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A gift isn’t always free!


The Christian mind runs to the cross.  Christ’s sacrifice was an act of free grace.  It cost life, tortured pain, shame, being forsaken by God for our Savior.  And the Father; what He asked but did not require of Abraham – God gave His Son.  The cross was a most costly gift.

In Vine’s world gifts given freely are not free!  I have had this bit of counseling on at least four occasions this week.  Please accept what I say based on direct experience with out getting upset.  The desire is to improve ‘our serve’.

IS Guatemala needy, Yes.  Poverty level is well above 50%.  Some inner city barrios and agricultural areas suffering drought are much higher.  Short term teams come, see needs and with God given compassion they want to help.  Home they go with that heart desire.

Anecdote.  A team goes home finds a sale at Home Depot on ceiling fans, buys them for about $20 a piece (good deal).  Sends them to a missionary with church planting mission in a tropical country so they can cool the congregation while listening to the preaching (buen idea).  Shipping cost another $20 a piece.  No communication with the pastor (surprise gift won’t he be pleased?!).  Customs agent hands him a bill for almost $10 per unit – pastor still doesn’t know what is waiting for him.  Customs brings out five fans.  They are wired for US electricity 110 v.  This country has 220v electricity so the in country missionary had to buy step down transformers for each unit so $60 x 5 equals $300.  220v ceiling fans cost less than $20 in that country… the missionary could have bought a fan for every church he had planted and had gas money left over if the team had sent a donation of $300.  Confession: I participated in these kind of gifts.  Missionaries never complained – they have learned to not offend donors by refusing ‘gifts’.  It wasn’t until MedEquip Missions that I started looking with a critical eye at this issue.   One of the relationships that Jim Moore, Cindy and I were blessed with in that first year 1994 was Technical Exchange for Christian Healthcare, Inc (TECH).  A group of 10 (+/-) full time medical missionaries got tired of seeing Junk for Jesus in the clinics and hospitals they served and formed this organization (now over 100 members).  They developed a set of standards, seen on the webpage (click on ABOUT, fourth line in the drop box).

This will not be a complete discussion on this subject – I would take up your weekend!  It is advice from one who loves missionaries AND one who loves those who care enough to support the causes my missionary family is involved in.

1.) Vine International  our mission is to ship materials, medicine and equipment to help medical missions here in Guatemala.   EVERYTHING I am pointing out Vine has learned through pain and embarrassment.  We have done it wrong at least once.  And I think Bruce White and Woody Woodson with 25 years of experience would say we are still learning.  Once I had a team of three ladies come to the warehouse (bodega).  One was quiet, two started telling me how to ship containers, get involved with water projects, several other things and they wanted me to help them ship a very large piece of medical equipment that had been stored for several years.  To this day we don’t have a hospital project that could afford to install that unit, pay the electric bill to run it each month.  I will buy Cindy a pizza if the thing even worked after being stored in the fashion it was.  Here is the thing.  I haven’t heard again from those two/my questions were not well received (how many containers do you ship this year – none – last year – none….does the machine work?).  The third lady, the quiet one has a heart for medical missions and is doing it right.  There will be children later this year benefit from a cleft palate team that ministry is bringing down.  They have worked in the region, sent good advance teams, willing to work with nationals… and don’t do Junk for Jesus!

2.) get relational with the missionary.  If able  come work with them a few times before dumping a lot of stuff on them, even money.  Observe.  Funnel your communication through the local missionary.  Here for example you might see a need and say to the national ‘I am going to see if I can help’  To you and to nearly everyone in the USA that means, “you are going to TRY to help.”  To the national they are watching the mail box and when your help doesn’t come – they contact the missionary here to see when that help is coming and they contact, and they contact and because they interpreted your TRY for a PROMISE then you and by default the missionary becomes a liar.  Hard to witness for Christ when that is your reputation.   I know life long missionaries who refuse  short term teams because of this.

