One of the best ways to get a feel for any mission work is simply to go and see it for yourself. I was reflecting on the way that many of our supporters – both the big and the small, the regular and the irregular – are incredibly trusting with what they send us. As I was reflecting on that, I happened to read this by Eddie Arthur who said something very similar here.
Like Eddie, I also thought about our regular prayer letter. We do our best to keep people informed with what is going on. I have often found what seems significant to us is sometimes not so great for others and what seems ordinary to us is often the stuff that grabs people’s imaginations. Whilst I get some of that – what we’re doing everyday many people never do at all and so it seems vibrant, vital and exciting to them whilst somewhat run of the mill to us – a lot of it I don’t. It does seem so many see so little in the way of fruit, that what we see seems exciting by comparison and when it is among people that the overwhelming majority of churches in the UK simply have no contact with, it is seen as ‘exotic’ and therefore more interesting or particularly vital given the lack of fruit among such people elsewhere.
What this adds up to is people trusting us from a distance with not so much information, except snippets from a newsletter, alongside a sense of excitement about what we’re doing that probably isn’t warranted in all honesty.
By contrast, there are those who don’t seem too keen to give to us too. They hem and haw over bunging us a couple of hundred quid because, when it boils down to it, it seems they don’t trust us. I remember speaking to someone several years ago about this and them mentioning that they came to the realisation that they often didn’t get support because, when all is said and done, those they were seeking money from just didn’t trust them. That can be a particular kick in the teeth when you see what their money is put towards. It is hard enough to take when £100 is debated yet thousands are signed off for a small improvement to their church building without batting an eyelid. But it is worse when you see it going to organisations that, from the perspective of those of us on the ground, are often doing more harm than good.
So, there are people who seem to trust us with very little evidence of what we’re doing and some people who don’t trust us and aren’t that interested in the evidence available. Which begs the question, how do we resolve the trust issue? I can see in the case of a missionary on the other side of the world (though this is not beyond the realms of possibility) this is much harder. But for a church in UK, being supported by others in the same country, it’s not all that hard. The answer is to come and take a look for yourself.
If you want to see what ministry in our context looks like, the best way to get any sense of it is to come and see for yourself. Come and spend a weekend with us, looking round our town, meeting the people and seeing what we do. Station yourself here for a week and look at what is going on and find out exactly what we are doing and how we are doing it. Come and see how and why we dish out food to people. Come and see how and why we teach English classes. Come and see how our dialogue evenings with local Muslims operate. Come and see how we are engaging with people through football. Come and see how we are reaching out in all sorts of ways and how we build up relationships with people locally. The best way to know what you are supporting is to come and see for yourself.
Of course, if you trust us already, that’s great (I’m trustworthy… honest!) But if you’re not sure, come and see us. Come and stay with us and we’ll show you what we do, why we need support and exactly what your money will be doing. The best way to build trust, the best way to know what we are doing, why we are doing it, whether it is worth us doing it, is to come and see for yourself. Prayer letters are great, but they are no substitute for coming and taking a look and seeing with your own eyes.