Soaring fuel prices are affecting missionaries

By June 18, 2008

International (MNN) — The price of a barrel of crude oil was only $10. Yesterday, oil prices climbed to just under $140 a barrel — a new high. That despite the Saudis saying they would increase oil production by a half million barrels a day. High cost for oil translates into higher fuel prices, and mission organizations are feeling the pinch.

In part three of our series on the fuel crisis, we're taking a look at how the run-away prices are affecting missionaries at home and abroad.

President of Wycliffe Associate Bruce Smith says the first to feel the skyrocketing prices are workers on the field. "As prices go up, typically their support does not go up. And so they're feeling pinched in terms of the budgets and their ability to sustain things. They've been paying a lot more for gasoline than we have here in the U.S. for a long time already. At this point, they're paying three or four times as much per gallon as we are."

According to Smith, that forces missionaries to make changes. "In many cases this just means they have to curtail travel. In other cases it just means that it digs into other ministry funds that would normally be available for other purposes, they have to spend on fuel."

Most missionaries aren't able to raise additional support until they return home on furlough. "Typically that happens on a three to four-year cycle for most missionaries that are overseas," says Smith. "They've got to endure this inflation over a four-year period before they can come back on their normal-scheduled furlough to convey that information."

In the meantime, evangelism, church planting, discipleship, or in their case, Bible Translation, is affected.

Missionary Neal Hicks with The Mission Society says, "It just makes things more challenging and stretches our faith."

National workers seeking higher education are significantly affected, says Slavic Gospel Association's Eric Mock. "We've seen a decrease in the number of students going to the Bible Institutes and seminaries that we support just because the ability to take care of a family requires much more work beyond what ministry support can provide."

Fuel prices are also affecting ministries working in cold climates like Alaska. SEND International's church ministries director Barry Rempel says while all of SEND workers are being affected by the higher costs, "None of this–whether it's fuel or whatever circumstances–none of it catches God by surprise. And even now we've seen God supply in dramatic ways, and we're grateful for that and rest in the fact that if God's called us to this ministry, God is going to supply what we need."

In part four of our series, we'll take a look at how high fuel prices are affecting short-term mission trips.


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