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.
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)