Deciding how to donate your money


Without fully realizing our children would one day ask me to help them with their math homework, my wife and I started a family. For about eight years, everything was going great. We had three beautiful, healthy kids who showed signs of intelligence and not one of them asked me anything about fractions or if they could have their navels pierced.

I have never been good at math and I’m not at all pleased that someone decided to invent fractions and grow polynomials. Then, just to be mean, the Babylonians invented word problems. No wonder their society didn’t survive.

Shortly after our oldest son, Matt, entered the third grade, my wife rudely left to visit her parents in Vermont for a week and left me alone to help with our son’s third grade homework. I checked our wedding vows and saw nothing in there about math, but that didn’t seem to matter to Matt.

He read me his assignment in his cute little voice, “A circus performs four more shows during the week than it does on the weekend. Each week day, the circus performs two shows. How many shows do they perform on the weekend?” He then looked up at me with big, hopeful eyes. What he saw, however, was a grown man’s face contorting into strange spasms of confused panic.

I finally mustered, “The circus is in town?”

When considering donations to missions, it often feels like trying to find the root of a polynomial. Sometimes it’s just hard to figure out the “how” and “why.” According to the Southern Baptist Convention, the average cost of supporting one individual international missionary in 2013 is $1,000 more than the $51,000 median household income in the United States. It’s not that we doubt the numbers, it just brings up a lot of questions.

Supporting a LOGOI national missionary, on the other hand, costs $60 per year…a total of $5 per month. A LOGOI national missionary is someone who already lives there, who feels called to serve Christ with specific ministries in his or her community, and who is already surviving financially on hos or her own. LOGOI does not cover any of their living expenses. What we do very well, however, is invest in their on-the-job Bible training, in providing trusted Bible resources, and in providing good old fashioned encouragement. We do this for $5 per month, per national missionary.

Are traditional missions and missionaries worthy of your support? Absolutely. As Third John points out, we are being faithful to God when we care for the traveling teachers who pass through… Likewise, there is a strong case for investing in national missionaries who, for the most part, are doing everything traditional missionaries are doing, but at a fraction of the cost.

But back to trying to help my son do third grade math. As Matt stood there looking at me with those big wide eyes, I wondered if he could tell I was silently cursing the Babylonians. Then, I suddenly remembered Walt Disney’s Snow White on Ice was in town. I picked up the phone and called the ticket office.

“How many shows do you perform each week?” I asked. “We have two shows Monday through Friday and three shows every Saturday and Sunday,” the nice lady said. “So, how many shows would that be on the weekend?” I asked excitedly.

There was a long pause and then the nice lady said, “That would be six.”
Matt and I slapped high-five’s. Sometimes math is easy.