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From awkward to outrageous to necessary to good

Tanzanians love to talk about money, and publicly too. At the end of year service for Elliot’s school in Dodoma, parents all lined up to make very public donations to the school, even if they were very small. There were some pretty big donations too, a source of honour for the donor.

That kind of thinking is pretty foreign for Aussies who prefer not to talk about money, or at least to do so in private. Why ruin a beautiful relationship by talking about money?

Especially when it’s asking people for money. Which is what this post is about. How awkward!

Just to add to the discomfort, we’re talking about a great whack of money – $98,000 is our fundraising target for this year. That’s how much it will cost to keep us in Tanzania each year as we return.

‘98,000 dollars!’ I hear you exclaim. ‘That’s not just awkward – that’s outrageous! How much can it cost for you to live in Tanzania? What kind of groceries are you buying for $98,000?’

Fair enough too. Those questions are totally justified. You’ll be glad to know, that’s not $98,000 in living expenses! In fact, only about a third of it goes directly towards our living expenses. We live at a pretty similar standard to other university people in Tanzania, so while it’s different to that of other Tanzanians, it’s comparable with many of our Tanzanian peers. The bulk of that living allowance will go on rent – it can be pretty astronomical in Dar. (Think of house prices in Sydney or Melbourne vs Adelaide – Dar’s a much bigger place than Dodoma.)

So what about the other two thirds? You might be thinking, ‘Does two thirds of that money go on admin and overheads? That doesn’t sound like good stewardship!’

And if it was just admin and overheads, you’d be right. But actually, the money all directly benefits us in a stack of ways. So here’s an explanation. I’m hoping it’ll help you to see these amounts as necessary, and even good.

So, what does the money go towards?

  1. Up front costs. Plane flights are 10 grand straight off the bat, flying economy with a cheaper airline. There are some set up costs as well, because we’re relocating from Dodoma to Dar es Salaam.
  2. Long-term costs. CMS Australia is obligated by the Australian government to pay us super, but they want to do more than that. They put some money aside each year so that when we return to Australia down the track, we’re not left penniless without a home or furnishings, as many missionaries have been in the past. It’s one way they look after us.
  3. Pastoral care. The way they care for their people is a distinctive of CMS Australia. We know lots of missionaries, and we know how many of them stress about what to communicate to their partner organisation about their needs. We have never felt that way. When I needed counselling heading into Callum’s birth, I never hesitated to tell CMS, and they did not hesitate to send me. One of the ways CMS builds such trust with its missionaries is by sending a CMS person to visit us each year, to see how we’re really doing – in a way you just can’t see on Skype. To give an example, we’d been telling CMS that we hoped to live in the same suburb as the TAFES office, because of the security, safety and stress issues to do with traffic in Dar. They were open to that on Skype, but they were completely convinced of it when the CMS guy spent two days in Dar on his way to visit us in Dodoma. But of course, you’re talking more plane flights for that level of pastoral care.
  4. Home front. Some of the money contributes to the cost of running the CMS national office as well as the regional office in South Australia. These guys do things we couldn’t, like organising events in Adelaide (such as the dinner coming up), and things we’re just not that good at, like finances, legal stuff, and risk management. That frees us up and makes our life a lot less stressful!

In other words, the whole $98,000 doesn’t end up in our pockets, and rightly so, but it does all benefit us, through the outstanding CMS Australia network.

So where are things at currently?

At the moment, we’re at about 75% of that $98,000. In other words, about a quarter of the days we’re in Tanzania are unsponsored. Would you like one of them?

If you divide that $98,000 by 365, you get about $270 – which is how much it costs to keep us in Tanzania for one day. We invite people to sponsor a day, and not just any day, your day! Choose your birthday, or Star Wars day, whatever.

But choose a specific day, and tell us, because we’ll want to write to you to thank you for your partnership, tell you what we’ve done with that day, and ask how we can be praying for you. It’s still best if you give in regular monthly donations of about $23 a month, but this is a concrete way of reminding us all that money is really just a token of real relationship.

Coming up, we’re going to share some stories from people who do have a day. We hope it’ll inspire others to want one too!

Categories: Bits Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

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