This book was originally published by what is now The Foundry as an NMI mission book under ISBN number 083-411-4186. It is presented here in updated form.
I sometimes wish churches didn't have to pour resources into bricks and mortar. Unfortunately, congregations very often do not stay small enough to meet in living rooms (or else people do not build big enough living rooms!). Though they may start in homes, they soon need larger spaces for worship, ministry, and evangelism.
In affluent countries, providing buildings isn't an insurmountable problem. When churches in the United States and Canada want to build, they usually visit a local bank. There, they get a loan with a 15- or 20-year payback period. Though it may take 20 years to pay off the loan, the church goes ahead and builds the building and gets to use it.
In many other countries of the world, however, churches cannot get such loans. Construction often must be done with hard cash. Before it can be used, the building must be paid for. That's a problem. Building on a strict pay-as-you-go basis is difficult enough in the U.S. and Canada. In countries where the average annual income runs under $1,000, having to pay cash for building projects can be an insurmountable hurdle for a local church. Unfortunately, with our growth around the world, World Evangelism Fund doesn't have enough in it to provide buildings. What to do?
Remember those Alabaster march offerings every February and September? When I was a kid, we'd put a cardboard box shaped like a church on the altar. Singing a song, we'd all march down front. We'd break the paper seal on our Alabaster boxes and empty them into that cardboard church. At box-opening time, those who hadn't beein using one to accumulate money would add checks or cash to the offering.
That began several years ago when the Lord inspired Elizabeth Vennum with an idea built on the biblical story of the Alabaster container of perfume poured over Jesus' feet. The missions offering that Elizabeth envisioned was to come from discretionary money, from what we could decide to spend on perfume, not from what we would be spending on food. Perfume is put on for our own pleasure. With no sacrifice, we could live without some of it. Mrs. Vennum's idea for Alabaster was to challenge Nazarenes to do without or give up a want to meet a need. Alabaster offerings were to come from money we had originally planned to pour out on ourselves, but then we chose instead, like Mary, to pour it out on Jesus. When a person wanted something extra, he would give it up and put that money in a little cardboard "Alabaster" box. That money would be for buildings on mission fields. Many churches still have march offerings in which they empty the little boxes into the big Alabaster church. [ more on Vennum ]
In giving Alabaster offerings, occasionally churches do some creative things. Recently, for instance, in Shreveport, La., First Church the people were raising 62,000 pennies for their Alabaster offering. They had a five-gallon glass jar they were filling with those pennies.
Alabaster goes 100 percent for buildings and property. One could make a case for using a little bit of each Alabaster dollar for administrative costs. But not one penny is used that way. World Evangelism Fund absorbs those costs. Every bit of Alabaster money goes to missions. Historically, eighty percent of the money has gone elsewhere in the world and twenty percent has gone to multicultural ministries in the U.S. and Canada.
Since 1949, we've raised millions of dollars through the Alabaster offering. That money has built more than 3,000 churches, parsonages, clinics, missionary homes, educational buildings, and camp meeting centers. The $2 million now coming in each year from Alabaster is a significant addition to our balanced attack.
In Haiti, Nazarene Mission Teams meet many construction needs. Still, Alabaster money buys property in Haiti, including, most recently, an existing church building and parsonage.
Here's what happened: For years we had helped the congregation in Limbe to rent property. For one reason or another, the landlord was always on the verge of evicting the congregation. A couple of times he even boarded up the building, forcing the district superintendent to make emergency trips to negotiate a solution. We were also having to rent a parsonage there. The Nazarene elementary school was trying to hold classes in the sanctuary. Students had only the pews to sit and write on.
The church began looking for land on which to build. What they found was too expensive and poorly located. They looked for buildings that could be renovated into church buildings. Nothing excited our imagination.
Then, an independent pastor in Limbe decided to close his church and leave the ministry. He personally owned both the church and parsonage. While that may sound a bit strange, he was like some American televangelists whose ministry is theirs personally. Because he was moving to nearby Cap-Haitien, he put his church building and parsonage up for sale. The price was something we could manage with Alabaster funds, so we helped the church buy it. Today, because many Nazarenes sacrificed wants to meet needs through Alabaster, the Limbe Church of the Nazarene has a fine building on the main north-south road in Haiti.