3.) Newsletter/ blog/ facebook however they get their news out – get on it.  Don’t comment on everypost or respond to every newsletter but folks write us a note once in awhile – it gets lonely away from your children and grandchildren.  Remember if you change email accounts they will not know it unless you tell them.  Also very important – I pray for some folks in places where being one of us is dangerous.  When their news comes it comes with a request to not share without clearing through them.  PLEASE, please if you are involved with someone in that kind of situation DO NOT compromise.  Putting a note on the churches website has shut down ministry opportunities – enough said.

4.) If you have a thought, see a need that you believe you are called to answer – don’t surprise the missionary!!!  pensive smile —  Discuss in detail.  An example, you want to send Bibles to Guatemala.  Somebody donates (they are truly freeeeee) English Bibles.  There might be a limited need interestingly, but Spanish is the language here and there are at least two publishing companies here that print Bibles.  You may also be supporting a Mayan region that has the Bible in their native tongue.  So consider buying the Bibles here, supporting local company and economy.  NOW to take it one step further, there is a group of Guatemalans in western NC I understand that are Maum – the Bible is translated and printed in their language now, maybe you should buy Maum Bibles here and take them back???  You cannot make good decisions without discussing with the missionary on the ground.

5,) “Missionaries can use anything.”  Would you please bow your head, and say with me, Father in Heaven this thought has come to my mind.  I have heard Christian friends say it even.  But Lord my brother Dennis McCutcheon in Guatemala says this is a lie, smells like sulfur smoke straight from the pits of hell. Please Lord when this thought comes to mind cast it far from me.  Amen and amen.   OK that may be just a little drastic (Jim Moore says, “no it ain’t”).   Missionaries have fostered this attitude by receiving “anything”.  Use this test.  I call that missionary brother/sister.  What I have to give would I give it to my blood brother or sister?  It is true we can use some things that would be castoff, even go to the dump in the USA, especially true in medical equipment.  BUT again, talk to the missionary.  Different regions/countries have different rules.  Untreated lumber, used clothing here will get a container stopped for a long time in customs/fumigation fees or worse.  You may be able to hand carry the cloths through the airport if you are supporting an orphanage and it work fine.  Make a true friend of the missionary God is calling you to support – not like a ‘friend’ on Facebook.

6. Some countries are ahead of others in business and manufacturing.  In medicine does your team displace the local doctor?  Can you buy cheaper or same price the product you need, school supplies, food, Bibles etc from local resources helping the local economy or the families in the church that sponsors your team?  Even from the best of hearts your free gift can be costly.  Relationship, communicate with the missionary with whom you are going to serve.

After cutting 500 words in editing, this is longer than most people today are going to read – so enough for now.

Thank you so much for continued support.

In Christ,

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    04/03/2017 16:59

    Well said brother.


  2. Jamie Waller permalink
    05/03/2017 16:36

    Thanks Dennis. This is important information and a difficult discussion to have with friends back in the states- Blessings-


    • 05/03/2017 20:59

      Hello Jamie,
      When I had MedEquip Missions I would volunteer for career missionaries to be the bad guy. I had a few that would not receive equipment unless it was tested and refurbished by us. If the donor did not agree then they refused the donation. I am no longer in the stated to provide that service. BUT this I would say to you – break this down in a binary decision making. The donor cares for you OR NOT! Some care for the tax right off and are looking for a chump – let them find another chump. Some care for you ministry – next binary decision. Will they accept your advice and opinion… Yes work with them and train them. IF they are smarter than you are (evil grin) and won’t take instruction and worse tell you from their LazyBoy recliner how to do the ministry that God called you to cut them loose brother.
      God tests us all the time. Those testings are for our benefit and possibly those you must deal with. IT is hard casting off a donor… but if said ‘donor’ sucks up resources by giving you garbage or a lot of headaches – who are we trusting? the donor or our LORD?
      Jesus never said it was easy, jajaja. Love the work you do brother. Keep it up. Dennis


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