Overhearing a conversation between my wife and me about bills and our limited funds, our 9 year-old daughter piped up, “Maybe there will be a check in the mail today for $200!”
In 1989, after being accepted as approved missionary candidates with Wycliffe Bible Translators, it was recommended that I get further training in avionics and acquire my FAA General Airframe Mechanic certification in order to better serve in Communications – my technical support missionary position would require installation of radio equipment and antennas on aircraft. Having recently left my position with Eastman Kodak as a Field Engineer – and its relatively secure salary and benefits – our family of 6 was residing in East Tennessee while I attended Moody Aviation.
But while we were only approved candidates, we could not raise financial support through Wycliffe until this course was completed and we were ready to continue our Wycliffe training. So, we had written our friends, explaining to them our quest toward missionary service, and left it to the leading of the Lord through them for our personal support . . . we were now “Mailbox Missionaries.”
Later that day the mail was opened and there was, indeed, a check for $200; the faith of a little girl and her family was fulfilled and strengthened. Through these vignettes of God working through His people, we were able to trust that our support would be realized and His work would go on as an extension of those who supported and prayed for us.
Such is the plight of para-church ministries and nonprofit charities that do not receive government funding, but rely primarily upon the generosity of donors in order to provide critical relief and services to the remote, disadvantaged, victimized, homeless, poor and needy. This work is only possible through the partnership of others who sense the call to reach out and fulfill the command of God to treat these people as we would the Lord Himself.
Many bemoan the numerous pieces of mail that tend to flood our mailboxes. But I realize that educating the public on services ministries provide and the opportunity for changed lives is often the only way the average person will know of that work. Many times I’ve heard donors make the comment, “I didn’t realize you did all this”; and this from those who have been supporting the organization for years!
Public concern for the percentage of donated funds used for solicitation is warranted. Interested donors can check out charities on websites such as Guidestar.org and review nonprofits’ 990 reports. If a 990 is not available, it is often an indication that the charity is reportedly operating as a church, and therefore not required to file a 990. Donors should carefully consider religious charities transparency in reporting information such as program, administration, and fundraising ratios as good stewardship of their giving.
However, the mechanics of fundraising and accountability should not be allowed to overshadow the ministry accomplished by small charities that exist primarily as “Mailbox Missionaries.” The response envelopes that come in the mail each day are the lifeblood of critical services and can often limit the ability to sustain ministry. When you consider supporting a ministry beyond your normal church tithe, consider if that organization is utilizing every inch of its facilities, every donated penny, and every offered prayer for the service of others and to the glory of God.
And the next time you see that envelop in your mailbox, remember a little girl and a young missionary family whose faith was answered through someone responding to a need. The possibilities that your support provides toward the faith of the organization and those individuals and families that benefit are endless. Your investment is an extension of the church’s responsibility to reach out to a needy world – and often, it is through a response to a piece of mail.