3. Why are you serving independently from an agency?
This may be our number one most asked question. I understand why, because historically, missionaries have used agencies for education, funding, help getting on the field, accountability etc. However, in our globalized world today, even the face and method of missions is changing rapidly. When Jim and I were certain of our call to Ethiopia, it was critical for us to determine how God wanted us to go. We took time to fast and pray together, and we sought the counsel of present missionaries, godly men, and financial advisers. We came to the solid conclusion, that for our family, for this time, the Spirit was leading us to work independently from an agency. We also prayed about being underneath a sending church and having a church act as the middle man, like an agency, might do. As we prayed, we went to the leadership team of our former church - the church Jim had pastored at, been a deacon of, and where I was born into - as we assumed that they would be the people that would understand this burning passion and call the best, having been our community for so many years. It became very clear, through the counsel and discernment of a godly business man in our life, that to have a legal sending church would make funding very complicated - for the church and us. We did not want to place this burden on the church, so pulled out of asking them to be our official sending church, but still hoped they would be our main supporting church - in finances, spiritual support, guidance, friendship, community, etc. We are deeply saddened, but at peace, that this was not God's plan.
However, He was not leaving us abandoned to do this on our own - missions and ministry - well, life in general - is not meant to be done in solitude. So, again we talked and sought counsel and prayed and fasted and we were led to begin our own non-profit. Jim and I have had a lot of experience working under a non-profit in our former 6 years of camp ministry. We became the founders of Mercy Branch Inc. this fall 2013, and we are surrounded, championed and discipled by the most amazing board members in the world - all of whom love our family, love and follow Jesus, and believe in the mission and hopes and dreams of Mercy Branch Inc.. Mercy Branch Inc. has also hired a very wise, powerful, business advocate from Ethiopia. This person is guiding us through the visa process - as well as working on obtaining yellow cards for our family (the equivalent of our green cards here), the legalities of living overseas and running a business, insurances, the paperwork, documentation etc. We are extremely fortunate to have this person partnered with us, as everything is already underway in getting secured for our family, and we will not have to flounder through figuring out everything on our own, with the chance of making mistakes.
Our board provides direct accountability for our finances, our ministry, and our family. They are involved in every decision, and Jim and I answer to these trustworthy, godly men and women. They are our team - our people - and they provide so much encouragement and day-to-day help and support. Many of them are business men and women and really understand the business side of missions, which is a big piece for us. They are invested in Mercy Branch Inc., in the people of Ethiopia, and in our family.
Practically speaking, by not going with an agency, we are able to raise a lot less funds. When missionaries sign on with an agency, a percentage of the support funds that a missionary must raise before going overseas, goes to overhead for that agency. While we understand the necessity of this with an agency, we were not comfortable with this truth. Jim and I are disciplined and self-motivated, we have a very clear vision for our future ministry, and we have submitted to the accountability of our board, as well as other godly men and women in our life. We have seen this approach to missions work really well. Some of our favorite missionaries, right now, use this same model of having a non-profit run by board members - none of these ministries are under an agency and all are being used greatly by God, by partnering with Him to build the Kingdom. Here are a few examples:
- Amazima in Uganda.
- Mercy House in Kenya
- Bring Love In in Ethiopia
- Make Your Mark in Ethiopia
- The Exodus Road in Southeast Asia, America, and India
We are praying, expecting, trusting, and believing that God has big plans for Mercy Branch Inc. as well sans agency.
The next question that I will answer is why we chose not to go to missionary school or get a masters in missions. I will continue in another post to answer this and more questions. Please feel free to ask your own in comments below or email me at amomentcherished(at)gmail(dot)com.