following is quoted from (Part 3, Chapter 1) of Biblical
Missions: History, Principles, Practice—©1997.
Used with the author's permission.
"Biblical Missions: is a comprehensive book (667 p.) detailing the progress of missions throughout the ages as well as giving sound, scriptural information and instruction to the aspiring missionary who desires to do God's work, God's way. This book is unique in that it provides a view of missions historically and practically from the perspective of an independent Baptist."—Foreword. Biblical Missions may be ordered from Dr. Roy F. Dearmore, Rodgers Baptist Church, P.O. Box 460639, Garland, TX 75046. E-mail: Roy F. Dearmore
Roy Dearmore is a Baptist preacher, a medical doctor, and a missionary of 34 years to Zaire, Africa, and the Amazon jungles of Brazil. Dr. Dearmore and his wife, Roxie, are still full-time missionaries out of Rodgers Baptist Church in Garland, Texas; Roy in full time theological writing and Roxie as faithful help-mate and encourager.
|Contents to Consider|
|Home Church and Pastor|
|Tickets, Baggage, and Money|
|Supporting Churches and Pastors|
Before any going is done (especially to a foreign field) many things need to be understood and arranged at "home." Some of the matters that I will consider are really only relevant for someone going to a remote foreign field (which is where I have over thirty years' experience). Some advice may appear childish and unnecessary but you would probably be surprised how many first term missionaries have never traveled internationally and get "ripped off royally." The Bible principles of authority (sponsorship) and help apply everywhere.
Home Church and Pastor
A church need not be large or financially strong to send a missionary but there must be a strong commitment in spiritual and material matters from the church and its pastor. Remember, you are the lifeline (next to the Lord) for that missionary, especially if he is in a remote, dangerous, or politically unstable field. Bear in mind, your missionary is a God called, church separated, church sent, Spirit led man of God, so do not "Sunday morning quarterback" him to death. Give him broad liberty within Bible principles and he will do a better job. He is on site and knows the people, language, culture, and situation better than you.
Pastors of sending churches and the missionaries sent should be as well acquainted as possible and there must be mutual love and respect. Cut each other some slack! We all have "bad hair" days. If pastor, church, and missionary have carefully "done their homework" there should not be significant friction or conflict. Frequent and open communication between the pastor, church, and missionary is essential for mutual encouragement and smooth functioning of the ministry. Pastor, for the sake of the cause of Christ, don't gossip about or badmouth your missionary or other missionaries (even if they make mistakes). Missionary, show the same respect for your home church and pastor, supporting churches and pastors, and other missionaries. Be ethical.
It is not necessary for a church to be incorporated in order to send out a missionary. In my opinion, a church should never be incorporated but, that is "a white horse of a different color."
The church should formally vote in a recorded business meeting to send the missionary to a given field, to be responsible for his financial needs, and to bring him and his family home in case of an emergency. Most countries require a financial guarantee to obtain a visa. (I am assuming that the church has already checked him out and ordained him. See Part Two, Chapter Two.) The financial guarantees may need to be formal, notarized documents. These guarantees should name each member of his family. (Incidentally, the U.S. State Department, through our Embassies and Consulates, will repatriate an American citizen in an emergency and bill you when you get home.)
The sending church should establish a bank account for the work fund and a separate personal bank account for the missionary. There should never be any mingling of the missionary's work funds or personal funds with the funds of the church (including the church mission fund) or with any other missionaries' funds. Totally separate accounts is the only way to go! All offerings (deputation and regular) should be deposited in the work fund. Someone who is always locally available and totally honest and reliable should be on the signature cards for both accounts. (If the pastor travels a great deal and he is on the accounts, it is wise to have another person also. Even if he doesn't travel much, a second person is a wise precaution in case of death or incapacity.)
