Dissolved- Part 1

Missionaries… all who follow Christ… are told to count the cost. But what about when something unthinkable happens? How do you prepare for that?

Late at night, on August 24, 2011, we received the following in a letter from our sending organization:

“Following extensive objective assessment and the advice of legal counsel, we are beginning action to dissolve… The organization will be in the process of shutting down over the next week and a half. Funds to continue are not available… final payments of reimbursable expenses will be paid as of August 23rd and health insurance will be paid through September 2011. Thereafter, there will be no disbursement from EBM to anyone other than to protect and complete the above process… On September 2, 2011, the… home office will close its doors… Further, missionaries and sending churches should immediately contact donors and have their donations diverted to the sending church… If help is needed the staff… would be more than happy to assist you with this process until September 2, 2011. On August 31st, [our organization] will be closing its books after which all donations will be returned to the sender.”

Needless to say, we didn’t sleep much that night. We had lots of questions, and no immediate answers…

  • How in the world are we going to provide for 8 kids and an 18 year old niece… in a foreign land…with no salary?
  • What about school for our children (recognizing that termites ate at least a third of our home schooling curriculum during our last home assignment)?
  • Could we? How would we get home if we had to?
  • What does this mean for now? And in the immediate future?
  • What in the world should we do?
  • How do we explain this to our local colleagues?
  • What exactly is “this”?

I’d really thought I’d heard of and considered all the possible missionary “catastrophe” scenarios: medical emergencies, coup d’états, banditry or break-in, kidnapping and hostage situations, physical violence, in-country massive currency devaluation, drought, necessities unavailable, refugee influx, emergency evacuation… and while I didn’t ever want anything like that to happen to our family, it had, at least at some point, bleeped somewhere on my radar screen that it was a possibility.

The dissolution of our sending organization and as a consequence, of the majority of the infrastructure key to our W. African existence hadn’t… ever… crossed… my mind… Seriously. Not even remotely.

Our home office was closing its doors and from the backside of the desert in W. Africa (otherwise known as the land of frequent power outages, bipolar internet and the lesser known reality that we still cannot direct dial our home area code in the States from this place), we had one week to contact all of our supporters to tell them to stop giving until we could make other arrangements. We needed to find a new organization in the States able and willing to receive and receipt funds, but also one that would be acceptable to our current support team. Any services that our home office had handled before? We now needed to find someone else who could and would assume those responsibilities. And there was the concern that people might just decide to no longer partner with us in this ministry, feeling that our previous organization had been less than transparent… some even felt dishonest.

Our team of missionaries in Niger and Benin at the time of the dissolution

We understood immediately that our situation wasn’t catastrophic. We were all healthy, together, with a roof over our head and in the midst of an amazing missionary community that literally wrapped its arms tightly around us and cared for us, far above and beyond what we would have asked or could have imagined. On the other hand, it fely like calamity stalking… we were walking a high wire far above ground without any sort of safety net… and it wouldn’t take much to send us plummeting down…

I wish I could say that Tim and I immediately fell on our knees and took our worries before the Lord. Tim might have… I didn’t unless you count those “Oh God… what are we going to do?” type utterances as prayers.

Has anything similar every happened to you? Can you even imagine anything like this happening? What would be your first thoughts and worries?

(Post by: Richelle)

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20 Responses to “Dissolved- Part 1”


  1. 1 Karen May 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I think more about the other urgent situations such as medical emergencies or something tragic happening to our kids rather than our agency folding. The interesting thing about reading your post is that I am familiar with your situation – Chris and Diane are from our home church and are also good friends of ours! :)

  2. 2 Kara Coe May 20, 2012 at 5:16 am

    Wow– that is truly a shocking idea. Thank you for sharing…I look forward to reading more!

  3. 3 Ashley L May 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Wow, I can’t imagine something like that happening! While we haven’t had anything happen on that large a scale, we did have to move quickly and unexpectedly, due to security reasons, about 3 years ago from a city that we had hoped to live in for many more years. In 13 days we had to pack up all of our belongings, figure out how to move everything from southern Russia to northern Russia by train and into storage without being on the other end to receive our things (we had to leave to the States), find a way to sell our car, say goodbye to all of our dear friends and neighbors and people in our ministry, and pass off our ministry to our student leaders (the entire staff team with our ministry was required to either move or find another way/another visa to stay in the city). It was heartbreaking, but we were overwhelmed by the Lord’s hand in that time of our life. Our biggest worry at that time was for our ministry. What would happen to all of this work and prayer that so many people had poured in for so many years? Would the ministry continue now that there would be no full-time workers to help it run? In many ways we felt like the ministry was going well, but in others we felt like it was still fragile and had no idea how a group of young students and graduates would keep things going, let alone growing. Now looking back, this thing that looked so devastating, was obviously the Lord’s plan for His own glory. The ministry there continues to grow and thrive, despite no official missionary team there (they were in fact ready to run things themselves!), and God has revealed to us many reasons for having us where he does now.

  4. 4 Phyllis May 20, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Not the same situation, but having to leave Russia was similarly devastating to me. I kept thinking somehow God would step in and let us stay. The night after my last time in court, when I got the final verdict of deportation… agony. It was December 25.

  5. 5 richelle May 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks, ladies, for your kind words – and sorry I’ve not stopped by to reply earlier… joys of W. African electricity and internet sometimes make things we take for granted challenging!

    Appreciated hearing tidbits of your experiences, too, Ashley and Phyllis.

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  1. 1 Dissolved- Part II « Trackback on May 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm
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