Where have Work and Witness teams been? The list would read like a list of the airline hubs of the world: Manila, Nairobi, Mexico City.
Sending work teams has become a major missions thrust for districts and many local churches. These people give up vacation time to work. They buy their own airline tickets. They even dig into their pockets to buy cement, paint, nails, and boards. In recent years, they've put up hundreds of buildings all over the world. A grassroots program, what is now Nazarene Missions Teams started ramping up with the election of Paul Gamertsfelder to the Global NMI Council. Now, over 300 teams go out each year.
Louie Bustle is now retired from missionary service that included a stint as regional director in South America. Originally the pioneer leader in the Dominican Republic, he has credited Nazarene Mission Teams with being a key element in explosive church growth there. Nazarene Mission Teams money and the donated labor are key elements in helping the World Evangelism Fund reap a great harvest in responsive areas around the globe. In many cases, Alabaster funds buy land and Nazarene Mission Teams put up the buildings.
Sometimes, a team's construction materials money is raised through special offerings. Occasionally, money comes from friends outside the church. They hear about special projects and want to get involved. Sometimes, churches use Faith Promise giving above World Evangelism Fund commitments to help fund Nazarene Mission Team projects.
One "Acts 6" missionary support team member in the World Mission office is the coordinator for what used to be called Work & Witness. Some years ago, David Hayse moved from overseeing construction in Mexico to become the first full-time Headquarters coordinator for Nazarene Mission Teams
The denomination's coordinator helps sort out priorities, matching teams with projects. The coordinator helps schedule teams woreldwide as well as making sure important details such as accident insurance are cared for. The global Nazarene Mission Teams
People often ask me: "Wouldn't it be better if we just sent the money? With local labor couldn't you get the building up for less cost? Isn't buying airline tickets and paying for food and lodging for Americans a waste of missions money?"
No! A thousand times no. First, without a team involved, needed projects likely we wouldn't get much of either the travel money or the materials funds. It's easy to motivate people to give when they are personally involved. Because they themselves are going to work on that project, they give generously to buy the materials, something they would not otherwise be nearly as excited about doing. Buildings go up that would not be financed on appeals for money alone. Second, as for the airline ticket money, that is usually vacation money. People are going to spend that on themselves. Then, third -- and possibly most important -- is the fact that these trips transform the feelings of team members about missions. Inevitably, they become lifelong missions supporters.
Besides groups, there are also one-member teams who pay their way to a mission field to give specialized expertise for short periods. A computerized "skills bank" of people willing to give their time and skills when and where needed is used to match skilled people with needs.
Some people dream that a rich relative will die someday and leave them lots of money. They dream about all the things they would do with that money. Such dreams rarely come true. When they do, however, some Nazarenes choose to do something significant on a mission field rather than spending all the money on themselves.
One Nazarene family in the northwest U.S. received inheritances from both sides of the family. Both times, they used the money to build church buildings in other countries. One of those congregations that benefited is in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. The Nazarene church building and parsonage in that community stand as a testimony to two lives given over to Jesus. While the Haitians blessed by the memorial gift do not know the family who helped them, the buildings they use testify daily not only to the work of Christ in the life of person who has passed on but also to the deep commitment of the one who, upon receiving the inheritance, gave it to the Lord.
These memorial gifts increase the effectiveness of World Evangelism Fund dollars. Sometimes they are the key to finishing construction projects where a Nazarene Mission Team could not raise all the funds to buy needed construction materials.
World Evangelism Fund. Approved Specials. Alabaster. Bequests and Memorials. Radio. Nazarene Mission Teams. What an impressive array of channels God uses to get Nazarene resources to the battlefront. And that's not all. There's even more. . . . [ continue reading ]
|Asking people to respond to disasters, to hunger, and to global poverty is a part of the Nazarenes' balanced attack . . . [ more ]|
1. Football and missions
2. Budget: A bad word doing good
3. We called it general, but it's
very specific |
4. Peanut butter and jelly
6. I was hungry and you gave
me something |
7. Giving more with less pain
8. Doubling and tripling our investments
9. Cleaning out attics and garages
-- Howard Culbertson,