The church should vote in a recorded business meeting to designate a fixed amount from the offerings that come in for the missionary as salary and a fixed amount as a housing allowance. (These amounts should be set by the missionary in consultation with his pastor.) The remainder should be specified as work fund. For tax purposes (and tithes), it is important to do this formally and in writing. A separate check each month for the salary and the housing allowance (and so specified on the check) should be deposited to the missionary's personal account. This system greatly facilitates bookkeeping and satisfies the requirements of the IRS (the modern publicans).
It has become increasingly frequent for foreign nationals to seek a church in the U.S. as their "home" church which sends them back to their country of birth as a missionary. There is no "chapter and verse" which condemns this, but I believe there are many practical reasons why it is rarely, if ever, a wise practice. It is substantially more difficult to assess the moral and doctrinal qualifications of the man because, presumably, he has been in the U.S. only a few years and this usually in a Bible College environment. It is ideal, if there are sound national churches, for him to be sent by them. U.S. sponsorship will usually place him substantially higher economically than his peers and national pastors. Some immediately mention that a U.S. missionary is also much better off financially than most nationals. This is true but it is accepted much more readily than the same situation with a national. The U.S. missionary is frequently living substantially below the level he would enjoy at home. This is rarely, if ever, true for a U.S. sponsored national. It is incredibly easy to create hirelings in this way with virtually no accountability to their "home" church. It is very common for foreign nationals who are purely and simply "con men" to receive large sums of money from U.S. churches while doing absolutely nothing and frequently living immoral lives. (Of course, this is true of some American missionaries [and pastors] but it is easier to find them out.)
Mark 6:4 seems to cast some doubt on the advisability of this practice.
"But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."
A missionary should leave a power of attorney with a reliable person, for himself and his wife separately and another for them jointly. I recommend that he make a general, unlimited power of attorney and a separate, specific power of attorney for any property he may own. (This is where joint power of attorney for the man and his wife could be useful). A power of attorney (at least in Texas) can be general and does not require an expiration date. It should specify that it is revocable by the giver(s). Some jurisdictions require that a copy of a power of attorney be filed with the county clerk. Some banks and companies are reluctant to accept a power of attorney (especially for transactions about property) because if the giver has died before a document is signed, the signature is not valid, even though no one knew of his death before the signing. (Durable powers of attorney, i.e. those that continue beyond the total mental incapacity of the giver, are normally for medical decisions). Usually, if they can talk to the giver of the power of attorney by phone or radio, it facilitates the matter. It also helps if the document is of recent date and specifies that it is valid for any transaction relating to the property in question. It is wise to redo the powers of attorney each time the missionary is home. They should be prepared as multiple originals and notarized. I am not a lawyer and suggest that you contact a Christian lawyer in your state for details.
A separate will should be executed by the man and his wife and should specify disposition of funds and property to the surviving spouse and anyone else you wish. However, it is critical that your will specify disposition of funds and property and guardianship of your minor children in case you and your wife die simultaneously or under conditions where it can not be determined who died first. Mention should also be made of the desired disposition of assets if all members of the family die at one time. A will should be written and witnessed and kept in a safe place, known to the person named as executor or executrix of the will. It should not be kept in a safe deposit box (even a joint one of husband and wife) because in case of the death of both, there may be delays and complications in accessing the safe deposit box. Again, a good Christian lawyer should be consulted.
It is wise to get several photocopies of every document in relation to a missionary and keep some on file as well as giving the missionary several copies. Never give an original copy when a photostat will be accepted. This includes the face page and pertinent visa pages from your passport. Some will accept copies that are certified as authentic by a notary who states he has seen the original. Never give your last copy of any document to anyone. (A few dollars for photostats may save many dollars for new originals and special couriers.)
