FAQ about Missionary Finances

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This is an updated/revised post from my old blog. It has been updated to reflect my new ministry and my new budget. These are questions that I get often, or questions that I suspect people have but are unwilling to ask. One friend even asked if I was allowed to talk about my budget. (Answer: Absolutely. It’s actually encouraged.)

So to clear up some confusion and possible awkwardness surrounding the topic of missionary support, here some answers. Have another question I did not answer? Email me at lisette.lewis@wgm.org, or leave a question in the comments.

Why are you asking for money? 

All missionaries working with World Gospel Mission (and most other mission agencies) are “faith-based”, meaning our living expenses are not paid by one church or by the organization. And, believe me, that takes a lot of faith!
WGM missionaries raise their own support–we seek out partners in the Christian community who want to be a part of God’s work where we live and serve by contributing to our expenses.
We know that ALL Christians are called to “go and make disciples of all nations”, but not everyone is called to move to another country. That does not mean those who live in their home country cannot participate in the Great Commission. There are many ways to support missionaries who are called to “go”–and one of those ways is through financial partnership. We are missionaries because you are, too. We just have different roles in the Great Commission.

How much money are you talking about here?

My budget is $4300 a month. That does not mean, however, that I am getting paid $51,600 a year. Hardly.

So where does the money go?

Money donated in my name goes into a “ministry account” and is used to pay for the cost of living and doing ministry in Uganda.

My salary is about $1000 a month. ($1009, to be exact). The rest of the budget covers things like rent, health insurance (which just increased), Social Security, life insurance, vehicle maintenance, and the cost of actually doing ministry.

Part of the money also goes to administrative costs. WGM has people who work on our behalf at our headquarters in Marion, Indiana, handling finances, processing donations, maintaining WGM’s website, printing prayer cards and newsletters, making missionaries’ lives easier and better, etc, and a small part ($333, or 7.5%) of my monthly budget goes toward those costs. (Most organizations average around 10% for administrative costs, so we are on the low end.)
 Just like you, missionaries have large, one-time expenses when we move (airfare, the initial cost of setting up a home, purchasing visas that allow us to work in the country, language training) as well as the ongoing, monthly costs (rent, utilities, groceries, insurance, transportation within the country, etc). My budget covers all of that.
If you want longer explanation of missionary support, this is a good read: Why the heck would a Missionary need so much money to live in a poor country?

Why should I trust World Gospel Mission with my financial information?

WGM is a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (www.ecfa.org). For over 35 years, the ECFA has ensured that member organizations are responsible stewards. They have Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™, which focus on board governance, financial transparency, integrity in fundraising, and proper use of charity resources. You can read more here.

I cannot give much…you are probably interested in bigger churches with better budgets, right?

The overwhelming majority of support for missions, both now and throughout history, has come from lots of people who give a little. Most missionaries do not (and really, should not) depend on larger churches for the majority of their support. Instead we have an arsenal of faithful partners who give $5, $10, $25 a month. Those are the people who make our ministry possible.

If I want to give monthly, how long is that commitment?

When I move to Uganda, I will be there for two years. Ideally, you would commit to supporting me the whole term.

What if I pledge to give monthly, but I cannot keep giving?

That’s why we call it faith-based missions. It’s a step of faith for you and me. Very often, things happen, people lose jobs, kids get sick, plans change. But God is faithful. If you cannot continue to partner with me, we will pray and trust that God will call someone else to join the team.

Is it easy to support you financially? 

Yes! You can follow this link, which takes you to WGM’s website, where you can give securely online. You can also send checks to:
World Gospel Mission 
PO Box 948,
Marion, IN 46952-0948

(Just remember to put my name, Lisette Lewis, account #125-15732 on the memo line.)

Once I have 90% of my projected budget raised, I will be “released”–I will purchase my plane ticket and head for Uganda!
You can choose to give one-time gifts or make a pledge to give monthly/quarterly/yearly.

Is support raising difficult? 

Sometimes. It can be awkward talking about money. (I’ve never been great about asking for help– something I’ve mentioned before.)  And it can be hard when churches change focus and pick new ministries to support or when budgets change and you are suddenly farther away from your goal than last month. (My friend Emily has a great post about that here.)

