Editor’s Note: Franciscan Mission Service overseas missioners are asked to fundraise in support of their training and service. Missioner-in-training Janice Smullen reflects on a recent support-raising class and shares her experiences inviting others to join in her mission journey through financial contributions.
“Some give by going. Some go by giving.” -Fr. Anselm Moons (Franciscan Mission Service founder.)
There are many ministries that comprise Franciscan Mission Service (FMS.) Ministry involves giving and receiving to expand God’s mission within both the donor and the recipient. I felt very apprehensive when I learned that I would be asked to raise a pretty hefty amount of dollars to cover some of the cost of my training. (It makes perfect sense; FMS does have costs to cover! But I was still in the euphoria of acceptance!)
My realization of the importance of my part in this came as I realized that this provided a spiritual connection for me to St. Francis. He had financial benefactors and faithfully asked for donations and accepted donations. This is a sign of the Franciscan life that I am now living.
I now see support raising as ministry: giving and receiving to have the resources to expand God’s mission. FMS has a radical vision and purpose of involving the laity in service to people in need. Jesus proclaimed His radical vision and purpose in the act of washing his disciples feet (John 13:15). In this surprising move, Jesus radically proclaimed His commitment to service and love. Financial support to FMS enables donors and recipients to confidently proclaim what we believe in. I value donors’ belief in me and Franciscan Mission Service.
Radical transformation opens us to new thinking and practices. A new baby can prompt a parent to drop unhealthy habits. Loss of a job can prompt one to sharpen up skills and re assess availability. The experience of feeding a hungry person can prompt us to redo our budget and eating habits to find more ways to share food resources.
The development of my thoughts about seeking funds and donors sharing funds was influenced by the writings of Henri Nouwen. As opposed to half heartedly asking and dutifully giving, the ministry of support raising builds a new relationship of sharing financial and spiritual wealth.
When the needs of others beckon us to give, a relational connection opens. Donors connect to a missioner; a missioner relates to the community being served and involves the donor in the experience through pictures and communication.
God continually initiates relationships: Adam and Eve, Abram, Moses, David, prophets, Mary and Joseph, Jesus, disciples, blind, deaf, lame and sick; doubting Thomas and believing centurion. Fundraising ministry calls people together in communion with God and with one another. Our prayer partner weekly updates keep the donors informed about my activities and we connect via e mails.
Any relationship includes, at some point, reconciliation and conversion. Zaccheus’ relationship to Jesus produced a radical reconciliation within himself and his community (Luke 19:1-10). Conversion is seeing and hearing and feeling with a larger heart.
Reconciliation and conversion release us from the confining habits of the past and enable us to enter into a larger sense of gratitude for this new radical and reconciled relationship. Sharing our time, talents and resources offers opportunity to nurture peace within ourselves and send it out to others.
Donors must look for a relevant way to share. When people were hungry, Jesus fed them. When people were sick, He healed them. When people doubted, He waited patiently. As prayer and practice open our hearts, we discover that sharing is a way of building God’s Kingdom.
Our giving is grounded in prayer and undertaken with gratitude. Prayer helps the donor discern where to give. Prayer helps the missioner discern how to serve. Prayer directs the formation of new programs. Prayer cycles back to the donors from the hearts of those being served. Then, hopefully, the cycle begins again.
Endnote: Franciscan Mission Service considers the four R’s (radical, relational, reconciling, and relevant) as four pillars in all that we do in our mission.