I have been asked WHO pays for missionaries to go on missions?
How do they find and pay for housing, transportation and food on their missions?
Very good questions!!!!
Short answer - The missionary!
Long answer -
Many moons ago, when my husband and brother were serving missions, each mission cost a different amount. This was 25+ years ago. A mission in South America could be under $100 a month and mission somewhere like Japan would be upwards of $800. Because the missionary or their family bears the cost, it could be quite a burden to have your son or daughter sent to one of those more "expensive" missions.
Since then, the church has equalized the cost of missions. Everyone pays the same amount every month, regardless of where they go. This makes a lot more sense.
Pre-mission: Each missionary receives a list of clothing and supplies that they will need to bring with them. You can imagine what is on the list: 10-12 white shirts (short or long sleeve, depending on the climate) 2 suits, 12 pairs of socks, 2-3 pairs of shoes. It's a masterful list. Everything has to fit in two suitcases, so there isn't room for "nice to have" items. Depending on the mission, the missionary might need a winter coat and boots, an umbrella, or 12 handkerchiefs (to wipe the sweat off your face in Cambodia). Sometimes they ask you to purchase and bring a bike with you. Or they might ask you to bring money to purchase a bike once you arrive in your mission. In the United States, these bikes might be several hundred dollars. In Cambodia, Trammell purchased a bike for $35 (the norm) at his first location. When he left one area to go to another, he left the bike for the next person. Likewise, when he arrived at his new location, the previous missionary had left him a bike. They were all junky. He purchased 2 or 3 bikes while in Cambodia. They get stolen frequently.
The missionary is also responsible for getting a passport if necessary and any required shots. Trammell had a list of 6 or 7 shots that he needed to get. The Church will take care of any necessary Visas for the missionaries.
The Church also pays to transport the missionary to and from his mission.
Mission: The monthly cost is the missionary's responsibility. The cost of the two year mission (minus all the clothes, supplies, bikes, passports etc) is roughly $10,000. At our house, we have asked the boys to pay 1/2. Garrett has had his $5,000 for quite some time and Parker already has his saved and sitting in an account. We started talking about missions a long time ago, so none of this is a surprise to the boys. They have been saving since they were little.
Each month, the money to pay for the mission goes directly to the Church. The Church then forwards on the necessary funds to the Mission President. Once in the mission field, the Church has already taken care of leasing apartments and purchasing cars (if travel by car is the norm - very rare - even in the US). It's not like your 19 year old arrives in a town and has to go sign a lease on an apartment. There are already apartments leased and places to live. The mission president gives each missionary what he has deemed necessary to live on each month. They don't pay electric, phone or gas bills. They really only use the money for food, bus fare, personal items and postage. So they don't need a whole lot. I can't remember what Trammell's amount was. I think it was $135, but in Cambodia, that can go really far. He said that he was never starving and never ran out of money, unless he had to buy a new bike. ;)
Yes, the parents can send extra money or the boys can have a personal credit card but the Church really discourages this because afterall, they aren't there for a shopping or siteseeing extravaganza. Usually, if the missionary needs something like new shoes or a new suit, his parents will purchase it and send it or they will send the necessary money for the extra expenditure. But once again, they aren't your typical 19 and 20 year olds, so they don't need a wardrobe of Nike's and Polos.
It takes a lot of planning and saving and dedication to go on a mission. It's definitely not something that you just decide when you turn 19. The preparation is lifelong.