But I LOVE talking about Community Health Evangelism and the exciting things God is doing in Uganda and the ways I am privileged to be a part of that. I get to travel around and meet some of the most interesting people– people who are truly excited about God’s work around the world and who are great encouragers for me.


This sounds interesting, but I am not sure. I still have questions.

Read WGM’s inf0rmation about donations here, or email me (lisette.lewis@wgm.org) with any questions. I love to talk about Uganda–in fact, I am looking for churches, Bible studies, Sunday School classes, home school groups, small groups–any group!– where I can share more about the ways God is working through World Gospel Mission around the world.


As we get closer to my anticipated leaving date (I am aiming for this spring), I am working on new ways to stay in touch. One way will be revamping my newsletters and how I send them. (And yes, another will be keeping this blog updated more often.)

So I have added an archive of my newsletters, starting in August 2013 (when I moved back to Kenya). You can find the link on the left hand side.  If you would like to subscribe to my newsletters, you can do that here. (If you are currently receiving newsletters, there in no need to sign up again.) You can get them through email, or have them snail mailed to you, if you choose. (However, if you choose a hard copy, it will arrive a week or so later than the email newsletters.)

August 2013

October 2013

December 2013

January 2014

March 2014

May 2014

July 2014

March 2015

April 2015

October 2015

Lisette’s Travel Schedule

On the road again

Here is a rough list of places I’ll be in the coming months and weeks. Dates will be added as they are confirmed. If I am in your area, email me at lisette.lewis@wgm.org. I’d love to see you and am always open (if my schedule allows) to visit other churches, Bible studies, small groups, Sunday school classes, kids groups, etc. God is doing amazing things in Uganda. I’d love for you to be a part of it!

If you have questions about times or locations, please let me know.

May 31st: Evangelical United Methodist, Corry, PA

June 7th: Hodgenville Christian Church, Hodgenville, KY

June 8-13th: Emmanuel Bible Camp, Barbourville, KY

June 13-20th: Gaskin Springs Camp Meeting, Douglas, GA

June 21st: Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Newnan, GA

June 25-28th: World Gospel Mission’s International Celebration of Missions, Huntington University, Indiana

July 19-25th: Mount Hope Bible Camp, Otway, OH

August 3-10th: Ferndale Camp Meeting, Ferndale, Washington

The Times They Are a-Changin’

Enjoying an unseasonably warm Saturday here in Kentucky.

This past Sunday, I attended a Valentine’s ladies lunch for women in our church. During an icebreaker game, we were asked to name our favorite chocolate dessert and one thing from this past year for which we were thankful.

It didn’t take me too long for either one. I like most things chocolate, but the darker it is, the more I like it. Honestly, a good 78% cocoa bar is about as good as it gets. I am not complicated. (She says as she peruses chocolate mousse recipes…)

And the thing for which I am most thankful? This.

In the course of my life he broke my strength;

    he cut short my days.

So I said:

“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;

    your years go on through all generations.

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,

    and the heavens are the work of your hands.

They will perish, but you remain;

    they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing you will change them

    and they will be discarded.

But you remain the same,

    and your years will never end.

Psalm 102: 23-27

A year ago, I was living in Kenya and planned to live there for the foreseeable future. I had lived with a grand total of 8 different women in the past six months, in three different homes. (This included three roommates I had left behind in the US and five different doctors in Kenya, most of whom were only visiting Tenwek for a few weeks or months at a time.) I loved all of them, but adapting to a new roomie every few weeks (or months) is hardly a stable lifestyle.

Today, I am living back in Kentucky, in a fourth home, and likely will never live in Kenya again. Instead, I am surviving winter (but just barely) and anticipating a move to Uganda by the end of the year, entering a new ministry with a new team, many of of whom I have never met.

Chances are, even if you have lived in the same country all your life and are not making plans to move, you, too, could make a pretty long list of things in your life that have changed drastically and unexpectedly this past year. And you do not have to read many news headlines to realize that the world and culture around us are changing at an ever-increasing speed.

