $250 a month from our home church. My dad advised us to choose three states, so we chose Missouri (where my dad had pastored), Texas (where our home church was), and California (where many new churches were being started and were looking for missionaries). This limited our traveling and stress as well. When we went to the field, we had about one-third of our support coming from each of those three states.
5. Work Eight Hours a Day to Schedule Meetings
Missionary, if you are going to get support, you cannot do it by being lazy. Most secular workers work at least eight hours a day. Should it be any different with us? I spent at least eight hours a day calling every independent Baptist church I could find in those three states to set up meetings and to make confirmation calls. About one out of every ten calls resulted in a meeting. We had two meetings a week for eighteen months, taking off only for Christmas.
6. Travel with Your Family
Just as you can tell much about a prospective pastor by looking at his family (1 Timothy 3:4–5), one can do the same with a missionary. If his family is not in order, his ministry will not be in order. Churches need to get to know your family and to hear from your wife. Men going out on their own are opening themselves up to countless temptations that otherwise would not be hard to resist if his wife and family were with him.
The attitude with which you approach deputation will greatly influence the rate at which you get support. Remember that you are asking strangers to trust their finances with you. Be grateful and thankful for each meeting you have, and never complain about your accommodations, love offering, or the reception you were given—to your family, to other missionaries or to church members. “In every thing give thanks” and act with a grateful heart.
“The fields are white unto harvest;” are you striving your best to reach them?