Obtain a passport for every member of the family. I recommend that even small children be on a separate passport from the mother, because your emergency travel options are broader. Obtain an International Vaccination Certificate for every member of the family with the appropriate "shots" duly recorded. (See Part Three, Chapter Three.) Passports are obtained from the U.S. government through a passport office, the county clerk, or the post office. Passport offices are only found in the large cites (for example, in Texas, only in Houston). Obtaining a passport may take up to eight weeks. The cost is $65 ($55 check to the federal government and $10 processing fee to the county clerk). You must appear personally with two photos, a certified birth certificate, a drivers license (photo I.D.), and a check. The photos must be 2" x 2" and the face must be 1" or larger but not larger than 1 3/8". They may be in color or black and white. Color pictures may be Polaroid but not black and white ones. (B&W Polaroid will not withstand the heat of the lamination). It is wise to get a dozen passport photos on every member of the family, especially if you are going to a third world country. They frequently require photos for drivers licenses, I.D. cards, travel documents within the country, etc.
Passports are valid for ten years for adults and five years for anyone under eighteen years old. They are not renewable but if you have a passport that has been expired for less than two years, you may get the application forms, new pictures, and a check for $55 (each) and mail them in, saving the $10 processing fee.
Passports may be obtained on an expedited basis (two weeks) at passport offices for a fee of $95.75 and proof of departure (a valid ticket) within three weeks. By paying a private expediter to "walk it through", it is possible to obtain a passport in seventy-two hours but only with proof of imminent departure (a valid ticket).
Visas are granted by the country to which you are going. Since each country has its own laws and regulations, I can only speak in generalities about visas. Many countries (especially Europe and parts of Latin America) do not require visas before leaving the U.S. They will stamp a tourist visa in your passport at the airport of entry. It is valid for from one to six months and usually renewable once (depending on the country). Brazil, most African countries, and many Asian countries require you to obtain a visa before leaving the U.S. These are obtained from their Embassies or Consulates. A good travel agent can tell you which countries require visas.
However, as a missionary you will need a "permanent" resident visa. Some countries require you to enter on a tourist visa and get your resident visa in the country. Others, if you go on a tourist visa, require you to leave the country before you can even apply for a resident visa! (This does not necessarily mean returning home. It is sometimes possible to go to a neighboring country if the cost of living is not too high and the wait is not too long.)
To obtain a visa, you will need the application forms (usually several copies), a passport, several passport photos, a certified copy of your birth certificate, a certificate of residence and no criminal record from your local police department, and a financial guarantee for your expenses while living abroad as well as repatriation, if necessary. There will be variable requirements as to proof of physical and mental health. Sometimes a certificate from your family doctor is sufficient. (Each family member should have a complete medical and dental checkup and necessary treatment before going "overseas", anyway.) Not infrequently, your doctor must use the forms from the country to which you are going, answering certain specific questions and giving the results of certain required x-rays, EKG, and lab tests. Get at least two originals of everything and several certified copies.
To get a tourist visa, usually requires a round trip ticket in hand. If you are going to a country where the resident visa must be obtained after arrival, most travel agents will issue a round trip ticket, photostat it, and cancel the return portion so that you do not have to come up with the money for both fares.
Some countries recognize an International Driver's License (at least temporarily). These are obtained through AAA (American Auto Association). They require photos, an application, a valid driver's license from your state of residence, and a fee. You should pay attention to the categories you anticipate needing on the mission field (car, motorcycle, bus, truck, etc.). You will still need to get a driver's license in your country of intended residence but you will usually be able to drive while it is being processed (sometime months!), if you have an International License. Some countries do not accept an International License. (AAA will know). Most countries will allow you to drive a car or motorcycle if you are on a tourist visa and have a license for car and/or motorcycle in the country from which you come.
