Here's even worse news.
The IMB administration in Richmond has informed all International Service Corp, Journeymen, and Masters missionaries that they will no longer be reimbursed by the IMB for dryers, cell phones, or air conditioning while on the field. These missionaries will be allowed to have heat in the winter, but the IMB will no longer be able to pay for air conditioning. Phones for communication (an essential in foreign countries) will now be paid for by the aforementioned missionaries themselves. Clothes will need to be dried by air or the missionaries will pay the cost for drying their own clothes. This information has not been publicized except through emails sent to the supervisors of the ISC'ers, Journeymen, and Masters affected. It is hoped by Richmond that these cost saving measures among the front-line staff will allow for more missionaries to be appointed in the short term.
As Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend!"
I and the people of Emmanuel are not unfamiliar with budgetary shortfalls during this time of year. We, too, are 8% behind budget in giving. I wrote the following article (edited for the blog) to our church family two weeks ago:
"We are rapidly coming to a close to the 2009 calendar year. As has been our custom for the past several years at this time of year, we are behind in our year-to-date budget giving. However, every December for the past eighteen years we have always financially caught up and wound up surpassing our budget needs by 1% to 5% per year. As we all know, the economy is different this year. We knew it would be and so the Finance Committee held the line on the budget during the budget planning process for this year. There was no overall budget increase, including no salary increases for the 2009 budget. However, due to rising costs , attendance and increases in the 2009 budgeted ministries of Emmanuel (Refuge, Abounding Grace, Celebrate Recovery, Missions, etc.) there is very, very little cushion (if any) in this year’s budget. For this reason, I am asking for your help. We will not promise you God’s blessings if you give to Emmanuel – you already have them in Christ. We will not try to guilt you into giving to your church – that’s between you and God. We will simply tell you of our need, and ask you to help us these last eight Sundays of the year to catch up financially. If you have been blessed by Christ and the ministries of Emmanuel, then we ask you to give. If God sees fit for us not to meet our budget this year, then we as a church will be making some very tough decisions regarding ministry, personnel and missions. Those tough meetings will begin in January if we have not met our budget, but I am hopeful that this will not have to happen ..."I anticipate our church will again surpass our budget in terms of our giving, but if we do not because of the current economy, then the person who should receive the largest pay cut (in both percentage and dollars) for our new fiscal year (April 2010 ) is me. That's the way it should be. There is nothing worse in ministry than for the lowest paid personnel to be given cuts when the highest paid personnel go unaffected. Frankly, I believe it should be the reverse.
Likewise, in my opinion, there is nothing worse for missionary morale than for those missionaries on the front lines--the very ones getting paid the least to be there--to have their expense reimbursement or salaries cut. Those sitting around in stifling heat, having their clothes permanently saturated by sweat, and then having to carefully count their meager dollars to have enough money to pay for their ministry cell phones are not the ones who should be the first in line when it comes to financial cuts. The "cost cutting" efforts being implemented by the IMB in terms of ISC'ers, Journeymen, and Masters actually save the IMB very little money, but they do negatively affect missionary morale. I know my friends in leadership at Richmond are doing everything within their power to get more missionaries on the field, and I commend them for this, but I've got a few suggestions that might actually save them some real money for future appointments.
(1). Stop having multiple meetngs in Richmond and other parts of the US, flying all the missionary supervisors home from overseas, spending tens of thousands of dollars on travel expenses in the process. The missionaries on the field pay close attention to the fact that these meetings for supervisors often conveniently fall close to United States holidays, and with technology the way it is today, there's no reason to pay such enormous travel costs for meetings in the US. This will save real money.
(2). If there is a consensus that shutting off air conditioning payments will save funds for future appointments, then well and fine. But the air conditioning should also be shut off in Richmond as well. I imagine having no air conditioning in the former capital of the Confederacy during July will convince a few strategic people that such "cost saving" efforts are not very effective in sustaining missionary morale.
(3). From this point forward stop having trustee meetings in exotic places and luxurious hotels. Make every trustee who come to Richmond pay for his own car (if he must have one), and put him up in the cabins at the ILC (or let him pay himself for his hotel if he must have one). It should also be a requirement that every trustee attend those trustee meetings without the benefit of air conditioning. A little sauna wouldn't hurt the long term health of many anyway.
(4). Let the missionaries ON THE FIELD determine the kind of ministry that is needed. Allow for the creation and adoption of reports that count "conversions" and "church planting" in the various countries by reflecting the different cultural and demographic make-ups of those respective countries. We must resist the cookie cutter approach that forces every missionary in every country to do the same thing the same way. Resisting perpetual world-wide reorganization of the IMB (every five years) will save huge amounts of money in the long term.
(5). Any reduction in work force "on the field" should be met with a corresponding reduction of the work force in Richmond. Further, if there are to be cuts in benefits, salaries, or expense reimbursement, the people who should take those cuts FIRST should be the career missionaries and administrators--the highest paid personnel. Taking cost cutting measures amongst the lowest paid, semi/volunteer ISC, Masters and Journeymen at the IMB without first cutting either the expense reimbursement or salaries of the highest paid missionaries is unwise.
Again, I commend the IMB for their pro-active approach to these matters and urge churches to send their missionary offerings to Richomond as soon as possible. But I think the above suggestions, combined with increased missions giving by our churches, will provide the best solution for the appointment of more missionaries.
In His Grace,