So right now, the idea that we serve a God who is unchanging, who remains the same, who outlasts generations, who will not wear out like a garment, and whose years will never end, is the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

I have to admit that the unpredictability of the last few years has led me to a new appreciation for the liturgical calendar. I may be in a different country, a different home, eating different foods, interacting with different people, but in a few weeks, we will enter the season of Great Lent, something Christians have been doing for centuries upon centuries. There is something very reassuring about that. It reminds me in a very tangible way that there is a reality beyond this earthly life, beyond the capricious nature of governments and people.

Many have argued that liturgy and old rituals inhibit a “new” movement of the Holy Spirit and that by simply following calendars, motions, and styles of previous centuries, we run the risk of legalism and teaching salvation by works, rather than by active, living faith. We do run that risk, if we forget the meaning behind the traditions, but I love the idea that God spoke, and still speaks, through the liturgy.

In her book At the Corner of East and NowOrthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green describes the traditions surrounding the preparation of Holy Communion and the symbolism involved, and then writes this:

“This is the kind of faith that took a beating under the Enlightenment, when man took the measure of God and found him amusing, but vague. Rationalism is now taking the beating, getting beaten to pieces, and a fragmentary curiosity is scenting the air: maybe something exists that we can’t see, maybe there is healing and reason to hope, maybe I should invest a buck in a guardian angel lapel pin. We don’t live in a coherent age. Walking through the culture is like walking through the surf after a battering storm, stepping through shards of insatiable consumerism, gaudy FunTime noise, self-indulgent weepiness, toilet humor, posturing nihilism. Things keep saying they’re important, but they turn out to be more loud than deep. Stepping around the shards of the shipwreck, we begin to wonder if anything might be important, anything might last or have meaning. Could bread mean a Body? Could wine mean Blood? Could a body broken and blood spilled two thousand years ago restore my own damaged life?

It is that simple, and yet the simplicity we gratefully embrace is only the shadow of a reality blasting beyond the boundaries of our comprehension. Father Gregory censes around the alter and concludes with a final prayer, recognizing the limitless mystery: ‘In the grave with the body, but in Hades with the soul, as God, in Paradise with the Thief, and on the Throne with the Father and the Spirit, wast thou, O Christ, filling all things, thyself uncircumscribed.'”

As we approach the Lenten season, I am grateful for things that last and have meaning, and for traditions that point to an enduring reality I don’t yet fully understand. And I pray that, however you choose to celebrate Lent, it leads you to a greater understanding of Easter.

Hazy Shade of Winter

Sunset in Indiana
I hope the first 19 days of 2015 have been wonderful for you.

For me, the days have been full. I have visited family in the Nashville area and had the chance to see some wonderful partners in ministry. I have been up to Indiana to WGM headquarters for some meetings and seen old friends (as I usually do when I am there). And last, but certainly not least, I have gained another new niece. She is beautiful and, unfortunately, in North Dakota. It may be a while before I get to see her in person, but we are pretty excited nonetheless.

Let’s take a look at some other things happening and being written about around the globe.

Boko Haram— remember those guys who kidnapped 200 school girls?–has not gone away. There are conflicting reports of how many people have been killed in recent weeks–Amnesty international is saying 2,000 and the Nigerian government is saying 150– but the fact remains that they are still an incredible threat and worth our attention.

Does Missions Separate Families? Sad and hopeful. Present reality meets the ultimate goal.

I made a New Year’s Resolution to be more intentional about my reading, and then I stumbled across Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge. I love it and am already halfway through Kay Bruner’s As Soon as I Fell, which falls into the category of “books I’ve been meaning to read.” It also falls into the category of “books that give me heartburn”, but it’s important and good and honest and sometimes a little too close to home and I need to hear it.

The Tuckaleechee Retreat Center in Tennessee has a cabin called Hemlock Haven that they offer to full-time Christian workers during the week for $40 a night. I am still looking for the missionary guesthouse with an ocean view, but until then, this one looks pretty nice.

Burlap to Cashmere has released another sneak peek into their upcoming album. I first heard them in middle school, playing on one of the smaller stages at the Ichthus Music festival here in Kentucky and they are still one of the only Christian bands I have really enjoyed over the years. I am very excited they are back together. You can also preorder their album (due to be released March 1) here.


