I’m glad to report that the International Mission Board takes good care of its 3,600 missionaries. In this post I’ll explain the many ways in which the IMB does this. Again, if you did not read my profile, my wife and I served with the IMB in Southeast Asia for 24 years. We retired from the IMB in 2014.
Medical and Dental Coverage. The IMB provides 100% coverage for medical and dental services while the missionaries are on the field. If the needed medical care is not available locally (often the case), the IMB pays for the missionary to go to a city or another country where the care is available. If necessary, the IMB will pay for the missionary to return the USA for specialized treatment.
Retirement Benefit. The IMB pays into the missionary’s Guidestone retirement account each month.
Life Insurance. The IMB provides group life insurance for its missionaries.
Social Security. The IMB assists the missionaries with their Social Security payments.
Member Care. The IMB provides trained counselors for its missionaries on the field. In the parlance of missions, this is called Member Care. There are member care counselors assigned to each region of the world, and they are available to help individual missionaries and missionary families with pastoral counseling.
Transportation. The IMB provides transportation for its missionaries to and from their fields of service. The IMB also provides appropriate local transportation on the field. The IMB provides vehicles for many missionaries, while other missionaries in metropolitan areas may receive a transportation allowance for public transportation. This latter is usually the case in the large cities of Asia.
Housing. The IMB provides the missionary with housing on the field. In a large city, this may be an apartment, while in a rural area it would be a house. The missionaries provide their own furniture and appliances.
Ministry Budget. The IMB allocates funds for ministry to each missionary. These funds can be used to buy Bibles, gospel tracts, discipleship materials, and other things necessary for ministry.
Children’s Schooling. The IMB pays the school expenses for the missionaries’ children. Often, this means the IMB pays for the home schoolbooks and materials. In some places, a school for missionary kids is available—like Grace Christian Academy in Thailand and Rift Valley Academy in East Africa. Either way, the IMB pays. If a child goes away to Rift Valley Academy, then the IMB pays for the school and transportation. The IMB also provides educational consultants in each region to assist with schooling.
College Scholarship. The IMB provides college scholarships for missionary kids who return to the USA for college. The scholarship fund does not cover everything, but it is a help.
Stateside Assignment (Furlough). Missionaries return to the USA periodically for their stateside assignments. In the old days, we called this “furlough.” The duration of the stateside assignment depends on how long a missionary has stayed overseas. If a missionary serves overseas for 48 months, the missionary returns for a 12-month stateside assignment. The stateside assignment is not a vacation; rather it is a time for a reunion with family and friends, reporting to the churches, recruiting new missionaries, refitting, and sometimes retraining. During our first two furloughs, I studied for my Ph.D. at Southwestern Seminary, and my wife earned a master’s degree in library science. We both used our advanced training in seminaries in Southeast Asia. All missionaries on stateside assignment speak in churches, camps, and conferences. Medical missionaries use their time back in the states to keep their medical licenses and certificates current. Missionaries continue to receive their salary while on stateside assignment.
Salary and Field Parity Supplement. All the missionaries receive the same base salary. Beyond that, missionaries also receive a field parity supplement. In the old days, this was called the “cost of living allowance.” The cost of living varies considerably from nation to nation. For example, the cost of living in Japan is much higher than the cost of living in Nigeria. So, the IMB pays more money to the missionaries in Japan. The goal is that the missionaries will have equal purchasing power in every country. Missionaries also receive a seniority raise every five years.
Retirement Benefit. When missionaries retire, they receive a one-time payment to help them purchase what they need back in the USA. The amount of this benefit is based on the years of service with the IMB.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions provides most of the funding for these benefits. As I wrote in my last post, I was a grateful beneficiary of the Lottie Moon Offering. As an IMB missionary, I felt secure, knowing that the IMB and Southern Baptists would provide for our needs. As you give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year, I hope you’ll thank God for the opportunity to support and care for our missionaries around the world.