I cannot stress enough the great advantage of taking several originals and notarized photostats of every conceivable document relating to you and your family. This should include photos, birth certificates, certificates of studies, professional licenses, diplomas, degrees, transcripts, honorable discharges, financial guarantees from your church, police certificate of residence and no criminal record, etc. It may be necessary to explain to the notary that the photostats of documents should contain the following affirmation by the notary. "I certify that this is a true copy of the original which was examined by me." Of course, you must show the original document to the notary. Try to find a friend who is a notary or it could get expensive. If you take these documents and don't need all of them, you have lost very little. If you don't take them and need them, you may lose months and conceivable, several hundred dollars. (The necessity to stay in the capital several months waiting on documents, if you work in the interior, might cost you several thousand dollars extra!) It is sometimes required that all documents be translated into the official language of the country to which you are going. This usually must be done by someone approved by them. It can get quite expensive.
Tickets, Baggage, and Money
For a survey trip, it is sometimes possible to save a great deal of money on excursion fares. These normally involve a stay of two to six weeks and may involve certain days of departure or other conditions, depending on the carrier. Group charters to common tourist destinations are sometimes very cheap. It is almost always cheaper to ticket the domestic part of your flight with the international part of it (both in the U.S. and your destination country). There are several Christian or benevolent travel services that obtain substantial discounts for missionaries. Raptim is based in Brussels, Belgium, but they have offices in New York as well as an eight hundred number available from information. They have saved us thirty to forty percent on tickets to Europe and Africa, based on a letter from our church stating the religious purpose of our trip. They extend this same courtesy to pastors or laymen visiting or going short term to help a missionary. Agape Travel Service based in Miami, Florida, offers similar help. They also have an eight hundred number.
Some people think that going on an ocean freighter is cheaper than air fare but such is not the case. Even on a "tramp steamer" which may carry up to twelve passengers, it costs more. One advantage is the baggage allowance included in your ticket price. Unless you enjoy the isolation and sea air with nothing to do, I would not recommend it (and especially if you get seasick!).
The more you know about conditions, availability of food, clothing, vehicles, and all manner of supplies on your intended field of labor, the more intelligently you can shop and plan what to ship. On several different occasions, the missionary and his wife (and perhaps children ) should sit down and make detailed lists of everything you anticipate needing, including quantities and qualities. Cross out everything you are sure to be able to get regularly on the field in adequate quantity and acceptable quality at a bearable price. (The cost of shipping and possible customs duties must be included in the price comparisons.) Put a question mark by items you probably cannot get all the time and take some with you. Highlight items that are essential and never available and take an appropriate quantity. Anything electrical must be compatible with the voltage and cycles of the electricity you will be using (if any). AC, DC, and phase must also be borne in mind. (Plug adapters and small transformers are acceptable for small items that are not in constant use.)
Special medicines, eyeglasses, contacts and supplies, hearing aids and batteries, toiletries, and cosmetics may or may not be available and are frequently forgotten.
Baggage allowances vary but are usually two checked pieces and two carryons per ticket. The checked bags must not be over seventy pound each and one hundred eight inches combined length, width, and height, each. (Check with your specific airline.) Excess baggage is prohibitively expensive, running up to $6-8 per pound, depending on the distance. Some airlines have a flat fee of $45 dollars per extra bag. The usual absolute weight limit on checked bags is one hundred pounds per bag, but there is a huge surcharge for any weight over seventy pounds in one bag. Two seventy pound bags can be sent for the price of one bag that is eight or ten pounds over seventy. Carefully measured and weighed foot lockers have proven to be a good choice for us. Use good padlocks with two sets of keys (in different places). Consider duct tape or filament strapping tape to reinforce bags. Carrying as much as they will allow as carryons for each ticket (including children) is very tiring but frequently saves substantial amounts of money. Each bag should have your name, address of origin and destination (with telephone number) in at least two places, protected by strong clear tape. Light and heavy items must be mixed to avoid overweight bags. Pack carefully because luggage is frequently abused and there is little recourse in some countries.
