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The economic downturn is pinching the budgets of mission organizations nationwide, although funding remains surprisingly stable for missionaries who raise their own support, according to experts in the field.

"I've heard nothing but bad news from every organization I've talked to," said Scott Moreau, professor of missions at Wheaton College. Over the past two decades, overall giving to missions has steadily increased, he said. "But I would not be surprised if giving were down this year."

The Christian and Missionary Alliance in March let go of 30 full-time missionaries and froze hiring at its national office. The International Mission Board (imb) of the Southern Baptist Convention has suspended two short-term programs and is slowing down admission to its career programs.

"We're working with people but may not be able to appoint them as quickly as they are ready to go," said imb spokesperson Wendy Norvelle in reference to the ministry's $300 million budget being down by almost 10 percent this year. "Many people have been told, 'No, we can't send you this year.'"

Primary funding for the imb comes from offerings taken in Southern Baptist churches and a Christmas offering. Like other organizations that pool resources, the imb is taking a harder hit than organizations in which missionaries depend on direct contributions from families and churches, according to Marv Newell, executive director of CrossGlobal Link, an association of internationally focused mission agencies.

"There is less enthusiasm to give that way," Newell said, noting that churches and families with limited resources are more likely to cut out a faceless organization than a specific missionary with whom they have a relationship.

For the same reason, he added, home ...

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September 2009

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