Don't Chase Buffaloes

I wanted to share some insights concerning dependency to fellow missionaries who may be facing this struggle in your particular ministry. I just finished reading a book entitled "When Charity Destroys Dignity" written by Glenn Schwartz. I highly recommend it to any missionary who wants to seriously deal with this issue. You can go to his web site and click on 'learn more' to read some of his articles.

In our church planting efforts we have consciously been making an effort to avoid financial dependency between our churches and the mission in the states. We want to teach them to use the resources they have instead of always expecting help from foreign sources. God has been helping us in a wonderful way, I can't say it is perfect, there are still certain areas of dependency but looking at the big scope of things, they are doing very well. For instance our second church at the moment is nothing more than wooden pools and a tin roof. It desperately needs closed in with wood. We could quickly raise the money to do so from the states, but we have opted to try to get our church people to raise their own money for their own church. Several ladies from the church have been cooking and selling food to workers who are picking rock at a nearby quarry. Today I went with them and they sold yucca with salad. They cleared roughly $20 which isn't much but it will help buy at least two more sheets of plywood for the church. It has helped them have a greater love for their church as they become more and more involved. I would like to encourage other missionaries to think of ways your churches and people can find local resources to support their ministry rather than depend upon American funds. It is well worth the effort.

I wanted to share an excerpt from Glenn's book that impacted me. Glenn worked as a missionary in Africa for many years. He gives an illustration of an African pastor who went to the states looking for funds to build his church, here is what he says.

Several years ago I did a seminar in Capetown, and a pastor shared his story. Several years before, he had been in North America preaching in various churches. On one occasion he phoned home to find out how his family was doing. His wife was not there, but his sister-in-law answered the phone. Her first words were, "Oh pastor, I'm glad you called. I have a message for you. By the way, your family is fine, everything's fine here; but I have a message for you. I had a dream the other night, and God told me to give you this message. 'While you are in America, don't chase buffaloes'.

This was a rather strange message, so the pastor hung up the telephone and said, "Thank you Lord for the message; but I have no idea what it means" He went on preaching. One Sunday evening he preached in a church in which he was given the collection as his honorarium. They simply gave him the money that came in rather than writing out a check. He took his money back to the place where he was staying and began to count it. In the process, he came to a five-cent piece in which in America is called a "buffalo nickel". He looked at the buffalo and said,"That is the meaning of the message. I am not here to get money".

So he said, "Thank you Lord. I got the message." Little did he know the importance of that message, because the very next morning he was taken to breakfast by a wealthy businessman. The pastor said, "I don't know how wealthy that man was, but he owned four airplanes".

As they were having breakfast, the businessman said, "Pastor, I liked the things I heard you saying in church last night. I have a lot of money, and I would like to give you some. How much do you want? Just name the amount and I will write the check for any amount you say."

At this point the pastor was being tested; he knew he was not supposed to "chase buffaloes". So he turned to the businessman and said, "Thank you very much, but God in his providence cares for me and my people in His own way." The pastor then said "I didn't get any money from that man".

He finished preaching in North America and went to England where he boarded a flight to Johannesburg. On the plane he found himself sitting beside a white South African businessman. The businessman asked the pastor what he did and he said, "I'm a pastor of a small congregation in Capetown". At this point the businessman replied, "I am a member of a church which supports apartheid. I do not agree with the policy of my church or my government, so I won't give my money to my church. I would rather give it to you. How much do you want? Just name the amount, and I will write the check".

Again the pastor said, "Thank you very much; but God takes care of my and my people in His own way". The pastor said he didn't get any money from that man either. Instead, he went back to Capetown, and the small congregation he was pastoring decided to build a new sanctuary. They gave all the money necessary to build their new building. Then he said as he smiled, "And we found out that we didn't need any 'buffaloes' from America to do it". One can only imagine what would have happened to that congregation if he had presented them with two checks representing hundreds of thousands of dollars from those well-meaning businessmen. All too often such "goodness of the heart" has destroyed local giving initiative in many parts of the world.

We need to teach our people not to chase buffaloes but rather seek the anointing and help of the Holy Spirit. They may be poor and it may be a struggle to get the things they need, but they have God and that is all they need!


Eric and Hannah, That was a very good post. Our missions director recommeneded that Phillip read that book over a year ago. It is very good. That is exactly the way we are trying to teach our people here and God is blessing.