Air freight is usually significantly cheaper than excess baggage although there may be more customs hassle. Make a detailed list of everything in each bag or crate. Leave nothing in new wrappings or a new box. Leave no price tags in place. Always be honest but be as general as they will allow (e.g. personal effects, used clothing, etc.). Make a general list and a detailed list. Try the general list first. Number bags and lists to correspond. Know accurately how many pieces of checked and how many pieces of carryon you have and count them each leg of your journey. When possible, check your baggage all the way to your destination to avoid nasty and expensive surprises about excess baggage. Always have the lists with you at the airport for accompanied baggage or freight.
Ocean freight to some countries in Africa (and probably many other third world destinations) means you may get it in six months to never. Ocean freight not sent in a container is very expensive and damage and theft are major problems. To some countries, losses probably exceed 50%. There are missionary expediters and some commercial forwarders who will make up container loads from several different customers. For shipping to Europe, South America, and Africa it is much cheaper from Gulf Coast ports. Shop for a good rate because they vary as much as 150% for the same service. Insure the freight, if possible. (Some destinations they will not insure.) Barrels are sturdy but they are billed as if they were square, so you lose much space (and money). Good steel banding (banding tools can be rented) and skids on the bottom to allow the use of forklifts are essential for crates. Decking screws are better than nails (Water proof, heavy, plastic lining of the crate may prevent a lot of damage). Always take a negotiable copy of the Bill of Lading (air freight or ocean freight) with you or make sure it is in the hands of your agent in the country of destination. Always check frequently for arrival of the freight. Some third world countries deliberately delay the sending of the Notice of Arrival and charge exorbitant storage rates for the weeks or months that they kept your freight before even sending you notice.
You must have emergency money with you (on your person), preferable cash with no bills larger than fifties. A significant number of remote places will not accept travelers' checks or "plastic". Please be alert to the high risk of pickpockets in many places (including New York). A money belt worn under the clothing is effective. Money can safely be carried in your shoe inside the socks. A wallet with a chain to your belt and carried in a front pocket will do for small sums. Documents, briefcases, indeed all baggage (especially computers), must be watched like a hawk in all airports (even in the U.S.), taxis, and hotels. Never carry money in your briefcase or checked baggage. It should be on your person, inconspicuous, and inaccessible. If there are two adults on the trip, hidden money should be divided. Enough must be kept accessible for tips, eats, etc. Sometimes it is required upon entry into another country to declare all the foreign currency you have with you. Avoid doing this if at all possible. It is frequently done for dishonest purposes on the part of regimes that like to hassle "foreigners."
Some people have problems with the whole concept of deputation. A fair number of missionaries hate deputation. I love it. The difference is attitude. I consider it an opportunity to meet many new pastors and churches while preaching the gospel and sharing my burden and vision. Deputation should not be considered as "fund-raising". In 1978, I spoke two hundred and ten times in eleven months in many states and four foreign countries. Fifteen professions of faith were made as well as a number of other moves. The necessary funds have always come in. Look at deputation as an opportunity to be a blessing, preaching and encouraging people to serve God. (Agreed, deputation is not spelled out in the Bible, but everything I have described above is scriptural and desirable.)
Before starting deputation, the pastor and missionary should be clear and definite as to call, field, qualifications (moral and spiritual), ordination, and plans, (I have known of "missionaries" doing prolonged deputation for a field for which they had not even investigated the possibility of getting a visa and subsequently finding out that categorically no visas were obtainable, nor had they been for many years.) The church should have examined, formally approved, and "sent" the missionary in an informed manner. Some missionaries have continued their secular job for several months while doing deputation near home. This has much to recommend it.
A good way to start deputation is to send out a letter from your home church and pastor recommending you, along with a letter from you, expressing briefly your testimony, burden, and plans. This should be sent to as many churches of like faith and order as you can get names and addresses for. (Include the pastor's name on all mailings.) I would send it first class in an envelope and with good quality print, with pictures (at least one of the missionary and his family). Permit mail is slow and unreliable. Do not hold your breath for replies. You and/or your pastor should contact as many pastors personally as possible (preferably face to face, if not, by telephone). Work hard at remembering pastors' names and faces. (We all like to be remembered.)
