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Financial support is the only thing we think of Missionary support in our Indian Contest. We often forget that the missionaries who are in the field and taking the gospel to the untold millions in our country are human beings with emotional and phycological and family needs. We never consider their humanitarian and spiritual needs. In fact, we go to the extreme and think that mentioning any such needs are unspiritual and expect a commended worker to be a superman who is beyond any of these needs.
What I am trying to do here is to present before our readers some examples which I have come across in real life situations of different workers which are self-explanatory.
First of all, I want to bring to your attention, a letter that came to me recently from a gospel worker in North India. Some changes have been made to hide the identity of the person as it is not what is important here.
“This letter is not asking for your financial help for me or my ministry. It is to draw your kind attention to an ever growing and critical need among assemblies in my state, where the Lord is blessing the work of ‘harvesting’. Please take time to understand that gathering the harvest involves “storage” and “processing” also.
PLACE OF WORSHIP: Where to gather; ‘store and ‘process’ the harvest? The majority of faithful workers are struggling with inadequate space for their growing assemblies. They can only afford to rent small rooms for their families, which also often used as the place of worship. But with ‘too many’ attending worship on Sundays and weekdays, landlords are often embarrassed to see so many people worshiping a “foreign God” and ask them to move out. (Now a days the land lords are persuaded by the anti-Christian elements to evacuate the Christian worker from their buildings.) Alternative places are hard to find and very costly. A few older workers, have been provided with meeting halls and homes.
Coming from a non-Christian, well to do, business minded family, I cannot understand why well to do believers do not invest in these workers, who are winning precious souls and long to worship together and teach the Scriptures. They need places that are big enough and secure. Isn’t this the right time to invest? Building “barns” for an eternal harvest!
Some funding agencies (and individuals) have helped a few privileged and articulate, brethren with this need. But there are many working hard who are not able to make their plight known. They are out of sight and very poor; “poor yet making many rich”! Many do not know sufficient English to convey their problems to others.
Land Lords rent out their rooms for the workers families, not for worship!! The unwanted “noise” is a major problem. Covid restrictions also include social distancing, making matters worse.
AFFORDABLE TRANSPORTATION: In addition to the need for Assembly Halls our faithful workers face transportation problems. In COVID situation public transport is limited, dangerous and costly. Most villages, where the Good News has yet to be shared, do not have public transportation. By providing workers with affordable motor bikes or scooters, their ability to reach out to the lost will be increased and a lot of time saved. I am among the privileged few workers who own a vehicle. It is in constant demand when mobilizing believers to join together in outreach and other ministries.
EDUCATION of worker’s children is another major challenge. Most of the workers can’t afford to give their children good education. Lack of funds and rising fees add to their other financial pressures.
HEALTH PROBLEM is also a major worry for our workers. We thank God that one fund agency is quite helpful in this matter. However, when a person gets sick, he has to pay first and then send the bills for reimbursement. Often our workers are not in a position to pay the doctors’ fees and/or treatment, medicines etc. They are forced to borrow from others.
You may be shocked to realize how difficult life is for these “unknown harvesters” who rarely have no opportunities to share their problems, sorrows, or joys. Some workers struggle with discouragement, especially when they return home to hungry family members, or their distraught wife, who is worried about the grocery bill that is long over-due.
Some workers are highly favored. Their needs are met regularly, while others – that I am writing about here – struggle to make ends meet, month after month. Partiality is one reason for this, but ignorance of what goes on amongst genuine and hardworking, gospel workers is the MAIN PROBLEM. Workers who have sufficient support are given more support whereas neglected workers remain neglected. Other organizations try to recruit our workers with tempting offers.
Some of their children question their parents about the disparity between the haves and have-nots among the full-time gospel workers. Teenagers often question their parents’ choice to live by faith. Some rebel and walk away from the faith of their father’s. The future, if nothing is done SOON, for this generation of workers, will bring shame and disgrace on our brethren movement. The “world” beckons our youth to FORSAKE the TRUTH and strive for all that they were denied. For some, growing up in a FULL TIME WORKER’S FAMILY, in North India, is too tough!
