Q: Why are cross-cultural missionaries always asking for so much money? I mean, your projected monthly income is more than I make at my job here in the States! Shouldn’t you be willing to be content with less?
Again, like the other questions we’ve posted answers to recently, this one is rarely, if ever, actually asked. But it is often alluded to. We can see it flash across people’s faces when they hear how much support we’re seeking to raise. And, invariably, our monthly ministry budget will end up being contrasted with an individual’s annual income: “You need $6,000 per month? That’s $72,000 per year!”
And, to be honest, I can relate with people’s reactions on this one. My reaction was very similar to theirs when I first heard how much money we were going to have to raise. Actually, I was probably even more shocked. “Are you KIDDING me?! I can’t ask for THAT! What kind of a money-grubber do you think I am?!”
Since my initial freak-out session, though, my views have begun to change a bit. And the biggest contributing factor to this change has been a good, solid check-in with reality. Here are a few things I’ve come to understand:
- Taxes, medical insurance, and retirement savings (all of which are required by either the government or New Tribes Mission) make up roughly 1/3 of our monthly budget: $2,300.
- If we want to provide medical assistance to the people we’re going to live among (which we do), or hire language helpers (which we will), or save up for our airplane tickets to travel back to the U.S. every 4 years (to connect with supporters), then WE have to pay for it. This stuff (and things like it) adds up to another $1,500 per month.
- Just because we’re going to live in a majority world country (aka: third world country) it doesn’t mean basic necessities won’t cost anything. Especially if you consider that in our bush location all of our groceries will need to be flown in on a single engine aircraft. A conservative estimate of our living expenses in PNG is $2,100 per month.
What I get now that I didn’t before is that ours is a ministry budget, not a family budget. Most of the money we’re raising won’t be going to our family. It will be going into the work that we’re doing. Teaching costs money. Helping costs money. Traveling to and from remote areas costs money. Staying healthy so we can all do those things costs money.
Why are we asking for so much money to live and work among a remote people group? Because it costs a lot of money to live and work among a remote people group.
[This is a continuation of a short series of posts that we’re doing. If you’d like to put it in context then you can go to our previous post.]
Q: So, I get that the two of you have chosen to be missionaries, but isn’t it dangerous to be bringing your kids into the jungle with you? Aren’t you kind of a negligent parent to knowingly put them at such risk?
This has got to be one of THE most common questions that we have people allude to when they find out what we’re doing and where we’re going. Apparently, it’s one thing for adults to live out in the bush, but to bring their KIDS with them? That part often doesn’t compute for the average American. On more than a few occasions, we’ve actually had people ask us where our kids will be living while we’re in Papua New Guinea. (“Ummm….with us? Remember when we said that this will probably take us 20+ years?”)
And don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to insinuate that this is a bad question for people to be contemplating when they hear us share about our ministry. We’re glad that people like our kids and want them to be safe. We like our kids too, and we definitely want to keep them safe.
It just strikes us as kind of odd that it is often assumed that living in PNG is somehow more dangerous than living in the U.S. Do kids not get hurt in America? Do they not get sick? Do they not die? See, it’s not that there are necessarily more risks in PNG; it’s that there are different risks than we have here in the States.
For example, most Americans can talk about the potentially fatal consequences of having children exposed to traffic, swimming pools, or the influenza virus without really losing any sleep. Each of these things could potentially end a child’s life, but, somehow, we are not often consumed with worry because of them.
But if we were to talk about poisonous centipedes, New Guinea death adders, or malaria your reaction might be a little different. Why? Because you haven’t come to terms with these risks like you have with the risks that permeate your life right now. Other countries’ risks just seem so much more…well, risky.
And to be sure, it goes both ways: Rochelle (who grew up in Guinea, West Africa) used to be terrified of coming home to the U.S. when she was younger. This is the same girl who killed a green mamba with a toy wooden sword and always had a bag packed in her room in case the government was to collapse into a civil war and her family had to flee. Why was she scared about living in the U.S.? There were dangers here that she didn’t have to worry about in Guinea. (Don’t even get her started on ticks and Lyme’s disease!)