Be very flexible in your scheduling and sensitive to the needs of the pastor and church. Do not go with the attitude that the churches "owe" you something or that you are going to convince them to support you. Do not be "pushy". Above all, do not try to "straighten out" pastors and churches. Your job is to be a blessing while presenting your burden and preaching the truth in love. Always be on time (one hour before starting time) and never miss an appointment. If, due to causes completely beyond your control, you are going to be late or miss an appointment, let the pastor know as soon as possible.
Respect the preferences of churches and pastors. If it is important to them to finish services at a certain time, do it! Do not show an hour of slides and then preach an hour or an hour and a half. Slides, in my opinion, should be limited to thirty or forty. If you want to automate them with recorded narration and music, it has the advantage of a known time frame and a carefully prepared narration. (Also, you do not sound bored stiff the fiftieth time you narrate.)
Missionaries, please do not abuse the hospitality of pastors, churches, and members. Do not make long distance calls without permission and paying for them. Make yourself available and useful to pastors and churches when you have some "free" days between engagements. Pastors and churches, please show some hospitality and concern for the food and lodging of the missionary you have invited to speak. Please give him enough time to do a decent job. By the way, missionaries can preach, frequently as well as pastors.
There is a question which I can almost guarantee you will be asked repeatedly on deputation among unaffiliated Baptists. It goes something like this. "Do you believe in indigenous churches (principles)(missions)?" Since indigenous means occurring naturally, no, I do not! Churches and mission work do not occur naturally anywhere. They require much work and prayer. I do believe in establishing churches that will be self-sustaining and that will reproduce themselves and carry out the Great Commission, having their own pastors and finances. The word indigenous, in this context, does not really express what needs to be said.
There is always the question of whether to take your family with you on deputation. There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. This is a personal decision that should be prayerfully made as a family. It all depends on the age and health of the wife and children, school, travel and lodging accommodations, etc. Do not be away from your wife and children more then two or three weeks at a time. Call home two or three times a week, Make sure your wife and children know that they are a very important part of your life and ministry. Your obligations as a missionary do not release you from your obligations as a husband and father. If you are not consistent and conscientious in the latter, you will not be effective and successful in the former.
I feel sure that deputation could be substantially shortened for many missionaries if their sending pastor and church would attend more conferences and be more active in communicating with sister churches and promoting their missionaries. (Some missionaries do a very poor job on deputation because of poor attitudes, failure to develop "people skills", laziness, and other factors.)
Supporting Churches and Pastors
There are many serious problems in the relationships between a missionary and his supporting churches and pastors. There are two principles that I believe will avoid many of these problems. (1) Missionary, the churches do not owe you support. They owe you Christian love, courtesy, and prayers. God may lead them to support someone else. (2) Supporting churches and pastors, you have no authority over that missionary and he is responsible to his home church, not you. He owes you only Christian love, courtesy, and prayers. Your decision on whether to support him or not, should be based on prayerful consideration of Bible principles and Holy Spirit leadership. If there is strong evidence of a serious problem with a missionary, please contact his home church and pastor and no one else, because many times the problem is not real and if it is real, they need to know before anyone else.
Supporting churches should seek to make their support as substantial and regular as possible. Five, ten, or twenty five dollars will buy little in 1997. Postage, travel, and cost of living go up regularly. Inflation with decreased purchasing power is a reality in the U.S. and especially in many third world countries. Changes in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar with the local currency have devastated finances for many missionaries. These may cut the purchasing power of your support in half in a few months! It is taking many sound, hard working missionaries two or three years to raise marginal support and passage money. This ought not to be!