And, finally, take a few minutes (or the whole day) to remember why you are not at work or at school on a Monday.  Dr. King started something important and it’s not really finished. I am not sure where the next few years will take us as a country, but today, let’s take some time to remember. Watching the I Have a Dream Video or reading Letters from a Birmingham Jail- (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7) would all be good places to start.


If I had to describe this past year in one word…I am not sure I could. Unpredictable? Roller coaster? Change? It was quite a year, from the very beginning to the very end. Here are a few of the highlights, more or less in order.


1. I made it back into Kenya. In December of 2013, I was desperate for a my Christmas break. I was exhausted and careening somewhat haphazardly towards the edge of burnout. I had landed in Kenya on September 17, picked up a few things in Nairobi, drove out to Tenwek, moved into my house, met my new roommate, took approximately 30 minutes to look over the curriculum, and started teaching on the 20th. It was a bit of a whirlwind. My Christmas break was suppose to be a break–I was moving into a new apartment, baking cookies, planting my garden, sleeping late, writing Christmas cards, and not walking into the school room. Not. Even. One. Time.

And then I got the phone call everyone wants to get just three days into my break. “Lisette, we have a problem. You have to leave the country.” (Yes, that is a direct quote.)

It turns out that a simple visa renewal was complicated because, well, they don’t do that anymore. You have to leave the entirety of East Africa for 72 hours before coming back into get a new visa. So instead of baking, packing, and settling, I was scrambling to find an affordable, last minute, international flight the week of Christmas. After looking through dozens– or probably hundreds– of flights and options (London! No, Paris! Could I possibly go all the way home! Yes! Crap, No! The Seychelles! Morocco! Italy? Greece? Spain?) In the end, my cousin and his wife graciously invited me to spend time with her family in Germany. 1524715_10151749673556511_148903459_nOnce I finally made a choice and booked a flight, I had 2.5 days to take down my Christmas decorations, pack up my house, move into an apartment that wasn’t quite empty yet (because I wasn’t suppose to move until the next week), arrange transportation to Nairobi to get on the plane, find clothes appropriate for Germany in December, and then pack those clothes. Oh, yeah, and celebrate Christmas. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite the break I had hoped for.

I arrived at the airport less than 24 hours after moving the last of my boxes into my new and not quite vacated apartment, with a slightly expired visa. I was hoping that with the new rule changes and the fact that I was, in fact,  already leaving the country, they would overlook that detail. Instead, the immigration officer grilled me about what I was doing in Kenya, why my visa was expired, and then proceeded to stamp an official “warning” in my passport and informed me that I would not be allowed to return until I had my work permit. I stumbled to my gate in a daze. By the time I took my seat on the plane, I was almost ready to use the vomit bags. I remember gazing out onto the Great Rift Valley as it disappeared in the distance and wondering if I would ever see Kenya again.

1512645_10151755415831511_1356538775_nI was (almost) certain that the immigration official had been blowing smoke about needing a work permit to get back in, but having someone stamp a bright red “warning” in your passport has a way of shaking your confidence.

I loved Germany and spending time with family around Christmas, but I fell asleep every night, wondering if I would ever get back to Tenwek.

When I finally landed back in Nairobi four days later, on January 2nd, I scanned the faces of the different immigration officials and picked the one who looked the least scary. She was a woman and I thought maybe that would work in my favor. As it turns out, she looked at my paperwork and the words “Tenwek Hospital” and started smiling.

“Bomet is my home!” she told me excitedly. “I know Tenwek!” She barely even glanced at my passport as she stamped the new visa. She even thanked me for my work in Bomet. I practically danced all the way to the baggage claim.

2. I became an aunt. On February 5th, the most adorable baby I have ever seen (I have another niece arriving any day) came into this world. She is also the smartest baby I have ever met. We don’t share pictures of her online, so you will just have to take my word for it, but I have seen a lot  of babies and not one compares.

3. I did not go to Ethiopia. Yes, most of the major events of this past year revolved around whether or not I had the right paperwork. Welcome to my life. Three months after I came back into the country, I was still waiting on the paperwork to allow me to stay more permanently and they were still not renewing visas. We waited…and waited and waited. Finally, my bosses gave me the go ahead to buy another ticket out of East Africa. This time, I had a bit of warning and had done some planning and had picked Ethiopia.

