A look inside missionary support by Travis Sharpe

How it all works

After a recent post I made about our family losing a supporting church, I have had tons of comments, texts and other messages from friends telling us they they were praying for us. I am so grateful for those prayers. As a matter of fact, I believe those prayers are what carry us in the good and bad times.

In this, though, I have found out that there are a lot of people that don’t understand the processes behind how a missionary gets paid. What he does with the “support”.

I know that before I became a full time missionary I really thought that missionaries used all the money they received to “buy Bibles”. It never dawned on me that they also, like every other family, had to pay the bills. They too have rent, food, clothing, etc.

Our situation is a little bit unique because we also operate a non-profit ministry, (Unsheltered International). But for the most part we operate just like other missionaries do.

So, with that in mind, I thought I would break it down for you and give you some insight to how our finances work.

How our family is funded

April and I have been missionaries since 1999. When God called us to work with the homeless on a full time basis, we knew we would have to make some changes. I wouldn’t be able to continue to work a secular job and fulfill our calling as missionaries.

On a side note, most missionaries I know are tireless workers. We are not people who go into the ministry so we won’t have to have a “real job”. As a matter of fact, I began working when I was about 13. I did odd jobs for a family we were friend with who owned orange groves and cattle ranches. Although I wanted to drive tractors and work cows with the cowboys, I mainly mowed the yard, trimmed the hedges and cleaned out the gutters.

When I turned 15, I went to work at Winn Dixie as a bag boy. That later turned I to a full time position and that’s the same job I left when I went off to Bible College. I worked my way though college with a full time job and only quit secular employment when it was no longer feasible to have that job and fulfill my ministry calling.

My point is that missionaries are generally hard workers who gave up steady employment and a guaranteed paycheck in order to follow Gods will for their life.

We knew we would t be able to just go out on our own and raise support. We needed instruction and accountability as well. So we applied to a missionary organization in Jacksonville, FL called Baptist Missions to Forgotten Peoples. BMFP is a missions agency that helps missionaries fulfill their calling. The provide training and they also serve us by collecting our monthly donations from our supporters. When a donation is sent for the Sharpe family to BMFP, they process it, write a tax deductible statement to the donor and then deposit it into our account at the end of the month.

As missionaries, we go around to the churches and present our ministry to them in hopes that they will partner with us prayerfully and financially. If a church or individual decides to support our family, they begin sending their donation to BMFP where it is processed for us.
What do we use that money for? The same thing every other family does! We have a family budget too. We must pay rent/mortgage, car payments, food, clothing, insurance, taxes, and everything else.

Our monthly budget is based upon the amount of support that comes in. When a church drops our support, we then have to visit more churches to replenish what was lost.

We pay taxes both state and federal because those donations are our personal income. We work very hard to operate on a bare bones budget and we cut out many things. But we also have to have some things in there that some families might not. We have to allow for extra travel costs, extra meal costs, motel stays, and a host of other ministry related expenses.

Sometimes churches will send extra support for projects to our mission board and we use it for the project but for the most support sent to BMFP is for our family to pay the bills.

How our ministry is funded

I work as the President of Unsheltered International. It’s a 501c3 ministry that we started to help the homeless and victims of disaster. I don’t receive a salary from this organization. My “salary”, as stated above, is from our family supporters.

We also are tasked with the job of raising support for UI. We raise support by visiting churches, holding fundraisers, etc. the money we raise for UI is used to carry out our ministry. Of course there is some overhead involved such as offices and so on, but most of the money raised for UI goes directly to our ministry programs. We feed the poor. We build homes for storm victims overseas. We hold events to help the homeless. We preach the gospel to the poor and homeless. We do lots of things through the ministry of UI.

To sum it up

To sum it up, the finances are different. Donations to UI go directly for the programs and the expenses associated with those programs. Donations for the Sharpe family sent to BMFP, our mission board, go to the Sharpe family so we can function as missionaries.

Lastly, I want to thank each of you who have had any part whatsoever in supporting our family and or our ministry. We are grateful for your involvement and we don’t take it for granted. We know it’s the goodness of God and the generosity of our supporters who make it possible for us to fulfill our calling.

What our family is doing now

Our support has fluctuated greatly. With a tough economy, we have lost several supporting churches in the last four years. Our support level is at about 60% of what it needs to be right now. So, out of necessity, we are taking the next several months to hit the road and raise the needed support. We praise The Lord for a busy schedule and lots of appointments so far.

It is a long process and we hate to spend so much time on this but it is necessary. We have BIG plans for next year so we are praying that everything we need will be supplied by the end of 2014.

Thanks for reading. I hope you found it insightful and I hope you will pray for and support your missionaries who serve in many capacities all around the world.

Travis Sharpe