Something is becoming very clear to me very quickly as Malawi Reformation Network kicks off these past few months. Namely, we are not the first well intentioned group to embark on an overseas work like this and not even the first to try it in Malawi. And I thank God for that.
We have many tall and broad shoulders to stand on because of the faithful work of men and women who have gone before us. We have learned many things about this work in just a few months and it should be noted that we have so far not had to learn much the hard way. Here is just one example, there are a number of others already.
A very generous and knowledgeable Christian Family Foundation board member helped me understand the complexities of Cross Border Giving. That is, giving money to work outside of the U.S. The issue here is that those who are giving money away are wisely doing so with a desire for tax deductibility. Because of this, one of the first things we did was obtain a 501(c)(3) non-profit status from the IRS. But that was not enough. Had we done this alone, and then a donor gave money to MRN, which we in turn sent to a church plant in Malawi, the IRS may have had cause to disqualify the tax deductibility of the gift because the church in Malawi is not a registered U.S. non-profit organization. This is known as a conduit transaction where the 501(c)(3) in the U.S. exists only to shield gifts to off shore causes.
Now, you might read this and say, “well that’s okay, I would give a few hundred dollars to MRN without a tax deduction”. And that would be a kind response. But for large family foundations who might be found to have participated in something like this; it could end up disqualifying much or all of the work they do. Giving to overseas causes is serious business and getting things set up right on the front end is crucial to building momentum in the fund-raising effort.
So before I could even start my research on the matter, I received two books in the mail sent to me by the same family foundation board member. These helped move us in the right direction and ultimately to an excellent attorney who has written up all of the appropriate by-laws, policies and documents to ensure that we are acting according to all appropriate laws and rules. This attorney will also review our activity annually to insure that we remain on the right side of these rules.
I could not be more thankful for this man’s time and expertise. He is very busy and took a number of hours to correspond with me and talk on the phone. I see this as God blessing MRN in its early stages. Please pray for continued excellent advice and friends like this in the months ahead. Also, please pray that God causes growth in men who are called to preach the true Gospel in Malawi and in His people in Malawi who are hungry to hear it.
Chairman of the Board