It is actually the cheapest flight out of Nairobi, but requires quite a bit of planning and prep work– something that was not going to work with just a few days notice at Christmastime. In early March, however, I was prepared. I had a guesthouse picked out, had arranged the transportation once I arrived, and was excited to see some new parts of Africa. Then, with less than 18 hours until my flight, we got the call: my visa had been renewed. I was tempted to take the trip anyway–school was out for Spring break and I really did want to visit Addis Adaba, but, in the end, I just got my refund.


4. I climbed a volcano. Instead of going to Ethiopia, a few friends and I spent the last full day of the Spring Break hiking Mount Longonot, outside of Nairobi. It was cold and rainy, then hot and muggy, breathtakingly beautiful and utterly exhausting.


5. I finally got an answer about my work permit. And it was not what we had been hoping for. On June 5th, the evening after our last day of classes, I was walking into a presentation about plans for the future of Tenwek Hospital. I had brought a notebook to take notes–I would be leaving to spend the summer in the U.S., talking to people and ministry partners about Tenwek and I wanted to have the latest info. As I sat down, my phone rang. It was my boss and I knew.

It was a Thursday evening. The work permit committee met every Wednesday and the results were posted every Thursday. I knew that a Thursday evening phone call meant they had an answer. When I heard the tone of their voices, I knew the answer. They didn’t take long. They told me how sorry they were, how this was not the answer any of us wanted, but it was clear. They told me they appreciated my contributions to the Tenwek missionary community and that they would be praying for me.

I walked back into the room. The presentation had already started. I did not take notes, partly because I no longer needed to, but mostly because I could not make my hands stop shaking. For the next week, I walked around feeling like I had been punched in the stomach. Somewhere in London, during my three day stopover on the way back to the US, that sensation gradually disappeared.

Wrapped up in this event are all the goodbyes and endings that accompany an international move. It was hard and sad. I learned that I am a pre-griever: I grieve before things happen and then they happen and I am done. It was a good thing to learn about myself.

IMG_0393 6. Oh, yeah: I visited London. I have learned that I transition better between countries if I have a buffer country. I need to completely leave my life in one country for a day (or two or three) before I can fully step into the new life in the new country.

London was beautiful and interesting. I watched street performers and wandered through halls of famous artwork. I took a selfie next to the statue of John Wesley and ate bangers and mash. And then I got back on the plane to the next part of my life.

7. I decided to move to Uganda. In a completely unexpected twist, God opened a door to ministry in Uganda, working in community health empowerment. In fact, He opened it so quickly, I worried that it was nothing more than a rebound ministry. Surely I would have to be in limbo longer than a few weeks,  wondering what was next, right? But God is good and kind and merciful–things I know, but often forget. He does not leave us wondering or wandering blindly. He does have a plan and sometimes we have to wait to figure it out and sometimes He just leads out one door and right into another. I am thankful this is one of those times.

8. I moved into my great-grandparents old apartment. In fact, I realized just the other day that my favorite picture of my beloved Grandma Miller is taken in what is now my living room. She is laughing and looks exactly like I remember her in my childhood brain. My grandmother owned the building and rented the apartment to her parents in their last years. And then, when I came back in July, she rented it to me. It’s small and cozy, with an exposed brick wall in the kitchen and a funky kitchen countertop that looks like seashells encased in transparent yellow plastic. (Oddly, three different children have asked me if I made the countertop.)

Everything about this place is kind of perfect for me. I even have my Grandma Miller’s lime green formica kitchen table, with matching lime green vinyl chairs. The best part: my cousin lives in the other downstairs apartment. It is like have a roommate, but not sharing a kitchen.


9. My grandmother died. She was 91 and not in good health. When I moved to Kenya in September of 2013, I said goodbye to her and was convinced I was saying goodbye for good. In fact, she was insistent that she would probably die while I was overseas and I was not to come back for her funeral. It would be a waste of money, she told me emphatically.

