Posted on : Thursday April 8, 2010

By Debbie Kempson, Minister of Music, First Church, Waldorf

It was at a very young age that I understood the importance of missions, and the church’s involvement with supporting missionaries. The church I grew up in, although it was not a Southern Baptist church, was very mission-minded, and every year they had a two-week missions conference to raise the necessary funds for missionaries. After diving into a huge breakfast, we listened to missionaries the church brought in from every country in the world–Wycliffe Bible translators, Oriental missions–all these different missionary societies on furlough, raising money for their own support. We would always listen to their stories in starry-eyed amazement; the stories they told were so phenomenal. It was even more exciting in the evenings as they would share slides and stories.

There would be a rally on the last night to try to meet money goals with pledges to support these various missions, but inevitably the goals weren’t met.

Finally, the coordinators would resort to having an “auction” style pledge time—people would stand up and pledge a certain amount called out.

What unfortunately ended up happening, though, is that the folks listening ended up giving their money to missions instead of their tithe. Even as a 12-year-old, I remember thinking that it didn’t seem right. How sad that people were not supporting the mission endeavor, and the missionaries had to garner their own support.

And then I was introduced to the Cooperative Program (CP).

As I came to understand and appreciate that missionaries didn’t have to raise their own support just to go back on the mission field, I thought how genius this idea actually was. The missionaries could have their basic needs met—healthcare, food, transportation—through the Cooperative Program, which highlights giving to the church first and then distribution to the missionaries and other programs.

I saw through my personal experience as a teenager how frustrating it was that missionaries would have to raise their own support and needed people to stand up in a moment of passion and pledge, in essence being forced to choose between tithing and missions.

I’m so thankful that, through the Cooperative Program, we can give our tithes and offerings to the church and know that a portion of the money will go to support missionaries for their basic needs with the extra offerings for special projects. It gives the missionaries a freedom so that when they come home on furlough they can share their experiences and their appreciation without begging for money in order to return to the mission field.