In the past three years, the global recession has severely impacted the financial contributions of individuals to non-profit organizations. Also, the increased inflation in costs of living combined with the deflation in the value of currencies has made those contributions even less profitable for international organizations, such as missions agencies. Among Southern Baptists, even with large contributions to the International Mission Board, missionary forces may face major reductions. This is not the first time the international missionary force has suffered from economic downturns.
The Great Depression depleted both missions funding and missions forces in the early 1930s. The FMB of the Southern Baptist Convention was prevented from deploying new missionaries and even from returning furloughed missionaries to their stations. Dr. T. B. Ray, Corresponding Secretary, took a voluntary 16% reduction in pay, missions on the field were asked to reduce their allocations significantly. What made the matter worse for the SBC in the 1930s, compared to today, is that the SBC agencies had a combined debt of around $6.5 million (or approx. $107 million in 2010 dollars). In North China, the missionaries were forced to cut the pay of their national workers. They began to supplement the costs of the work from their own salaries. Frank H. Connely was one such missionary.
Stationed in Tsining, Shantung, China, Frank Connely had been witnessing the great Shantung Revival even during perilous economic times. In 1934, the FMB began asking their “poor missionaries” to join with other Southern Baptists in the Hundred Thousand Club. The Hundred Thousand Club was a plea by the Convention for one hundred thousand Southern Baptists to give one dollar a month above and beyond their regular tithes. Frank Connely was up to the challenge:
Letter to Miss Coleman from Frank H. Connely, Nov. 6. 1934, Tsining, Shantung, China
How can Missionaries afford to join the Hundred Thousand Club? you ask. It’s the easiest thing in the world, for we Missionaries are rich. We are not poor as some poor deluded folks at home are inclined to think. We have many advantages over some rich folks in America too. They have to worry about where to invest their money to make it safe and draw dividends. Then ofttimes their banks bust and the businesses fail and their capital and interest are gone. We Missionaries are rich, yet we have no such worries. Closing banks and failing businesses which eat up our capital and starve out our interest, are the least of our worries. We invest our capital and have a real Guarrantor that our capital won’t be lost or wasted. Who, but our Father. We are His sons and all the wealth of the world is His. We have all we want to eat and all we want to wear and all the houses we need to live in. Truly we are taken care of in every physical way and then are paid the highest interest rate on our money of any people in the world, in spiritual gifts.
Do we missionaries have to make a sacrifice in order to join the Hundred Thousand Club? By no means. Our Father has given us sufficient for this and above. It’s the easiest thing in the world, for our bank account is in His hands and thus it makes it simple to write out a check for that small sum.
So please don’t talk about poor Missionaries, but talk about a lot of Poor Christians in the churches at home. They are a lot worse off that some of the Land Poor Banks we read of at home. Praise the Lord, our assets aren’t frozen, and because of Christ’s mercy, neither are our hearts in that condition. Every need is satisfied and every check is honored by the Great President of our Bank.
Yes, Many thanks for the privilege of joining with the other 99,999 to wipe out the debts.
Frank H. Connely
Do you live the American dream and fear losing your possessions and wealth? Then you might have a heart frozen over! Trust in God, not your possessions, then you can give all and lose all and still possess all–God Himself!