What A Missionary Needs

What is the difference between a need and a want ?  We typically view needs as food, clothing, and shelter while wants are celebrated as a BMW or a six figure salary.

For a missionary, the distinction between a need and a want is much more narrow.  Take a moment to classify the following as needs or wants:

  • a vehicle to make shopping easier and to visit outlying areas to preach the gospel
  • a telephone to talk with family, friends, a supervisor, or a pastor
  • a vacation to rest from the strains of language learning and cultural adaptation

To some people, a car, a phone, and a vacation might seem like wants but for a missionary who is trying to be effective in life and ministry these items are needs.  Often a missionary does not have an extra $30,000 (for a car), or $1000 (for a vacation), and trying to obtain a phone in some countries is down right impossible.

When I lived in Macedonia we applied for a land line.  We were placed on a waiting list and told to wait for two months.  Eighteen months later, we still did not have a telephone.  But my family and I needed to make telephone calls.

The difference between a want and a need will look different for every missionary in every culture.  What is the bottom line concerning wants and needs?

If you are the missionary:

  • identify your genuine needs
  • communicate them effectively to people in your sphere who might be interested in meeting those needs

If you are the caregiver (church, family, friends, sender):

  • ask your missionaries what their priority needs are
  • be committed to meeting at least some of those needs

Our need for a phone was never met.  But if we had extra funds we could have gone to phone booths to place calls.

What does a missionary need?  Someone who is willing to go the extra mile and care for his or her needs.  Missionaries give up a lot to be missionaries.  Help to meet their needs so that they will praise God and carry out His will for their lives.

Are you a missionary?  What types of needs do missionaries have in general?

Are you a sender or a caregiver?  What commitment level do you have to care for your missionaries?

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4 Comments on “What A Missionary Needs”

  1. Jeff and Barb Chapman Says:

    It seems that no matter how sincere a sender may be, it is difficult,as a missionary, to verbalize some of the things we may need. Sometimes it is easier to answer a specific question rather than a general one. ie, “is there anything we can do to help you as you raise your kids overseas?” or “what do you need for us to send you to be able to make your favorite Christmas treats?”


  2. Brian Stankich Says:

    Wow, you said, “Sometimes it is easier to answer a specific question rather than a general one.” That’s a powerful statement. Lord, help us to ask the right questions.



  3. brouwerfamily Says:

    I’m late in getting in on this post, but it is one that I’ve struggled with during the 13 years we’ve been on the field. Specifically I would say the need of a vacation. As most missionaries, our finances are tight. Now that we have a daughter in boarding school, it is even tighter. My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary and wanted to take a trip to Zanzibar. Some extra support came in and we thought we would use it to get away. We were both really needing a break. Before making any official plans one of the national pastors was in a financial crisis after his father sold out from under him all the land he had been farming to meet the needs of his family. Here we sat with money that we were going to use to take a vacation and his family was literally without food. Needless to say we didn’t take our vacation, but helped him to buy some land to farm on. (I’m not saying that is what everyone should feel they need to do, but we felt led of the Lord this time to do that.) My point is that it is hard for missionaries to use money for a vacation when there are so many dire needs around them. Something that would be helpful is if someone felt led to give a gift to a missionary family and designate it to be used for a family vacation. That way the missionary doesn’t feel guilty for using money to get away, the money doesn’t get spent on one of the dozens of other things that come up, or will meet the need when there just isn’t money to get away.


    • Brian Stankich Says:

      You are right on time! Thank you for your comment. It’s important for churches and supporters to understand these types of tensions for missionaries. That is one reason for this blog – to engender understanding. I pray your comment is read by a ‘sender’ today who acts strategically to care for a need today. And I have prayed too for the Lord to provide something special for you and your family in a unique way too. Let me know the answer 🙂

      Do you feel that you can share this kind of thing with your supporters? Sometimes we don’t want to share these needs and so we carry an extra burden when all we need to do is be vulnerable with people who care about us. That is how God has designed the Body.



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