FROM THE FIELD
“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47)
As a Christian and faithful supporter of AIM International, you know we are tasked with making disciples of all nations. And this is a vital mission as millions of men, women, and children worldwide have never heard about the Lord’s love for them. The vast majority of these unreached people live on the Indian sub-continent. Historically, millions and millions of dollars have been spent on training, equipping, transporting, and supporting Western missionaries in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Nepal in an effort to fulfill this mandate. In fact, one denomination says, “The average cost to support a missionary family from North America is $10,338 per month,” a staggering
$124,056 per year.
Average costs for an American going to South Asia can include:
• Airfare – $800 to well over $4,000 per person one way, depending on airline and date.
• Shipping Personal Property – $7,000 and up for a shipping crate.
• Training – This varies by denomination and/or organization, but tuition is in the thousands of dollars with the added cost of books, food, etc. Training can be lengthy as prospective missionaries must learn the language and culture of the country to which they’re
• Visa – Ranges from $100 to $270.
• Housing – Varies greatly.
• Food – Varies greatly, but importing Western food is expensive.
• Vehicle – Cost depends on the country, locality, and specific vehicle.
• Health Insurance – Varies greatly.
• Pay – Varies depending on the sending agency.
• Taxes – There could be U.S. taxes owed (specifically Social Security and Medicare) as well as
foreign taxes on income.
• Sending Agency – These agencies often get a percentage of the support raised by the missionary, anywhere from five to 25 percent.
Oftentimes, the harvest from this great outlay is small compared to the great amount of money spent. Foreign evangelization of native populations is usually officially or unofficially prohibited by the countries’ governments, forcing many Western missionaries to travel there as workers (such as English teachers), and not as missionaries. These jobs take up much of their time, thus reducing the hours spent sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost. Not only that, visas are issued for limited amounts of time, requiring foreigners to periodically renew them.
Plus, because of the history of colonialism in South Asia, Western evangelism is often viewed as another way to “conquer” and subjugate the native people.
Obviously, we would never question the sincerity of those who choose to be missionaries in foreign lands. We love these brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray for our Lord and Savior to bless them mightily. However, we believe there’s a better way to reach the lost in South Asia with the Good News . . .
AIM International, as you know, supports indigenous missionaries ... native Christian workers who speak the language and know the customs of those to whom they are bringing the gospel. We don’t need to “set them up” – these believers are there NOW, bringing Truth and Light to the lost and simply need our support to continue what they’re already doing. And whereas foreign missionaries can be seen by the native population as rich outsiders imposing a Western religion, the indigenous missionary is recognized as one of their own, as someone who knows and truly cares about them.
Of course, a big part of this is because our partner ministries throughout South Asia are not only preaching the gospel, they are meeting needs of all kinds. When a natural disaster such as flooding or an earthquake occurs, native missionaries are among the first on the scene, bringing food, water, medical help, and building supplies to devastated villages. Our co-workers in South Asia are teaching poor, uneducated children how to read and write to give them an opportunity to escape poverty. Likewise, their parents are being taught vital vocational skills such as sewing and farming. And native missionaries help remote villages get wells for clean water, and latrines for better sanitation.
Since indigenous missionaries know the culture, they know the best way to present the gospel to the lost. Sometimes they use storytelling techniques to share Christ. Other times, they meet the physical needs of hurting people as an example of the Lord’s love.
There are so many things the native ministries and their gospel workers do – and so inexpensively – that I can’t list them all here!
You see, the thing most people find amazing is that a native missionary can be supported, on average, for one or two dollars a day, not the $340 a day it costs to send and support a foreign missionary.
My friend, since we seek to be faithful stewards of the donations sent to us, all the ministries that we – you, other friends, and AIM
International – support are held to the highest standards of financial accountability. They send us reports listing the results of their work
in South Asia, and are personally visited on a regular basis.
Indigenous missionaries are, I am convinced, the most effective way to reach the unreached in South Asia and around the world!