My wife Sarah and I are American’s who have been full time missionaries from January 2004. We started in Maun, Botswana for 8 years, then spent 8 months in the Philippines, and recently moved back to Lobatse, Botswana in 2014. Many people ask us how we are funded and how we can afford to live in a foreign country without a job, or a work permit. Well, it’s a bit of long story, but here we go:
Sarah and I each heard from the Lord (separately) that we were to be missionaries to Botswana, before we ever even met each other. After getting married, we just assumed that He would call us to the field immediately. Instead, the Lord opened a door for me to become a full time flight instructor in the states while Sarah became a Dental Assistant. We lived a comfortable life which resulted in us getting into a lot of credit card debt. We also knew we were supposed to move to Botswana, but we didn’t know how to do that or when. After about 2 years, we started getting really anxious about missions so we signed up for a 2 month trip to Botswana in 2000. We arrived in Botswana and as we stepped off the plane, we both looked at each other and we “just knew” we were home. We loved the trip and the country so much, that we signed up to go again the next year. In 2002 however, we simply couldn’t financially afford to go so we stayed home. That time at home created in us a deep longing to be back in Botswana and we realized that the time to make the full time move was approaching. Since we were in debt, my plan was to sell our condo and move in with my parents. The idea was that if we were not paying rent and could apply that rent to pay our debt, that we would be able to pay it off in about a year and half and then start saving up for Botswana. So we put our condo up for sale on a Thursday and by Sunday, we were completely out of debt because there was a bidding war for our condo and it sold for thousands more than we were even asking for it. Praise the Lord. Then we heard from the Lord and he said, “This is how fast I’m moving, BE READY” (Just to clarify, I have never heard the Audible voice of the Lord, I’m speaking of the still small voice which I often hear in the shower. I don’t know why that is?)
So we knew the Lord was telling us He was moving fast and that we needed to be ready, but we really didn’t know what that meant. We did know that we needed to do everything we knew how to do and then wait on the Lord. So we decided to start selling off much of our belongings and to sign up for a 3rd short term trip to Botswana as a scouting trip. While we were in Botswana during 2003, the mission organization we were with, Love Botswana Outreach Mission, agreed to take us on as new missionaries but we still needed to raise full support. We had 5 months to do it. We sent out letters and spoke at churches and informed our families that we would be leaving for full time missions very soon. The response to the letters was tremendous and we managed to get enough monthly commitments during the 5 month in order to meet our needs in Botswana. We had a tight budget, but if we were wise, there was always enough money to meet our needs for the first 4 years or so. Then we started an internship program that paid for our rent and a few other expenses that really helped. For a long time, our support was very stable and required very little faith-live-off of us. I was praying for more faith. 🙂
In 2010, the Lord led us to leave Love Botswana and join up with a missionary friend in the Philippines. This was troublesome because we simply didn’t have the funds for that and we would be leaving the internship program to someone else so we would also loose the added income. As we were worrying about this, the Lord spoke to us through a Pastor named Rick Snow. First the Lord spoke some things through Rick that were deeply personal and that only the Lord could have known so we would know that the message was from Him and not just being made up by Rick. Then He told us that
“the move was His plan for us and that we should not worry about the finances because He was preparing money we knew nothing about.”
Ok, so let’s examine the situation and apply God’s Word to it. We had enough money in the bank to fly home to America with our 2 kids in order to start fund raising to move to the Philippines. We could sell everything we have including the 4×4 truck and all the furniture, stove, fridge, etc. and then that would give us at least a head start on raising the money we would need. But God said, “Don’t worry about the money” So I got it my head that it shouldn’t matter if I sell everything, or give it all away for free, that God would still have no problem coming up with the money we needed. It was a bit of a crazy idea, but I felt that it was also a leap of faith and trust in God.
