While many people choose to go into independent mission work voluntarily, there are also many who find themselves thrust into it. Whether a supporting church closes, a mission agency withdraws from the area you feel called to, or you feel you could do a better job unencumbered by the regulations and demands of the agency you originally went with, many people find themselves in the field without the support they had become accustomed to. This can precipitate a severe crisis. While the circumstances of such an experience can vary so wildly it’s difficult to be prescriptive about how to deal with it, here are some possible responses you could consider.
Inform your prayer partners. Assuming you already have a number of prayer partners who are committed to you personally and who won’t drop you just because their church or sending agency is no longer supporting you, this is your key support base. Tell them (honestly and objectively!) what has happened and ask them to pray. They may well step up to the plate and try to fill the gaps in your support.
Go home and consult. Talk to your church leaders, if necessary face to face. If your church has split, maybe both parts can maintain a commitment to you. If it has closed, the leaders may become part of another church so can they take their support for you into that church? If they are no longer in church leadership, will they continue to advise and mentor you? If your church continues but is unable to support you financially, can they still provide other forms of support?
Talk with other agencies. Just because you are no longer working with one agency doesn’t mean that there aren’t others who will be willing to work with you. Ask around and open up discussions with people you may already have met in the field. If you’re an experienced and able mission worker, they may be willing to bring you on board in field rather than sending you home for training.
Develop your local support base. If the people who have supported you this far have suddenly withdrawn their support, can you find others to take over? Is this the opportunity for you to empower local people or churches to take over leadership of your project?
Conduct a personal inventory. How much have you been to blame for the situation? Have you fallen out with your church or sending agency because you refuse to accept their advice or leadership? Were you right in that, or were you showing a blinkered commitment to yourself or your ministry which is actually harmful to yourself and others? Are there attitudes or actions you need to repent of and ask forgiveness for?
Review your calling. What is God saying to you in all this? Is the withdrawal of support a challenge which indicates you’re having a huge impact for God, or a sign that God wants you to reconsider what you’re doing? Have you accomplished what he called you to do? Is God using this situation to move you into something new?
These situations are challenging to our faith and our confidence, and our initial reaction can be to see it as opposition and determinedly grit our teeth at plough on. But at what cost? It may be sensible to stop what we’ve been doing and consider prayerfully our next steps. It is prudent with major changes like this to stop and consider what God is saying to us. Take time to consult with people your trust or go on a retreat to listen to God. Maybe carrying on unsupported is right for you, but don’t just do it without clear guidance.