These are genuine challenges our workers are facing. For 15 years, as an evangelist, I have been watching, understanding, and experiencing these problems, first hand, in the field. Now I appeal to you, “Please prayerfully think about the workers. Ask the Lord what HE would have you do, for them, so that they can continue in the Lord’s ministry in the northern parts of India without ‘losing’ their children along the way. They long to see their children wanting to follow them!!”
In this letter several facts which worries a gospel worker is mentioned and you have it from the “horse’s mouth” therefore needs no explanations. I would like to add some more facts which I have noticed during my 27 years of ministry among the Brethren Assembly gospel workers in India. I may be very candid and request the readers to understand my way of presentation without prejudice. My only goal is to make my readers aware of some of the pressing needs our workers are facing.
Another important need which is not understood by the believers is of the emotional and psychological. To speak about such is often considered as unspiritual and a dedicated gospel worker is expected to be free from such.
Once I was staying with a gospel worker’s family from Kerala and working in a North Indian village for three days while visiting the workers in that area. They had one daughter in her early teenage. The housing facility they had was so menial and I could understand their struggle to adjust with a strange man in their home. I also felt bad to let them suffer with my presence in that house. But there was no option. I talked to the brother about the need of finding a better facility especially with a teenaged girl growing in that house. But there was nothing better available in that area. Even after seven years later they still live in the same place. They suffer and gladly accept the struggle for the sake of the Gospel. Can you imagine the emotional and phycological impact of that struggle and the damage that can cause on that family especially on the growing young girl?
Daughter of a worker from Kerala, working in North India told me that she would never become a full-time worker of the gospel. When I asked why, she said; “I have gone through much as a daughter of a gospel worker, I do not want my children to experience that. I have heard with my own ears how my parents were ridiculed by the home assembly brethren when we visit the home assembly in Kerala.” I do not want to mention what she told me as heard from some of the assembly brethren as it is so humiliating. The impact that made on a teenage daughter of a commended worker who has sacrificed his life and family for the Gospel was so immense. Not only that the home assembly do not care for the worker, they also add insult to the injury with their words and deeds.
I am a commended worker from Canada and when I go to my commending assembly, they make it a day of celebration. They ask me about my financial situation and my health and family needs. On the contrary, a good many workers feal being humiliated by their commending assembly in many ways. Often, they are not even given time to speak about their ministry because a more distinguished gust is present unannounced. Even if time is given it is limited to 15 minutes for the missionary and 45 minutes for the distinguished guest.
The care and consideration that a mission agency in other countries show to a commended worker should be an example to the Commending assembly and the Mission agencies. Let me take my own example. Time to time the mission agency enquire about my financial needs and status. The Mission agency has a couple (husband and wife) in charge of the wellbeing of the commended workers. They met me in 2023 March at an international conference. That was not enough for them. Just three days later they came to Bangalore to be with us and to find out our needs and status. Is there any elder or mission representative who is willing to do that in India?
An experience described by a worker in a remote place is as follows: Three mission enthusiasts and supporters visited him and asked him, “bro, how many assemblies you have?” He answered, one. The next question came, how many believers in your assembly? When the answer came the mission enthusiasts said, bro, you must establish at least three to four assemblies in a year, if not it is a discouragement for us who support the ministry.” Can you imagine the phycological and spiritual impact that can make up on a person who had sacrificed his education, carrier and his family and comfort to serve God and take the gospel to the remotest part of the nation? He told me that, “it was better such people not to come and visit us, we would rather be alone and face our trials and struggles with the Lord.”
