Giving Guidelines for Russian Short-Term Missions
Connie Robbins and Rodney Hammer
1. Before arriving in Russia think about what commitments your church may wish to make.
2. You will be presented with great needs, both on a personal and church level. Your Christian compassion will make you aware of situations that could be helped by your generosity. Many are legitimate, but not all, and rarely is money a real solution.
3. Some Russians view foreigners as sponsors. You will likely be asked to assist in some needy project. Both culture and language have played a part in foreigners making promises they were not able to keep. Know how to say no if you are not absolutely certain you can fulfill a promise.
4. Some individuals have been known to present heartbreaking situations to every foreigner who would lend them an ear. Others, including church leaders, have presented the same need to many potential donors without informing those donors of duplicate gifts. Because cases of this sort are not isolated, it is best to first talk to a missionary. Assist those you feel led by God to assist, while at the same time being a wise steward of God's money.
5. If you choose to give money, please check with the missionary you are working with or a head pastor to be sure the gift fits into long-term strategy. A loving, well-intended monetary gift may be counterproductive to a church-planting missionary strategy and may have unintended negative results. Giving directly to a local missionary who can help distribute the funds is one alternative. Using a missionary as a middleman can provide some on-site accountability.
6. Give money only when it is possible to track its use for the purpose specified. Many national churches have become dependent on Western funding and do not do ministry on their own. Any gift may tend to perpetuate this cycle of dependency.
7. Giving subsidies quickly breeds the negative result of dependency, non-reproducible methods, and non-indigenous strategies in the field.
8. Funding large projects without consultation can lead to difficult situations. Large projects have their place (i.e., assistance in building training facilities), but sometimes prove counter-productive.
9. Do not plan projects that endanger the future of the work. Missionaries face dangers gladly because of the call of God upon their lives, but wise missiology demands prudent planning. In many countries, public evangelistic events are legal and often helpful. However, in some situations a public campaign may prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of missionaries, and endanger national believers. Again, consultation and coordination with national church leaders and missionaries is vital.
10. Russians are very gracious people. In the Russian context, hosts will often answer in the affirmative to save face even though they may not understand the request, it is not appropriate, they do not know how, or are unable to do what you ask. If possible, seek advice from a longterm missionary. We encourage you to be sensitive to the cultural mores and to focus on being people-oriented rather than task-oriented.
11. Many groups see the opportunity to help a national by providing an educational opportunity in the West. This practice is sometimes warranted but should be coordinated very carefully through indigenous church leaders and missionaries. Training in a distant context is often a mistake.
12. When you have had a life-changing experience in a warm and hospitable Russian home, it is natural for you to say to your Russian host family, "Come and stay with me some time." This politeness is often misunderstood to mean you will help a Russian family get to the West to visit you. A Russian international travel passport has numerous restrictions and is very costly. You will often be expected to pay all of the costs, including travel expenses. We suggest you avoid a good bit of pain and financial burden by carefully weighing what you say to your hosts.
Connie Robbins, Khabarovsk, Russia, and Rodney Hammer, Prague, Czech Republic, are missionaries with the International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from "Guidebook for Volunteers to Russia," posted on the following missionary Web site: www.khabarovskhorizons.com.
Connie Robbins and Rodney Hammer, "Giving Guidelines for Russian Short-Term Missions," East-West Church & Ministry Report 11 (Spring 2003), 16.
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© 2003 East-West Church and Ministry Report