In the end, I didn’t have the faith to give away everything, but I felt comfortable giving away half of everything including the 4X4 truck. The other half we sold for really cheap and off we went home to America, really hoping God had a good financial plan for us, because now we had very little left to live on and nothing to buy tickets to the Philippines with. We arrived in the States and promptly learned that Sarah was pregnant with Isaac our 3rd child. Now when you leave Botswana and surrender your permits (because you have no intention of coming back) you also lose your “Bomaid” health insurance. We had not yet gotten insurance in the States and now it was a pre-existing condition, which meant that the cost of getting insurance goes way up. On top of that, the cost of having a baby in the states with no insurance is really high. So we prayed, “Lord, what happened to ‘don’t worry about the money’ and ‘I am preparing money you know nothing about?’ ”, and we prayed, “Lord, help”. What do we do? We could move to the Philippines right away where the cost of a birth is really cheap, but we didn’t know anything about the quality of doctors or even how to go about finding one. Also, we really didn’t have the money for the tickets to fly our family to the Philippines anyway. We also learned that Sarah’s sister was pregnant and due at the same time as Sarah. Both of them thought they were done having kids. This really made Sarah want to stay in the States and live with her sister during the pregnancy so that she could be with her family. The older two kids were born in Botswana and Sarah had no one but me to support her so this would be her chance to have her mom and her sister to care for her. We still had to pay for it though. So we took a chance and applied for Government assistance since we didn’t officially have jobs, we might qualify. Praise the Lord, we did qualify and we didn’t have to pay any money at all for the birth, the prenatal care, or the after birth care and Sarah got to be with family. Then the Lord said, “I told you not to worry about the money”…
During the pregnancy, I had resigned myself to the fact that we would have to remain in the states until at least 3 months after the birth since you’re not really supposed to fly with an infant that young. But I still had to come up with the money we needed to not only purchase flights, but also buy everything we would need when we arrived, like furniture, stove, fridge, etc. – You know – the stuff I gave away in Maun! 🙂 I was still trying to work that out when, about a month before Sarah gave birth, we got an anonymous donation for the full amount that we needed. Praise the Lord, and “where did that come from?” The Lord then said, “I told you not to worry about the money”…
3 Months after Isaac was born, we moved to the Philippines. Despite the fact that I had pre-calculated how much we would need and the Lord provided all that I asked for, we realized when we arrived that the cost of living in the Philippines was much higher than we anticipated and we quickly ran out of money. Our first electricity bill was about R6300 for one month. Ouch!!! We were also paying about R3500 every two months or so to immigration just to stay legal in the country. I panicked! Plain and simple! “What have you done to us Lord?” On top of that, the missionary friend we went to help and partner with had a death in the family and had gone home to the states so we were also on our own in the ministry. In my panic, I did something I had never done before, I sent a letter home to our supporters pleading for financial help and asking if I had missed the Will of the Lord by moving to the Philippines. Then, when I had settled down, I remembered that I needed to trust God and put my faith in Him. I remembered that if I need more than I have, that I need to give away something now in my lack, and trust that if God can provide, than the amount didn’t matter. So Sarah and I looked around for someone to give to. There was a young lady named Querra who was helping us with our kids who really wanted to go to her Grandfather’s funeral, but the cost of travel was too much, so we gifted her the travel money and sent her with our blessing. It wasn’t much, but we had so little money at the time that we thought we might end up being illegal in the country in a month and that we didn’t have enough money to buy tickets home so we would be stuck. The next week was a very stressful time of worrying, panic, what if’s, and ‘did we miss our calling?’, or did we hear wrong from the Lord about the Philippines. Then the letters and the money started pouring in. Letters of support from our friends and our pastors reminding us that they also prayed over our decision to go to the Philippines and that it was the right one. When it was all done, we ended up getting in 3 times the money that I had asked for in my panicked letter. And the Lord said, “I TOLD you NOT to worry about the money”…
Right then and there, I committed & promising myself and Sarah, saying, “Next time, I’m not going to worry about the money”. While in the back of my head I was saying, “I really hope there isn’t a NEXT time!”
