Editor’s note: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the Southern Baptist Convention.
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – Glenn Creech served in Asia for 30 years through the International Mission Board and doesn’t recall encountering any workers from other missions organizations who received the kind of steady, generous financial support he received from Southern Baptists.
“Every year, we had to make a budget, and the budget was always tight, but we knew that what we had … came from churches,” Creech, now associate director of IMB member care, told Baptist Press.
“All along the way, we were aware and acknowledging and always felt thankful for the opportunity to be able to follow God’s call. I never forgot how blessed I was that I could live out that call, thanks to Southern Baptist churches,” Creech said, adding, “We know how blessed we are.”
Roughly half of every Cooperative Program dollar received at the national level is forwarded to the IMB for reaching the nations for Christ. CP money — combined with gifts through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions — supports more than 3,500 Southern Baptist missionaries.
“Lottie Moon and CP provide the foundation for everything a missionary unit needs to live on the field,” Creech said. “The IMB provides their salary, their travel, their transportation locally. Some have cars, and some of their travel is covered by buses and taxis and trains. It’s housing, everything required for documents — passports and visas. Every country has different laws about taxes.”
Giving through CP and the Lottie Moon offering is supplemented with legacy gifts, ministry gifts and other avenues.
The global average for supporting one missionary per year is $60,000, the IMB says on its website. The figure varies based on whether the missionary is single or married, how many children are in the family and the cost of living in the country, among other things, and it does not include administrative costs.
The IMB is a benefits-heavy organization, Creech said, meaning a missionary’s salary is reduced in order to provide a substantial array of insurance and other means of support.
For example, the IMB provides about 60 member care consultants spread throughout the world to care for missionaries. In many cases, these are former missionaries or former pastors who are equipped for pastoral counseling.
“They serve as counselors, mentors, problem solvers,” Creech said. “They help with anything from small crises to large crises.”
If a member care consultant realizes a missionary has a need that exceeds the consultant’s training, they are able to refer to others for elevated care. The main need that member care consultants encounter, Creech said, is missionaries or their children struggling with transitioning to a new location.
“Most of our new applicants spend a year and a half in the application process. Then they have to sell their house and their car. Then they’re in orientation for seven weeks. Then they go back home to say goodbye, usually, and then there’s the trip overseas,” he said.
Once missionaries are on the field, they spend time learning a language, and even after they feel established, changing strategies or conditions can prompt another move. Member care consultants are assigned and readily available to each missionary unit for navigating the emotional challenges such change can present.
In addition to member care consultants, the IMB has medical coordinators living throughout the world to advise missionaries when medical needs arise. They help make decisions and guide them to appropriate care, and of course, medical expenses are covered through money given weekly in Southern Baptist churches.
Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon dollars are used to ensure the education of children of missionaries, now referred to as third culture kids. Such children have a culture they left, a culture they’ve entered and a third culture formed from the two.
“Education consultants work with families to provide education for their children,” Creech said. “Sometimes that’s a matter of locating an international school that we can afford where they live, or it would be working with parents to select curriculum so they can homeschool. We also provide education conferences to do testing to make sure the children are staying on grade level.”
IMB risk management consultants throughout the world watch the news, weather, military movements and other factors in an attempt to anticipate problems for missionaries, Creech said. “They make decisions with the core team in Richmond about when to evacuate people from certain countries.”
Logistics coordinators assigned to various regions either provide housing and transportation for missionaries or guide them in the process of securing those.
“In most areas, they’ve been there and know about housing and give the keys and car keys to missionaries when they get there, but sometimes we have missionaries move into places that we’ve never been before, so they give guidance about how to find a house to rent or how to get a vehicle,” Creech said.
The IMB contributes to retirement funds for missionaries through GuideStone Financial Resources, Creech said.
All of this care enables Southern Baptist missionaries to focus on reaching people with the gospel.
“Our people don’t have to spend time worrying about raising support, and they don’t have to worry that their support is getting low when they’re on the field,” Creech said, noting IMB encourages missionaries to raise awareness of ministry needs and presence needs.