What’s it Cost to Become a Missionary?

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cost to become a missionary

I sat there in a pew, listening to my cousin share about my mom, who’d recently passed away.

After sharing beautiful things about her close relationship with my mom in her early years, my cousin changed course.

“Then God took her away from me, and I felt the real loss of her influence in my life.”

She was sixteen when my parents became missionaries, living the next twenty-one years of their lives in the Philippines.

At the time when my cousin could have used a mentor in her life, my mom, one of the only Christ-followers she knew, wasn’t there.

Don’t be fooled. Becoming a missionary has a high cost. Sacrifices will be made by you and by those around you. (Don’t miss On Trusting God with Those We Leave Behind.)


Often, when we consider missions, we only think of the dollars and cents.

Certainly, finances are a genuine need. Yes, “business as mission” and other vocational options for kingdom impact grow in number. (See 4 Ways to be a Missionary without being a Missionary.)

But becoming a missionary sent from the United States often requires raising financial support–from $2000 a month for a single in developing countries to around $10,000 a month for a family of five in more developed nations.

In addition, you may have one-time expenses for airfare, training, a vehicle, language learning, and housing.


But there are also emotional costs.

Missionaries leave home, family, friends, culture–nearly everything they know and love–to follow God to some other place sharing the love of Jesus. They often leave high-paying jobs to make much less while serving overseas.

Some people understand why they are going. Others look at them as fanatics, crazy to be giving up so much for their religion.

Still, like my cousin, others can’t understand why they would leave those who need them at home to serve those they don’t even know somewhere else. They often miss the births and birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths of their friends and family.

I remember, as a child growing up in the Philippines, watching my mom sobbing while looking at pictures of the memorial service for her mom who died while we were away. She was unable to fly back for the event which had happened about a month earlier.

Her cost to become a missionary, decades later, still stings.

Many things are different now–but this kind of loss still affects many. Virtual connections have eased some of the pain, but watching a live stream?

Let’s be honest. It’s nothing like being there in person.

Our daughter, Kelli, was asked to return to teach at Faith Academy in the Philippines where she had served for two years. She knew if she answered that call, she would miss the birth of her younger sister’s first child.

Kelli argued with God for months, asking him to send someone else. In the end, she went and made that sacrifice. For her, it all boiled down to obedience.


In telling you all of this, I am not trying to dissuade you from following in obedience. God forbid!

But there’s a cost to become a missionary; a cost to obedience. Jesus tells us not to pretend like it’s not there, but to count it (Luke 14:28).

Missions is not an easy road. It is a path that should be taken only when God asks, “Whom shall we send?  Who will go for us?” and you answer, “Here am I, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Jesus never promised our way would be easy. He said that we should expect to suffer in this world. But directly after? He said we should not be discouraged but should take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33).

2 thoughts on “What’s it Cost to Become a Missionary?

  1. Michael fatigate says:

    I have a friend who gave up a very good career to do mission work with Glorious Missions. She leaves her mom her little sister and a baby behind. She was the only source of income for the family. What I don’t understand is why not use your money from working to do charity work. You can do so much more! Now she has abandoned her family and try’s to raise money to live and go on mission! Her mom is struggling and I bring them diapers and food while she stays at hotels around the country! If she really wanted to do mission work she could keep her job supporting her family and still do more than she is now! Makes 0 cents to abandon your family when you can do more for the homeless if you work and make money. She went from making money to raising money makes no cents seems like a life cop out! You can serve God right her in her area and not leave a baby and a young sister and mom struggling now they become the needy

    • Go. Serve. Love says:

      Michael, thanks for your vulnerability here. Though we don’t have the whole story nor will we attempt to judge it–we hear your anger around a principle the Bible does speak about: ” Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). We agree missions should always be done with regard not to just part of the Bible, but to all of it as it applies to each person’s unique life circumstances. Praying for you, your friend, and her family right now. May God give wisdom and deep compassion to all of you.

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