We got a visit from Ron and Christy Bishop who are wonderful mentors in the Lord and they promptly told us, “we have heard from the Lord that your time here in the Philippines will be short”. We dismissed this right away because we knew we were called to the Philippines. After our missionary friend left for the States, we tried very hard to immerse ourselves in ministry, but all the doors seemed closed to us. Our Pinoy friends would tell us about all the opportunities there were, but nothing ever seemed to work out. Also we never really felt “settled” and “at home” like we did in Botswana so we did everything we could to fully immerse ourselves into the culture and the people. Finally, after about six months, we both had to admit that the Bishops were right and that our time in the Philippines was over and that the Lord had other things for us to do. So we prayed, “if not here, Lord, then where?” In that same week, we got a letter from some missionary friends in Lobatse, Botswana saying that they were thinking about us and wouldn’t we like to come back to Botswana (they didn’t know we were thinking of leaving). I had no intention of going back to Botswana, so I decided that was a coincidence, but we sent them a letter to inquire more anyway. Then we had the youth of the Pinoy church we were attending, come to our house for a “meet the missionaries” night and Pizza Party. One of them brought the latest promotional video for their church because it’s a world-wide church. While we watched the video, we saw Len, the leader of the Mission in Lobatse, the same organization that our missionary friends emailed us from. Then we got a response from our inquiry email saying that we should just come back to Botswana and that they would be waiting for us. I was still not convinced, but I was certainly not going to close the door if the Lord was going to open it. There was a problem though. We had signed a year lease for the house in the Philippines and it would be very expensive to pay all the rent up front if we were to leave. So I decided to make things interesting. I told the Lord that if he wanted us to move back to Botswana, then I wanted Him to show me by getting us out of the lease without having to pay for the whole year. I told my plan to our Pinoy friend who helped us find the house and she said, “I’m sorry but the landlord is a shrewd business man and you are not going to get out of paying for the whole year.” That was Monday, so I decided to pray all week and see the landlord on Friday. When I met him, he said, “Sure, no problem. We knew that you would not stay long. We appreciate the work that you have been doing here, but my wife and I always felt like you were not “settled” here so we expected you to leave soon.” They actually used the same word, “settled” that my wife and I had been using to describe why we thought the Lord was leading us to leave. Now I knew we were to leave the Philippines and move back to Botswana. The trouble is we didn’t have the money for that. We had enough to buy the tickets home so we sold or gave away everything, packed up and went back to the states to fund raise to go back to Botswana. The whole time I’m telling the Lord, “Botswana again, really! We just left. I just sold or gave away everything I had there. If you had told me, I could have just held on to everything and made this whole thing easier.” No answer.
So back to America: Fundraising tour for a few months . . . no money. So we stayed longer and spent time with family, still no money came in. There is a point where you have to think about getting a full time job to support your family and your needs and since you won’t get your first paycheck until after you’ve been working for a while, you really want to make that decision before you completely run out of money. The problem is, once you get a full time job, the chances you get back out onto the mission field quickly are slim to none. We had enough money to buy the tickets back to Botswana and we were getting enough support monthly to pay for food, but nothing else. This is the point where we had a decision to make. Do we really step out in faith and buy the tickets back to Botswana, or do we get jobs and wait for all the money we need to come in before we go. We prayed about it and remembered the Lord said, “Don’t worry about the money” So we bought the tickets in faith and they were for the following month. During that month, we told our church that we were going back to Botswana, even if it meant that we would have to live in a mud hut and that we had already bought the tickets. Here is the thing to remember: I was perfectly willing to live in poverty, struggling to make ends meet, so that I could be a missionary and fulfill the calling the Lord has on my life, because I know nothing else is more important. But I didn’t believe that would actually happen. I honestly knew that the Lord would provide abundantly because He promised he would and told me and proved to me over and over again that I didn’t need to worry about the money. At the same time, I had already done the mental calculations and we had gotten in all the money that I expected we would get in from our fundraising. If the Lord was going to provide more, I had no idea where it was going to come from and I was not sending out any more panicked letters like I did in the Philippines.
