Thank you so much for your thoughtful question. First of all, I have to say that I deeply respect the fact that you are asking this question. It can be so easy, especially in the Western world where we are often coming from positions of affluence, to quickly jump to finances as an answer. The fact that you are asking questions about safeguarding and thinking about what is best for him shows a high level of awareness.
It sounds like your friend is doing incredible work and touching many lives. You mentioned that he does not ever ‘hint’ for donations, but that you know finances are limiting. In regards to this, I would encourage just listening to him and how he expresses the needs of the ministry. Of course, you may already be doing this, but we are often looking at needs through our Western lens or perspective. I have seen this many times with Westerners working with organizations abroad. They may, for instance, think a new building is needed to expand the work. While a local may be perfectly content gathering under a tree to teach. Truly listening and hearing his voice and opinions is so important in a cross-cultural context. I think it is one of the most valuable gifts we can give another, especially in this context. And it is a crucial piece in safeguarding against dependency and imposing things that are not truly needed.
You also mentioned that you and your wife have differing views on where to put the put the majority of your giving, whether local or international and that you ache to do more for your friend’s ministry. My guidance or safeguard there would be to trust that your friend’s ministry is truly the Lords. It is His to provide for; you do not have to take the burden of meeting all of the needs, even if you are able. Listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing him to guide you and your wife as you make these decisions, I believe, is critical. I have many times been in situations where my privilege and financial wealth feels like a weight. I know that I could easily ‘fix’ someone’s need. But I find there is freedom in giving that responsibility back to the Lord and trusting that He will meet the needs and continuing to listen to His voice as He guides me.
Another safeguard, in my opinion, is to not allow your financial contributions to be too large of a percentage of your friend’s overall support. With Wellspring International, we do this as well with our financial grants for the organizations we support. We do not want to create a dependency or for the organization to suffer greatly if we were not able to continue. We also frequently have conversations with the organizations we support about self-sufficiency and continuing to look for ways to be sustainable.
Tim, thank you again for your question. I respect your heart to want to support and honor him in the best way. I will be praying for guidance for you as you engage in this meaningful relationship with him.