The Story Behind Our Missionary Pension Fund

-from a seminar presented by Rhoda Keener with Marty Lehman: “Women, Faith, and Money” (Mennonite Health Assembly 2007, Lancaster Stewardship University, and San Jose Assembly 2007)

This is the story of 2 cents a week and a prayer and what became of it.

This story began with a motion passed by the General Conference church in 1926 to establish a Missionary Pension Fund – It was often referred to in those days as the Incapacitated Missionary Fund.  It was there to provide retirement funds for missionaries whose needs otherwise would not be met.

Gladys Goering, author of Women in Search of Mission, told the story of this fund in her book. She writes:

The fund grew slowly, and that it grew at all must be attributed, in large part, to the Women’s Missionary Association (WMA) which adopted it as a part of its projects in 1935.  All members were asked to contribute “2 cents a week and a prayer” for missionary pensions… It was invested by Mission board trustees at the then current rate of 2 to 4 percent interest annually.  By 1945 the fund stood at $22,600.61.

By the early 1950’s the fund had grown to $65,000.  An exchange of letters between the women’s executive and the Mission board in 1952 reveals that the trustees were becoming increasingly impatient with handling the fund separately, and suggested that the WMA give them complete control.

A motion was brought to the women by their executives at the 1952 assembly in Oregon.  The motion asked for permission to:

1.  Use the annual receipts of two cents per person per week to be used as they use the interest – thus not building the principal.

2.  That they could draw upon the principal as needed.

When the motion was read at the WMA triennial session in Oregon, the women refused to go along.  “In a rare display of independence, and rejection of the Board of Mission’s and their own Executive Committee’s leading, they argued that this was not the purpose for which they had been collecting the funds…”

Mennonite Women USA first became aware of this Missionary Pension Fund 50 years later in the fall of 2002 in a letter received from Mennonite Mission Network – this was just after the merger of GC and MC churches.  Apparently the fund had been forgotten in succeeding years, but the mission agency had continued to faithfully follow the donors’ wishes and once again wanted to deal with it.  The money by then had grown to $95,717.60.

To make a long story short – following research and even a phone call asking for consultation with Gladys Goering -, the Mennonite Women board decided they could not let down those women of 50 years ago who in a rare show of independence decided to keep control of the money.  After sharing the part with Canada that was theirs, MW USA talked with Mission Network, found unmet needs of missionaries to use this interest for (funeral travel for more than one family member and mental health R & R needs of missionaries).  In the last five years from our principal of approximately $59,000, a total amount of interest of $14,735 has been given to MMN.

This fund is set apart and invested at Mennonite Foundation. Mennonite Women USA continues as the steward of what was begun with 2 cents a week and a prayer.

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