Missionary Secrets 1--retirement worries us

I have been a missionary long enough that I feel like I really understand the job. There are veterans out there that put people like to shame, but all those young Americans who come to the Muslim world for a few months or two or three years--I'm not with them. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike them, and some of them are great people and in our own ministry they do help a good bit...often--but not always.

So here is my missionary secret 1: retirement inspires fear, or at best, requires a great deal of faith. I'm not old enough that retirement is just around the corner or anything, but when I hear about people who get matching retirement based on income (like I used to before we left for the field), well, that is admirable.

You always hear, but away 10% of your income for retirement. We do that. A lot of missionaries can't afford to, so I think we are lucky in this area, and I am thankful for this. But still, based on our income it is never going to reach a great amount.

Also, we have to pay rent. I mean, buying a property in the Middle East is near impossible, and besides, would you invest money in a property in the Middle East? When you don't know if your visa will be renewed or when the belongings of all non-citizens can be suddenly expropriated by the State (which has happened)? So after years in the mission field, you go home and...you rent? One of the staples of retirement in the West is that by then you own your home, so no rent. Not for missionaries.

Also, no one ever asks us about retirement. People will pitch in for evangelistic campaigns or bibles or other good things like that. But retirement? I have never tried it, but I'm not eager to. I don't suspect it would really meet with much success, but maybe I'm wrong.

So, next time you meet a visiting missionary, ask them about retirement savings. If they are boomers they lived in a prosperous period where investments did well and churches were wealthy. If they are (like us) Gen X then, well, you're probably screwed. Boomers will also enjoy the generous welfare of the West for old folks. Gen X'ers will not. By then all the money will be gone and we'll have to do insane things like pay for our health care and nursing homes.

So ask. I don't know of any missionary ever who has raised the topic with supporters. But I do know that it's a topic on the mind of many of my colleagues. We don't lack faith--you don't get into this line of work if you do, I suspect. But we are trying to be responsible and take care of our families. Churches and supporters of missionaries and missions should know about it.

--Abu Daoud


Jonathan said…
This is a good observation and reminder. I have actually heard about this need in the Catholic Church, but I think that's only because most of the visible long-term missionaries are priests or religious, and every so often there is a campaign for the retirement needs of priests and religious in general. The missionary orders themselves do mention this need every once and a while, but since that usually takes the form of "sacred spam", bulk mailings from organizations I've never heard of, I usually ignore them.

Nevertheless, across the board, I think we would do well to do more for those who have dedicated their lives to serving the Lord but no longer benefit from being involved in any sort of visible, active ministry.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Jon,

I think that Catholics do a much better job of taking care of retirees than do Protestants and evangelicals. The idea of the religious order indicates that you will be taken care of until death, not so with the evangelical or Protestant missionary agency--they will help take care of you until you stop being a missionary. It is interesting to hear your perspective though. As for the funding letters you get, do think about pitching in a little bit when you can.

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