When she caught pneumonia last spring, I thought I would have to make the choice. (I was determined to come back anyway, just to be with family during the funeral. Also, I do not like being told what to do.) I never had to choose. She recovered and lived until December 23rd. She had a wonderful life, but her last years were very limited and full of physical challenges. The last ten days of her life, she did not leave her bed and was only occasionally coherent. I am rejoicing in the knowledge that she is walking around in heaven, free of pain or even a walker. That left knee finally works the way it is suppose to. And though she would have thought it scandalous while here on earth, I hope she is even dancing with my Grandpa. She was sweet and generous and I am still adjusting to the idea that she is gone.

My pastor encourages us to pray for a new word for each year. And some of the bloggers I read are talking about it, too. I have never done it, but I think I am suppose to this year. I am not sure what it is, or if I will share it here, but I am hoping for a word like consistency, or perhaps peace. Vacation would be a pretty great one. Something that conveys a sense of rest and not massive life change. I am not convinced that will ever be in the cards for me, but who knows?

I do know this: I am looking forward to 2015, whatever it brings. I hope you are, too.

It’s My Life

This is a blog about my life as a missionary. The problem is this: I am in the U.S. right now and, let’s be honest, my life is not that interesting.

Last week, I spent time with my 91 year-old grandma in the hospital, ate lots of terrible food on the way to and from the hospital, did not finish a bunch of overdue paperwork, lay in bed at night stressing about said paperwork and grandmother and food. Then I hung out with my friend’s two fabulous little girls, saw an old friend, decorated a Christmas tree and felt better. Are you interested in knowing more? Probably not, because it’s not that different from your life.

Thankfully, there are other people who are writing and saying things that are interesting. Here are a few I have seen recently.

CMDA President Dave Stevens interviewing Kent and Amber Brantley , at the Global Missions Health Conference, November 2014.

In case you missed it, TIME magazine’s Person of the Year is the Ebola Fighter. Let’s be honest: these people did not go to work in small, obscure hospitals and clinics in West Africa because they thought they might end up on the cover of a magazine one day. They are not the kind of people who are working for fame or attention– or even a decent salary. And yet there they are. Good choice, TIME Magazine. It’s about time we started honoring real heroes.

Inspired by the Ebola Fighters? Check out World Gospel Mission’s Great Commission Catalog. A great way to give differently this Christmas.

I just listened to David Platt’s “Why People Don’t Make Disciples”. I am still pondering it.

Mike Patz on the stupidity of envy. Short and true. He wrote it almost two years ago and I still go back and read it periodically when the green-eyed monster rears it’s ugly head. I should probably print it out and tape it to my fridge. Actually, I am going to stop writing this blog and go do just that. You can also do yourself a favor a take a stroll through Mike’s archives. You won’t regret it. He is a very good writer and usually has important things to say.

The Micah Challenge has put together a gift-giving guide for those who want to spend their money more wisely this Christmas– or at any time of the year.

Rachel Pieh Jones’s Yes, We Know it’s Christmas in Africa. “This is not ISIS, Muslims killing Christians. It isn’t Band-Aid 30, rich white westerners saving a dark continent filled with nameless poor and ignorant heathen. It is real people in real relationship, respecting and honoring each other across differences.” As a missionary, I meet a lot of people who have a lot of ideas about life in Africa. have a lot of ideas about life in Africa. This is a poignant and convicting reminder that life is about real people, no matter where you live.

I also love this talk from Jose Miguel Sokoloff on how his ad agency used Christmas lights (and other innovative tactics) to encourage guerrilla fighters to put down their weapons and come home for Christmas. If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, I don’t know what will. (Also, it’s proof that you don’t have be a doctor in Africa to make a difference in the world. You could be an advertising executive, of all things.)

I can lose hours on Colossal, a blog dedicated to exploring art and visual culture. It sounds intimidating, but really, it’s just about fascinating things people are doing and making. Seriously, I never cease to be amazed by the scope of human creativity. If you want to be inspired, look around for a few minutes. Some of it’s incredible, some of it’s weird, some of it will make you laugh, and all of it will make you appreciate artists and inventors who just keeping thinking of new ideas, even if they are a bit strange. I am sure there is a blog post in here somewhere about God’s creativity, Imago Dei, and the human drive to create. I’ll work on that.