From September 1983 to August 1987, I was senior pastor of the International Council of Vienna (hereafter the ICV), originally founded by the Conservative Baptist Foreign Missions Society to minister to a multi-national English-speaking population in Vienna, Austria. The congregation numbered approximately 400 souls, one-third of whom were missionaries and their families.
Most of these missionaries ministered behind the Iron Curtain (it was still up in those days), except for a contingent of YWAM missionaries and related missions who ministered at a large Eastern European refugee camp at Traiskirchen, about 30 miles south of Vienna.
The missions/missionaries ministering at Traiskirchen all worshiped at the ICV. By far most of those I baptized during those years were converts from the refugee camp.
With that background, I heartily endorse the opinions and recommendations of the TGC article. All the recommendations Darren Carlson makes that were applicable to our situation in Vienna I was making myself 36 years ago! Time after time, when I’d field queries from American congregations/pastors concerning “missions opportunities” in Vienna for high school or college or retiree folks back in the States, they amounted to requests for the missionaries who were already deployed to create something for the temporary missionary to do.
This is the most pungent sentence in Carlson’s article: A church struggling to support a skilled and trained long-term missionary for $200 a month won’t question raising $40,000 to send many untrained workers for a week.
I assure you, the missionary family in the field also knows how much money it took to send that “team” to them, and they know just how useful that budget would be to augment their own missions budget. If half the money used to send that inexperienced, untrained team had been sent in the form of an annual budget increase for the already deployed missionary, those already in the field would have been more productive, more encouraged, more motivated, more rejoicing.
As it inevitably turned out - the local missionary’s own meager budget faced significant redeployment and their efforts were curtailed toward hand-holding untrained “team members” whose presence slowed down the work the local missionaries were doing.
Sorry if I sound cranky about this. After almost four decades, I still have vivid memories of the dismay the local missionaries in my flock expressed to me - hoping I might undertake to deflect some of these teams from making their burdens heavier than they already were.