Wherever parents live they will have to concern themselves with figuring out how to protect their children from the inherent dangers that life brings with it, be they cars, cockroaches, or cannibals. And for Christian parents, we will always have a loving, powerful God to trust with those concerns.
So, are we bringing our kids to a dangerous place? Yes, we are. Is it negligent parenting to do so? We don’t think so.
Have you ever wanted to ask a question, but felt that the resulting conversation might be too awkward, or that maybe your question would hurt the feelings of the person you were asking it of, so you just stayed quiet?
You know, like when a lady looks like she’s probably pregnant, but you’re not totally sure. You’d like to know, but it just doesn’t seem worth the risk to actually ask her.
“I noticed that your belly is looking bigger. Is that because a baby is growing inside of you, or are you just getting fatter the normal way?”
The reason I’m thinking about this right now is because we’ve just finished sharing at a few missions conferences over the past couple of weekends, and I kind of wonder if people go through that same type of inner struggle after they hear me share our ministry plans. Not that they’re wondering if I’m pregnant (I hope), but that they may have questions that they want to ask, but feel afraid to.
So, for the sake of those people, we’ll be doing a short series of posts answering some of those questions that I have heard people allude to, but never really ask. Here’s the first one:
Q: I admire your willingness to go live out in the jungle so people can know Christ, but….why? There are lots of people here in the U.S. that don’t know Christ. Why not stay here and reach out to them?
A: It’s true: There are non-Christians here just like there are in Papua New Guinea. And it is a good thing for Christians in the States to be reaching out to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers with the message of Christ’s love. Two thumbs-up to anyone who is doing that.
All things being equal, there is really no difference between someone who isn’t a follower of Christ in the States and someone who isn’t a follower of Christ in PNG. But all things aren’t equal. Actually, the inequalities are kind of staggering to consider:
- In English we have roughly 900 translations of the New Testament. Many languages in PNG don’t have even ONE.
- In English we have Christian radio, Christian TV, Christian books, Christian podcasts. Many languages in PNG don’t have even ONE of any of those.
- In the U.S. we have lots of Christians and churches where non-Christians can go with questions about God. Many languages in PNG have NO Christians and NO church.
So, It’s not just about us going to people who don’t know the Father. It’s about us going to people who don’t know the Father and who also have no means of getting to know Him. It’s about access.
In fact, it occurred to me recently that if every single Christian were instantly removed from the U.S. tomorrow, then non-Christians in our country would still have WAY more opportunities to access God than many of the people in PNG do right now. Is that crazy, or what?*
So, that’s why we’re passionate about living and working among an unreached people group in Papua New Guinea.
*(Disclaimer: We are NOT proposing that all Christians should leave the U.S., or intending to insinuate that Stateside outreach and discipleship is in any way “second rate.” This was just a thought I had that helped me to better appreciate the inequalities of the situation concerning unreached people groups.)
It started out simply enough. We had just gotten our passport pictures taken so we could apply for our PNG work permits. When I saw mine I thought it looked a little odd, so I asked Rochelle.
Seth: “Do you think this picture will work OK? The angle they took it at makes my nose look weird.”
Rochelle: “The picture’s fine. Your nose is just crooked.”
Seth: “What?! I’m 27 years old. If I had a crooked nose then I think I would have noticed somewhere along the way!”
Rochelle: “Do you remember when we were dating and I asked you if you’d ever broken your nose?….”
OK. No big deal. So I’ve got something to be self-conscious about for the rest of my life. It happens. Accept it and live with it.
Two days later, Rochelle was giving me a haircut in preparation for the missions conference that we were speaking at in a couple of days. Nothing fancy, just a standard, medium-length crew-cut with clippers. About as basic as a haircut comes. Easy-peasy, right? Not this week.