A week before we left, about a third of the money we needed came in. Where did it come from? I don’t know. Some came from people who had never supported us before. Some from a church that agreed to support us monthly as well. Some was anonymous and we still don’t know who gave it. But a third of it came in anyway. At this point, despite being short by a lot of money, I was on cloud nine because I knew the Lord had it handled. I felt like the 12 disciples must have felt when they went to feed the 5000 with only a few loaves and fishes. After they gave food to about hundred people, they must have realized that God himself was refilling the baskets and therefore they would never run out. At that point it’s easy to have faith because you are in the midst of seeing the Lord at work.
We moved to Botswana with far less money than we needed to get the furniture, stove, fridge, car, etc. that we needed, but knowing that God was busy providing and that we would not worry about it. About 3 weeks after we arrived, I remember I was in the shower and my wife poked her head in and said, “I just checked the bank account and all the money we need is there!” I wasn’t even surprised. I just said, “Cool, thanks Lord!” At this point, I figured I’d graduated from God’s school of financial provision and had learned to “not worry”. WRONG AGAIN!
A year later we got a huge tax bill from the US government. I was surprised and initially I started to wonder where that money was going to come from, but then I reminded myself that I would not worry about the money and that God had it under control. In that moment, my mind was at peace and I fully believed that God would provide, but my heart was beating out of control and I could tell my body was going through a full on stress attack. This was strange since I really was not worried. I learned then that I had brought my mind under control, but that my body was still in rebellion to faith in Christ and I needed to force it to fall in line as well. So I had to spend the next 20 minutes meditating on the Word and remembering all the times that the Lord had been faithful to provide, before my body finally calmed down and I could tell it was no longer stressed. Of course, in the end, the Lord provided the money and it was no problem.
This was also around the time we realized that the Toyota Corolla that we bought was not going to meet my needs since part of my ministry here involves going out into the Kalahari Dessert to remote settlements to support the churches in those regions. So we started praying for a 4×4. A year or more went by and no money really came in for a truck so I was still borrowing one from other ministry members but it was limiting the amount of times I was able to go out to support the remote areas. I was praying for any 4×4 but Sarah was specifically praying for a white double cab. I figure that would be too expensive and we would never get it, but it was exactly what I wanted. We then saw a Facebook post about a white double cab that a missionary couple was selling because they were moving back home to Canada in a hurry. The truck is worth about 80 000 pula and they were selling it for 60 000 because they needed to sell it quick. The only problem is I didn’t have the money. Also, we had just spent our last money on our tickets home to the States to visit family and supporters for our furlough. We bought it months early so the cost was much less, but now we were basically out of money, so I just decided to let the truck go. The next week, in our leadership meeting, it was mentioned that I still needed a truck and someone pointed out the one on Facebook was a great price for exactly the truck we were praying for and shouldn’t we buy it. When I mentioned that I had no money, the leadership team decided that they were going to buy it for me. My response, “You’re going to do WHAT?” They said they wanted to buy it now and that I would raise the money to pay them back while I was in the States and they had faith that it would all work out. I resisted a little, because I had been fundraising for a truck for over a year and nothing had come in, and what’s more, I still needed to raise funds when I get to America to cover the tickets to fly there. In the end, they convinced me that the price on the vehicle was so good that if they had to, they could turn around and sell it for a profit so I shouldn’t worry about it.
I picked up THE truck, which, since I didn’t pay for it, I was not calling it MY truck yet. I asked the leadership if they wanted to put it the name of the ministry and park it at the church when I was not using it for outreaches, but they just said that was a waste of time and that it was MY truck and I just needed to accept that and put it in my name. Gotta love that! So I drove MY truck home in MY name and I hadn’t paid a dollar for it. By the way, when the missionary learned the truck would be used for the ministry, he dropped the price to 50 000. My wife took a picture of the new truck, and sent it, along with the story of how we got it back to our friends and supporters in America and that’s when the money started to come in. I have already used the truck on two outreaches to remote churches and I have two more coming up.
As it stands now, our tickets home have been paid for, and about a third of the cost of the truck has come in as well. We fly home in about a month, full of joy and anticipation about how the Lord is going to provide this time… And the next time, and the next time…
I wonder if I will ever graduate from the school of “faith for finances”.
Kevin Witt (Lobatse, Botswana)
If and when this Testimony has spoken into your heart, please go to the Commitment page.