Self-Funding Missions Before and After Retirement
When it began to look like a foreign assignment was in our future, we sought the advice of those who had walked that road before us. A co-worker introduced us to a retired employee from our same company who was also a member of our church. Bob had spent his career as a communications engineer. When he retired, he combined his financial resources, years of experience, and expertise with his desire to serve the kingdom. His self-funded mission work took him all over the world.
His advice to us was invaluable: “When you’re in the country, look around. Pay attention to what’s going on and the ministry opportunities present within your reach. God will show you how to use your resources for the kingdom.”
Bob was right. We took his advice and were richly rewarded. Our foreign assignments presented a unique opportunity to use our financial resources, training, and skills throughout our time abroad. This ministry experience returned with us to the U.S., and we carried it into retirement as well.
If a foreign assignment is in your future, then seek out your fellow employees who have gone before you. Glean the valuable knowledge they have about the company and the opportunities abroad. Explore the company policies, projects, office locations, and country laws associated with those office locations. For instance, do they work in closed or restricted countries where there are unreached, unengaged people groups or a significant refugee presence?
If a foreign assignment is in your future, seek out your fellow employees who have gone before you. Glean the valuable knowledge they have about the company and the opportunities abroad.
If you’re already working overseas, then look for where you can put your resources to work for eternal purposes in the present and future.
One of the benefits of a foreign assignment is the compensation package. The benefits are many, and they typically include housing, education, transportation allowances, cost of living adjustments, an uplift in salary for locations at low risk, and, in higher-risk areas, security resources and hazard pay. These benefits are usually commensurate with the cost and risk of living in a particular area. Hazard pay, for instance, is calculated according to the risk associated with where you live or work.
When we took that calculated risk and moved overseas, the hazard pay was high in both locations where we lived. Jeff’s project in southern Iraq involved significant risk because of the nature of the work and because, in the beginning, the area was still an active war zone. Three years later, in Papua New Guinea, the hazard pay was also high for different reasons related to crime and health risks.
We committed much of our hazard pay (and other benefits related to our compensation package) to serve in the areas where we were living and to bless other global workers, the local church, and our home church in the U.S. Those funds also fueled the long-term vision we had for ministry in our retirement years.
Whatever form your financial or material resources take, remember they are God-given. Through your wise and generous stewardship of them, you will have opportunities to share the love of Jesus.
In John Piper’s famous “seashells” message from the 2000 Passion Conference, he talks about the tragedy of so many who waste “the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account with what you did: 'Here it is, Lord—my shell collection. And I’ve got a good swing. And look at my boat.'” Of course, there is nothing wrong with loving golf and having a boat, but is that all there is? We wanted to live the rest of our lives with a view toward “our citizenship in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).
Foreign assignments don’t last forever, and as our overseas years were coming to an end, we envisioned moving back to the U.S. and retiring. We knew God was leading us to continue kingdom work with the experience and the knowledge we had gained. As we began to plan, we sought advice on how we could continue to support our local church and self-fund much of the mission work that was so important to us. Good financial planning with experienced professionals was key to enabling us to continue the work God had given us to do. We were fortunate to have financial planners who shared our faith and understood our ministry goals.
Good financial planning with experienced professionals was key to enabling us to continue the work God had given us to do.
I encourage you to take advantage of the financial advice available through your company or pursue your own financial advisor. Select an advisor who will understand you and your commitment to kingdom work. Explore ways to steer your financial resources towards self-funding ministry and mission work from within your local church or alongside a missions organization.
Final Words of Wisdom
Marketplace ministry opportunities are expanding around the world. Many countries now require a vocation, profession, or company sponsorship to gain entry, so employees of an international corporation are an excellent fit for living the professional life on mission. But that is only one of several avenues, including; operating a business overseas or partnering with one already in operation; doing contract work; providing financial services; teaching in an international school; and many others.
Wherever the marketplace takes you, look for the door of opportunity Christ will surely provide.
In our society, it is so easy to find our identities in our education, income, career, or social status. But where do our identities really originate? We are children of the King, and “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).
Are you on board? Wherever the marketplace takes you, look for the door of opportunity Christ will surely provide.
“We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about.” ― R.C. Sproul
Shirley Ralston (MA in Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a founding member of the Missionary Care Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the pastor’s research team and teaches Life Bible Study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband, Jeff, now reside in Houston after living overseas for several years. You can find her on Twitter and texpatfaith.org.