Everything was going fine. The haircut was basically over with. She had just finished up trimming the back of my neck when she noticed that she had missed a small patch on top. With a confident pass of the clippers she dealt with the offending hairs. Too bad she’d forgotten to put the guard back on…..
Seth: “Did you just…..?”
Rochelle: “I’msorryI’msorryI’msorry! I can fix it! I can fix it! Maybe I can taper the edges some and it will just look like you’re going bald.”
Seth: “What, and look like friar Tuck? No way!”
I ended up having to shave my entire head the night before we left for the conference. But, hey, vanity is over-rated. These things happen. Eat some humble pie and move on, right?
And move on is what we did. The next day this crooked-nosed, shaved-headed missionary packed up his family and hit the road. We drove 3 ½ hours from New York to New Hampshire, with a two year-old and a six month-old in tow, and finally arrived at our destination……only to find out that the missions conference in NH wasn’t until the NEXT weekend. The one that I was SUPPOSED to be speaking at was back in NY. I had misread my calendar. And driven to the wrong state. Go figure.
[Epilogue: We were able to make it back in time for the other conference, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. But still, kind of a crazy week of mishaps, don’t you think?]
Today we are celebrating your 2nd birthday! It’s not your actual birthday, because by then we’ll be on the road again, sharing about our ministry at another church.
I’m so proud of you, buddy! You’ve been such a trooper through all of our crazy travels. I know you sometimes get tired of our many car trips, of meeting new people and sleeping (or NOT sleeping) in strange places.
Sometimes I wish I could give you more stability, but this is just the way things have to be for a little while. Okay, maybe for a long while.
When I think about what normal life will look like for you growing up, I sometimes get a little sad. Moving around the globe will get old fast, and you will get tired of saying good-bye. There will probably even come a day when someone asks you where home is, and you’ll realize you don’t know.
But mostly when I think about your life, I’m excited. You will get to experience two different worlds, and grow to love them both. You will get to witness firsthand God’s Word changing the history of a people. And let’s face it – growing up in the jungle is just plain fun! From one missionary kid to another, you’re going to love it!
So, we’ll go through the rough times as a family, and I promise you that it will be worth it as we follow God. I’m confident because I trust Him. And because I’ve been there – and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Happy Birthday, Manny! I’m so thankful to have you alongside us on this life-long adventure!
We were noticing the other day that a lot of our posts have been mostly about little family happenings and everyday life events here in the States. Not that that’s BAD or anything, but it could possibly confuse people who come to our blog expecting it to read more like the “End of the Spear” screenplay.
“Hey, where’s all the sensationalism that I’ve come to associate with cross-cultural church-planting endeavors? Where are the stories about headhunters and witch doctors and Christians persevering against all odds in the midst of trials and intensely discouraging situations?! I thought these guys were supposed to be MISSIONARIES!”
So, to help clear things up, we thought we’d try to give some context to our current situation:
To start off, yes, we ARE missionaries….we’re just NEW missionaries. We aren’t living in a foreign country working with a poverty stricken people group, telling them about Jesus (even though we really, REALLY want to be!). Instead, we’re living here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. spending most of our time writing emails and meeting with other Christians.
Does that not jive with your concept of what a missionary is supposed to be doing? Well, then you’re in good company, because it’s not what WE pictured our lives as missionaries being like either. For some reason this phase of the missionary career doesn’t get a whole lot of fanfare in all those cool biographies that we’ve read. Sure, you might see some little quip like, “After missionary Smith raised some support he headed off to Ecuador,” but that’s about as detailed of an account as when the Bible says that God made Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs.
But, regardless of whether or not other people talk about it, it’s still our reality: Cross-cultural church-planting among a remote unreached people group costs a fair bit of money. And since we don’t have the money to sustain the project ourselves (and the people we’re going to work with certainly don’t), it falls to us to be seeking out other like-minded individuals to join us in this venture through their prayers and financial giving. And, evidently, finding those people is not a quick process.
So, as much as we long for the day that we’ll be able to give you a firsthand account of the sights and smells of Papua New Guinea, and fill our blog with lots of exotic pictures and anecdotal cultural blunders, we’re just not able to. Not yet, anyway. (But we hope to be able to soon!)