This is a clear picture of not trying to understand the reality in the field and judging a worker with our prejudice. Gospel work is not “factory production “nor a profit targeted business. It takes the toil of a farmer who also face the trial of seasonal and climatical changes and calamities. Often an unseasonal rain or due, tempest or tornado can destroy the whole harvest and leave the farmer in desolation. So, it is it is unscriptural and inhuman to measure a God’s servant with the number of assemblies he planted.
The examples I mentioned are not isolated cases. This is the case with most of the genuine workers who does not have “contacts” and not clever in manipulating the “patronising givers.”
Once I met a worker and his family in CMC Vellore. They are from Kerala and serving in North India. They came for treatment. The wife had a stroke a year before and had damaged her arm. But when it occurred, they did not consult a doctor because of financial reasons and non-accessibility to proper medical facility in their area. A year after when they had a baby the mother could not even hold her baby in her arms and that is when they took it seriously and came to Vellore for treatment and found out that she had a stroke.
Often the workers are also spiritually worn-out and become depressed. The are giving and giving all the time and do not have any opportunity to be fed themselves. The yearn for the fellowship of a spiritually matured brother who can understand and sympathize with them, who can be of some encouragement. Often when we conduct the “Worker’s conference” we invite well known “Pulpit Preachers” to preach to the “weary workers.” Pulpit preachers are those who never known the hardship of the field and only experienced the acceptance and fame. Most of them live in luxury. They have nothing to sympathise with the those who are from the field.
The Mission agencies are formed with great men, who are wealthy and influential. They have not known or seen the hardship of a worker in the field. Whereas the Mission agencies in other countries are formed and directed by men and women who were missionaries in the field and experienced the difficulties. Therefore, they can sympathize with the worker.
Let us also consider what we can do to help our workers. The commending assembly should have the responsibility of the welfare of the commended worker. They should be in constant touch with the worker to find out the needs (financial, emotional, psychological, and medical etc.) Just providing some money is not enough. The worker should feel that there is someone who cares for them. A mission board can be formed in each assembly to look after the needs of their workers. Some of them should visit the worker in the field and associate with them in the ministry for short time. When there is a special need of finance, medical, or housing the assembly should understand it and take necessary actions to meet that need, instead of letting the worker go around and beg for it. When the worker takes a step in finding the means it is always misunderstood and condemned. The negligence of the commending assembly is what is creating the havoc which we see among the workers. That drives the worker to take some undesirable measures to facilitate their needs. It is easy for us to talk about faith life to a fulltime servant of God. Few years ago, at a worker’s conference in North India one distinguished speaker from Kerala who was also working in a distinguished post with the central government preached about faith life. After the message one elderly North Indian worker got up and said, “The message was good, but it will only have any impact if it is preached by one who practice it.” The worker himself have sacrificed his central government job to be a gospel worker.
The agencies that are serving the workers should try to understand what is being done by similar agencies in other countries and adapt some of those measures.
I will close with one more incident I came across. There was an elderly Missionary in India when I came to Bangalore. He was alone at that time and his wife was not with him. Both of them were from two different countries and came to Inia as missionaries before their marriage and got married in India. They were very dedicated people and have done commendable service in India. But as the age caught up with them the wife had some psychological issues and could not live in India anymore. So, she went to her own country and that is why the husband was alone. How to solve such a situation. The wife will not come to India and the husband will not leave India.
Representatives of mission agencies from both the countries came and talked to the husband and made a recommendation to the commending assembly that it is time that he should go back and take care of his wife and the assembly called him back from the mission field and he obeyed. I know this because both the mission representatives came and stayed in our home. Now both of them are with the Lord. Though they were out of India and their income was very meagre, the passion for India has not left him, he used to send funds to support the workers in the state he worked till his last.
I learned two valuable lessons from this real-life story. One is the involvement of a mission agency in the life and ministry of a missionary and the second is the obedience of the missionary to the decision made by the commending assembly.
I believe some of these real-life examples can teach us some valuable lessons and will help us to change our mind set towards our Commended workers.