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.
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.
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.
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.