There is an ongoing debate as to whether it is better for a missionary to have small amounts of support from many churches or large offerings from a few churches. There is also the allegation that missionaries should limit their area of travel on deputation in order to save money. If you have all your support from a limited area, any regional economic downturn may drastically affect your finances (e.g. "corn belt", "oil patch", etc.). If your support is mainly from a few large offerings you are very vulnerable to church splits, changes of pastors, declines in finances of a church, etc. (I have never understood why calling a new pastor fairly frequently causes a church to cease support of missionaries they have supported for many years, and who, so far as the church or the new pastor have any reason to think or believe, are good, sound missionaries.)
Churches and pastors should be cognizant of the fact that a missionary and his family are worthy of just as good a standard of living as pastors and church members in the States, and that this frequently costs substantially more than in the U.S. Remember, those that labor faithfully in the Word are worthy of double honour. Conversely, missionaries should not make sly, snide insinuations about the houses, cars, and standard of living of pastors. Few pastors are paid enough.
It is unethical to discontinue a missionary's support while he is overseas unless there is a doctrinal or moral departure (proven) of sufficient magnitude that his home church should call him home. It is discourteous and discouraging to discontinue a missionary's support while he is home on furlough without notifying him and telling him why, preferable through his home church. It is unethical and dishonest of a sponsoring church to withdraw sponsorship without good reasons and without bringing the missionary and his family home. (It is dishonest to take an offering announced as a love offering for the missionary and not give him the full amount. This is rare. I had one personal experience, on deputation, where none of it was given to me.)
Arbitrary policies of dropping a missionary's support if you do not hear from him every month or two are unjustified. I have seen times in Africa, when there was especially severe political turmoil, that it was several months before I could get mail out to my home church so they could send out a meaningful report. Of course, your home church should promptly send out receipts for all offerings sent for you.
Cash should never be sent in the mail and checks for a missionary should be made out in the name of his home church (with the annotation that it is support for such and such a missionary). Separate checks for each missionary you support, even when two or more are sent out by the same church, greatly facilitate bookkeeping. Support should be mailed to his home church, not to the missionary on the field. Form 1099 should never be sent to the IRS or the missionary for contributions from one church to another, even when designated for a specific missionary. This is not required and is misleading as to the taxable status of such funds. They are categorically not taxable to the receiving church or missionary. (Only the salary designated by his church is taxable to him personally.)
It is unethical for a missionary to communicate with an individual member of a supporting church seeking support or commenting about the pastor or internal affairs of the church. It is deplorable for a missionary to communicate with members of his home church seeking to undermine the pastor or influence policy. Except for normal, brotherly letters, communicate through the pastor of a church.
I sincerely believe that many problems and misunderstandings between missionaries and supporting pastors and churches would be avoided or minimized, if sending churches would take more responsibility for their missionaries and be more responsive to the concerns of supporting churches.
A missionary is scripturally responsible to the Lord, his sending church and pastor, and no others. He does have an obligation of Christian love, respect, and courtesy to other pastors and churches (and other missionaries). As a matter of practicality, frequent, well written reports to many churches will help gain and maintain prayer and material support and perhaps be used of God to stimulate others to answer God's call to service.
Although Paul's admonition in Romans and Corinthians are not specifically about missionary reports, there is advice pertinent to such reports found there.
"Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
2 Corinthians 8:21
"Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men."
Always be honest (including your report). Do not exaggerate. Do not brag, except on God. Do not use your report as a channel for fighting doctrinal and personality battles. Do not be negative. It is just as honest to say a glass is half full as to say it is half empty. The first (half full) is much more positive optimistic, and productive, and is absolutely equally honest and informative. (Incidentally, the references above to honesty are primarily in the broad sense of a good testimony and not finances, although finances are included).
This is good place to comment on questionnaires sent by supporting churches (actual or potential) to missionaries. In my opinion, the time for questionnaires is before a missionary is taken on for support, or even speaks at your church. It should cover the fundamentals (not your little pet peeves). It should not delve into the personal finances of the missionaries. Honesty in personal finances is best determined by his home church.
