An important and commendable feature of the early church was a social conscience, in particular, with respect to fellow believers in practical need. The daily ministration for widows is an example of this. True, it ran into difficulty but prompt action resulted which put the arrangement on a firm and fair footing. That spirit of care and share is a feature in many aspects of Christian service today and the Retired Missionary Aid Fund is a good example.
By the end of the 19th century, some of the early assembly missionaries had returned to the homelands. Since their names were no longer on the Echoes of Service list, there was a danger of their needs being forgotten by busy christians, although never by their Heavenly Father. Some were seen to be in straitened circumstances.
In the year 1914 the Lord laid it upon the heart of a few brethren to launch a fund for the purpose of directing financial help to retired missionaries. Three brethren, Mr. A. Boake, of Loughton, Dr. E. B. Roche, of Norfolk and Mr. W. T. Bilson, of Buckhurst Hill, were the joint founder members of the Retired Missionary Aid Fund.
The Fund is independent of any other missionary body but works in close association with Echoes of Service and is administered by a council of fifteen trustees who meet once a year. The day to day running of the Fund is largely the responsibility of the Hon. Treasurer and Secretary. As a registered charity it adheres to the scrutiny placed upon charities by the Charity Commissioner for England and Wales.
The Fund is supported by gifts from assemblies, from individuals and by legacies. A recent review of income over the past ten years revealed that nearly half came from legacies, about 9% from assemblies, 12% from individuals and 32% from investments. At the present time there are about 60 missionaries listed on Echoes Daily Prayer Guide who were commended before 1960. All of these are now past state retirement age, some of them well past it! If they all decided to retire the RMAF would have a very significant extra number to help.
Retired missionaries who were commended by assemblies of believers in the British Isles who have served a significant number of years in a foreign mission field. When they retire through age or ill health the Fund channels gifts entrusted to it to help towards their support. Gifts are sent out each quarter together with an informative letter prepared by the Secretary, and other newsletters. Since the cessation of the Widows and Orphans of Missionaries Fund the RMAF has included in its number those previously supported by that Fund. All the widows are of retirement age. One young widow and her son have recently returned to the mission field and have been re-instated in the Echoes Prayer Guide. Not all the members of the family are in need of financial help but all enjoy the fellowship of information and news that is made available through the newsletters and list of names and addresses of the RMAF ‘family’. At the present time 220 names are listed. Through the Fund’s Parcels Service birthdays are remembered and Christmas and Easter gifts are distributed to those who can use them.
At the present time 220 names are listed in our family. Our oldest member is 104 years old, another becomes a centenarian this year, DV, and some 13 others have passed the age of 90. It is encouraging to hear how active many still are in the Lord’s work either in their local assembly or in making periodic visits to their former field of service. A missionary never retires! Sadly, quite a few have severe physical restrictions, even some younger members. The prayer fellowship encouraged by newsletters is greatly appreciated. Some abroad either in the country of their service or for personal reasons to be near to their immediate family.
Two copies of the Quarterly Prayer and Newsletter are sent along with the Medical Missionary News magazine and the Brass Tacks magazine to each assembly. The Fund also produces a Name and Address list of the Family and a quarterly briefing called ‘Family News’. The names are listed by days of the month and this carries news on individuals and encourages prayer on their behalf. These are made available to individual supporters of the Fund as well as to the Family. If you would like to receive this information on a regular basis the Secretary, Mr. P. C. Smart, 5 Beaconhill Drive, WORCESTER WR2 6DL, will be pleased to provide it.