Single and ignorant

  Are you single?  Are you in ministry at your church or an organization, either at home or overseas?  Are you dedicating your time to serving God? Are you involved in your local church?

  We should be all that and more. We need to be part of community. We need to be helping out when we see a need. We need to be dedicating our time to serving God in various ways.

  If you are self-seeking, looking for friends and a good time, then you are ignorant.  As a Christian we need to seek the Lord.  Not only singles but everyone, needs to be seeking the Lord and how to serve Him. 

  There is another ignorance that I want to discuss here.  Are you aware of your surroundings?  Are you aware of who are you influencing?  Are you aware of who you may be hindering? Are you listening to authority in your spiritual walk?

  We sometimes understand the first point and throw ourselves whole-heartedly into serving the Lord. Helping in our churches. But then we forget the second part.  We are blind to the fact that we are hurting families. We are blind to the fact that we are hurting marriages. We will work hard in a ministry right alongside the pastor, youth pastor, associate pastor, worship pastor, or whomever may be in charge of the ministry. We are ignorant to the looks we receive from others. We need to be careful.  We can cause rumors to be spread about these men in leadership. We can even cause them to stumble. We must be aware. 

  Yes, throw yourself into ministry. But don’t be alone in the same office with a man. No matter how old or in love he is with his wife.  Don’t joke with him as a brother, no matter how much you have no intentions for him.  Many ministries are hurt by single women not being aware of how it looks.  They don’t mean to hurt a marriage. They don’t mean to break up a church. They never mean to fall in love with someone else’s husband.  But then it happens.  Being alone together, working on the same goal, you like each other. You depend on each other, and then you fall for each other. 

  Single women: Don’t be ignorant of this potential pitfall.  You may have pure intentions, but in the end it causes pain on so many levels.

  I have seen missionaries leave the field, divorce, church leaders crash, churches split, and families hurt, all because of single women not being careful about boundaries.

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changes

I sense change is in the air,

the signs are all around me.

But change is not what I must fear,

although I dread it greatly.

Years ago I made a pledge

to go where He would send.

If that should me I leave this land

which I have grown to love so dear

or leave this region, home and friends

to live in a new place,

then I should heed my Saviour’s call

and pack up all my things.

Yet my heart breaks to think of it

as I have settled in this place

I’ve learned the language, the dress,

the culture, the attitudes and needs.

I’ve found a niche in which to serve

that fills a need so great.

Though I trust my God and His plan

it seems counterproductive.

So change is coming, but what it is

I do not yet comprehend.

Will others leave and new ones come

or will I too move on?

Give me peace, Lord.

Give me hope, and comfort in the unknown.

Let me trust Your plan and know it’s best

even when I don’t understand.

Are you my friend ?

Being a missionary is often a lonely calling.  Some of us are fortunate to live in a great community of other missionaries, others work in a place where they are alone.  But to be alone is defined in many ways. I can be alone when I am surrounded by a crowd of people. I can be alone because there is no one like me for 100 miles. I can be alone because I am fighting a spiritual battle and have isolated myself from others.

A missionary is always alone in some way or another because very few have experienced what he/she has experienced.  Whether in their homeland or their “other” home, they are different than most people around them.  But we need friends.

We need support from coworkers, our agency, nationals, and supporters. We need friends that are there for us not just praying but also asking questions, even when they cannot understand the answer.  I ran across a great article from A Life Overseas That One Safe Friend.

I wish I had known this before. I wish I could share this with everyone that comes out here. I wish I had that friend. Since being in the middle of no where, I had friends that Have come and gone. I have some I made while they worked alongside me, but when they left the communications faded. Others have moved into authoritative roles which means I cannot bear my heart out to them like I used to. Others have faded away because life has taken them away from the Lord.

I had friends that used to ask the hard questions, but somehow this role I have has changed that. I am too far away, communication was so little for so long that we lost touch, they don’t like to write (I hate that excuse because it is the only way I can communicate!).  Some think I am a spiritual leader and they are not so they cannot ask me those tough questions. – Hey I’m human!!!

All my friends have now gotten married and I am still single. They have lives with kids and husbands and we have so little in common anymore. It is all excuses.

Anyway, I can go on and on, but I recommend you read the article and find that friend. I will be searching for my “safe friend”.

How to celebrate when it hurts?

I don’t know the answer, I just see the difficulty for so many right now.  Somehow I have not been as sensitive to this in past years as I am this year. I know of many people who are celebrating their first Christmases without loved ones.  A husband, wife, grandparent, daughter, son, or friend have passed away this year.  Christmas is a time full of memories and traditions for most of us. We remember Christmas how it used to be and try to imitate the best of those memories. But that is hard to do when our loved one isn’t around.

That first holiday alone is hard for the widows. Who will they have their morning coffee with this year? Why even cook a special meal?  The widowers didn’t even take time to pull out the decorations because their loved ones aren’t around to care.  Or the grandma in the nursing home how is very forgetful, somehow knows that her kids didn’t take time this year to visit and she tries hard to hold her head high.