Advice to missionaries: Answer questionnaires honestly. Do not try to second guess the answer they want. If some question is totally irrelevant, say so (politely, of course). (I once received a questionnaire that asked, "Do you have any investments?" My reply, "This question is irrelevant and impertinent!) Do not be resentful of questionnaires or the scrutiny to which you are subjected. There are many lazy, dishonest, "con" men out there, masquerading as missionaries. (Yes, sent out by unaffiliated Baptist churches.) This is true in all walks of life.
Advice to churches: Do not send questionnaires with the idea of "catching" a missionary. Make your language and questions, relevant and courteous. Pastors and church staff do not give a report on their salary, nor should missionaries be expected to do so. Only include those matters you would consider disqualifying for support. His home church should be the best source for information on a missionary.
Frequency of reports is optional but for a missionary on initial deputation or first term, I would recommend monthly, if at all possible. Bimonthly or quarterly is a valid option later in our ministry.
Financial reports are no guarantee of honesty. If a missionary is dishonest, he will simply put out a dishonest, "doctored" report. A missionary is responsible financially (and spiritually) to his home church, period! If the missionary and his church desire to send regular financial reports to supporting churches, that is fine. Supporting churches should look to the home church, not to the missionary, for any questions about honesty and accountability. Supporting churches that are insistent on "nickel and dime" accountability are usually those that will support you a nickel every other leap year (whether you need it or not).
Reports should inform, encourage, and make known prayer requests and burdens. They should be attractive, include pictures, and not be long-winded.
There are many valid reasons for coming home from the mission field. The overriding and essential reason is God's clear leadership. Mention is made in three of the gospels about leaving and "shaking off the dust" of cities that persistently refuse to receive the servants of God and, by implication, the gospel. Health, family obligations, security (extreme dangers on the field), finances, and many other factors can have legitimate influence. I believe there is a great need for pastors and churches to realize that God frequently leads missionaries to new fields. (He did so frequently with Paul and many others in the New Testament.) I think it is most unfortunate (and not of the Lord) that missionaries who have done a good job, who are still doctrinally morally straight, and sent out with the full blessing of a good church, lose most of their support when they are led to change fields. I think it is tragically wrong that missionaries who have put in thirty or forty hard years, are frequently abandoned when age and health mandate their return to the U.S. (Yes, they should make provision for retirement, but this is frequently hard to do with marginal support on an expensive field. It is difficult even with good support in view of the attitude of some that it is heretical for a missionary to make investments for retirement. The same tragic wrong is done to many faithful pastors in the U.S.)
There is honest difference of opinion as to whether ordained ministers (included missionaries) should opt out of Social Security on their earnings from the ministry. I personally believe that, for most, it is best to opt out. If churches would vote for their missionary or pastor to receive in addition to his salary and housing allowance the amount that he would normally pay to Social Security as self-employed (just over 15%) and insist that he invest it in prudent investments of his choosing, he would be much better off than with Social Security. Most of us have enough quarters of secular work, on which we paid Social Security, to make us eligible for Medicare and a minuscule pension. It is highly doubtful if Social Security and Medicare will be solvent a few years down the road. If you are not a disciplined person and will not consistently make those investments, you should probably stay in Social Security or have a monthly amount set up as a retirement trust, where you never see the money and some honest, prudent, and bonded trustee invests it for you, to be available when you reach a certain age or become disabled.
Sometimes return passage money is problematic. Some regular provision should be made and allowed to accumulate for this expense. My home church deposits all of the tithe that a missionary pays, into a fund for his return passage. It works very nicely. The missionary has paid tithes on his salary and has no further claim on that money. The church, by its own choice, makes a regular mission offering of that money into a fund reserved specifically for return passage of that missionary. Ideally, it should be in an interest bearing account.
In my opinion, every missionary and pastor should own his own home. When the missionary is overseas, the church should keep it rented and taken care of for him. This presents substantial tax advantages, builds an equity, and provides a home for the returned, retired, or disabled missionary and his family.