Recently, we were able to be the Missionaries of the week at a CEF camp in New Hampshire. We had so much fun! Three times Seth got to share with all 60 campers for around 45 minutes on what a missionary is, why we need missionaries, and how the kids could be involved in reaching the lost around the world. What an amazing opportunity!
The camp also asked us if we had any needs that the kids might be able to help us out with to help get us to Papua New Guinea. We told them about our need to have a 3-stage water filtration system with us when we go to PNG. We knew it was pricey, but we figured anything they could give would help towards the purchase. These 8-12 year-old kids responded by giving even MORE than the $500 that we needed! (It’s even more impressive when you consider that the money that they were giving came out of their personal snack and souvenir accounts!)
We had such a good time with the staff and the kids. One of the highlights of our summer for sure!
Our little fellas are growing up too fast! Tucker is such an alert little boy. His favorite activity is watching his brother do all of his “big boy things.” He turned 4 months old the other day and is weighing in at 13 lbs. now!
Manny has been surpassing all our expectations with his potty-training and wears his big boy underpants all day long, everyday! (And, to be honest, that’s often ALL he wears.) He is going to be two this September, and loves playing hide-and-seek with Mom and Dad, riding his motorcycle, and do anything else like a big person.
In case you weren’t aware, because we’re New Tribes Missionaries Seth is considered an “Ordained Minister of the Gospel.” Not that titles are all that important or anything, but this one does come with a few perks, one of these being that he is qualified to legally perform weddings!
We knew this when we became members of NTM last year, but we didn’t really figure it would come up for quite a while. I mean, who wants a rookie to officiate for one of the most special ceremonies of one’s life? Answer: Seth’s Aunt Patty. (Apparently love can cloud one’s judgment to a more significant degree than we thought!)
So, on June 29th, 2013, by the “power vested in him,” Seth was able to pronounce Jeff Grooms (yes, that’s his real last name) and Patty Callahan husband and wife. The bride was beautiful, the service went smoothly, and the reception had a ton of good food, so, all in all, everything went great!
To help set the stage for the rest of this post: We’re a budget family. We’re not Nazi-strict about our budget, but we do try really hard to stick to our planned expenditures. At the beginning of each month we write up our plan, put our money in its respective envelope, and only buy something if we have money set aside for it. (After all, we’re trying to save up money for PNG!)
That being said, May’s grocery money ran out a little early this month. We have food in the cupboard and all, so it wasn’t like we were going to starve, but we were feeling a little bit wistful. We have family coming to visit this weekend and we were kind of hoping to be able to put together a special supper during their stay, but instead, it was looking like we would be having pretty normal fair.
I’m not even sure that we thought to pray about it or anything. It was just one of those things that we shrugged our shoulders about and accepted. It’s not like we were going to be suffering because of this. I mean, God had provided for our needs, why would we ask for more?
Then, on Memorial Day, we got a call from one of our supporters: an 18-wheeler hauling over $100,000 worth of meat had been a few hours late dropping off its load, so the FDA said that its cargo couldn’t be sold. The truck was parked seven miles from our house, and the driver had been told to give everything away!
I was one of the first to arrive on the scene and was given as much meat as my vehicle would hold! CASES of whole roasting chickens, boneless-skinless breasts, hamburger, and….get this….PRIME RIB! Can you imagine? I’ve never seen anything like it! Even after splitting things up among five other families, we still ended up with way more than our freezer could hold! (Thankfully, Seth’s brother has a chest freezer we were able to use.) Our conservative estimate is that we probably ended up with around $350 worth of meat.
So, in summary, yesterday God blew us away with His ability to provide above and beyond what we might ask or think. We said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had enough chicken to have a cookout this weekend?” and God said, “How about I give you a rack of prime rib and enough meat to cover the rest of the summer?”
Unmerited, unsolicited grace is an awesome thing. And God is so good.