We must celebrate at Christmas because it isn’t about us or traditions, it’s about our Saviour being born in fulfillment of God’s plan made so long ago. He set in motion this segment of His great design so that Christ would humble himself and come to live as a man for 33 year so that he might die to save you and I.

We must celebrate Jesus’ birthday, yet many will mourn and remember their loved ones. Those who died in Christ will be mourned in a hopeful way and that should bring comfort.  But wounds of love take time to heal and we must allow the tears of healing to flow and the memories to wash over us as treasures from the past.

Thus as we celebrate our Saviour, we must be sensitive to many in pain.

dating on the mission field

SAM_4445So can you date a national?  Are you racist if you say, “No!”  Have you considered the cultural differences?  In some mission fields the differences are striking while on other fields the differences are minimal. 

What happens if you do fall in love with a national? Is that national merely a gold-digger, looking for a passport to a better country? What will happen to your ministry? Will you have to leave the mission organization? Will you start over raising support as a couple? What nationality will your passport become?  How will other nationals view your ministry with one spouse being supported by outside help?

These are all logistical questions that go beyond the regular questions of whether or not you have chosen a good and godly mate. And even more so, they are questions that single missionaries face if they ever get the chance. Most of us have chosen to follow the Lord and give up the remote possibility of meeting someone.  When you live in a village in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people with very little education, no electricity or running water, you find that you have little in common with which to start a relationship of that level. (Don’t get me wrong, I have many close friends in the village, but I could never imagine a guy that makes $300/year supporting me as his wife!)

So we follow the Lord in Faith. Sometimes he brings an Helpmate along our paths and then we face all those logistical questions, but more often than not, we are alone. We have comfort and companionship in Christ and in Christ alone. We live a life in which our family cannot really understand us and those we minister to cannot really comprehend where we come from either.  Our co-workers which understand us a bit often are coming and going; as are we.  So in Christ and Christ alone we find solace, rest, fellowship, love, comfort, a constant friend.

cross cultural and international internet dating?

LOL, I had a serious marriage proposal last week.  It is common to have proposals, but they are usually in passing. This one was thought out and involved church leaders.  Yet it was so “wrong”. He was from a culture I know a bit of, but not much. I am from a culture he knows nothing of.  So there were several taboos in the first couple minutes of the conversation.  Like rather than just introducing yourself and getting to know someone. After telling me his name, he said He wanted to marry me!  Whoa!!  I had never met him before and he had seen me for like 10 minutes during which I translated for someone for 3 of those minutes. I was gracious and let him down nicely—I hope.  We’ll see if I continue getting phone calls.  How awkward.

Sadly this guy and many of the nationals I work with have no clue what I mean when I say there are too many cultural differences.

We had a good laugh about it, but then someone said, “You should really go home so that you can get married.”  I was taken back for a bit and then brushed off that phrase from a fellow expat.  But it stuck with me.  I wanted to lash out and say, “So I should put marriage ahead of God in my life?”  But I dropped it.

C360_2014-02-08-16-36-36-10585% of single missionaries are women. Most of us are “doomed” to stay old maids until we die. But yet we have chosen to serve and that is a blessing. We can serve with our entire self and time because we don’t have a family to care for.  Scripture talks about this.  Yet I know people who won’t come to the field because the want to be married. So, they sit in the US and wait….

Ironically I just learned about a new website — internet dating for missionaries only!  That’s scary. Cool, but scary.  you can check it out if you’d like — Called together.  How many of us will actually sign up?  Are we really that desperate?  Will some who are in the US just waiting take the bait?

Friendships

one (1)“I don’t really have any friends.”

As she said this, it caught me by surprise. I am a single missionary and often struggle with this saying, but this time I was talking to a veteran missionary who had raised her kids on the mission field.  She had her husband, her children, grandchildren, etc…  As a single woman I often struggle with loneliness and try not to be jealous of co-workers who have their families with whom they can talk and laugh  while I sit home alone and try to entertain myself.

Yet as we visited over tea at a gathering of missionaries, we found ourselves comparing notes.  In so many ways our lives are similar. Yes, she had a spouse who had been around the world with her, but still she was lonely. And yet I sensed she was content in whatever state she was in.

Going “home” is difficult for us both.  Family is spread out throughout the States. Where you came from, your sending church, has changed or closed or split. So where is your home church? I have 15 different churches supporting me, but where do I worship for more than a couple Sundays every few years?   A small group or Sunday school class to call your own—most missionaries don’t have this luxury. Our closest friends are often other missionaries and who knows when we will cross paths again?   We used to work together but have moved to new fields so now we keep in touch via e-mail and prayer letters.  Old friends from college or High School have married and moved around, so you can stop by on your way to a speaking engagement, but it becomes harder and harder to keep in touch.  Only those that truly put an effort into the relationship and care about our work seem to stay friends–friends that we see for a couple days every few years. 

The list could go on and on of things we struggle with. But how comforting to know that missionaries from around the world struggle with many of the same issues that I struggle with.  How encouraging to see them content in their situation, even when they are hurting.  Choosing to serve the Lord with gladness and to trust in Him for our emotional, physical and mental needs.