A Dirty Little Secret of Singles on the Field

I have just returned from spending a week in Germany with a group of missionaries. While with them I lead several workshops, one of which was “Being Single in Missions.” Since I’m still jet-lagging and processing conversations we had, today I will share a post from a couple of years ago about singles and online dating. We will hear from three singles. How well does your organization make space for talking to singles about dating?

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I’m not a fan of dirty little secrets. Dirty little secrets are laced with shame and create hiding and distance.

I am a fan of having confidants and knowing how to hold a confidence. Oh the joy of being known and feeling safe enough to trust someone with a piece of yourself!

I first became aware of this dirty little secret in a conversation with married friends around a pool in Thailand. We were chatting and I mentioned a stat from some research I’d conducted for a presentation at a professional conference. During my research, I’d learned that 32% of the singles in our organization had either tried or were currently trying online dating. 

We were in a fairly large organization so this was no small number.

Online dating

With shock and a tinge of panic, they said, “No! We are going to lose too many singles to eHarmony!” That is a fairly common response from married folks on the field. Is it any wonder many singles are ashamed to admit they might want to try online dating? The result is that many singles have no idea how many others are trying it–and once they find one or two, it’s almost like they have fallen down the rabbit hole, left to wonder, “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?”

Shame from fellow servants isn’t the only pressure singles can face. On the other extreme, many folks back home want to know why a single is not on a dating site and pressure, pressure, pressure them to try and get married.

Of course, not all singles are the same and their experiences are going to vary as will their definitions of “success” when it comes to online dating. Since this topic is broad, my goal today is simply to say online dating is happening and to get the conversation started. Instead of talking in stats and hypotheticals, I contacted three singles I know who started dating someone via online dating in the last year and asked if they would share their stories with us and they agreed saying, “Finally. Finally, we as a community can talk about this!” So as to not get bogged down by whether you know them or not, I’ve changed their names. 

How long have you been on the field?

Ann: I’ve been on the field since 2003 (with a one year and a half year home assignment since then).

Beth: I was on the field for 2 years. I’m back in the States now.

Cici: I’d been serving with my organization for nine years when I signed up for eHarmony. I’d been overseas for about half of that time.

 

What factored into doing (or not trying) online dating?

Ann: I had a few friends on the field join eHarmony and they were really honest about the process, with the struggles and ups and downs of online dating including dating long distance. One of my friends on the field met her now husband on eHarmony and she really encouraged me to think about joining. I knew she didn’t suggest it lightly because she had joined eHarmony the year before with no “success.”  I felt like I had a pretty realistic and balanced view of long-distance online dating and, with a lot of prayer and consideration, I decided that I would join while I was on home assignment since had time to invest in it and could theoretically meet someone in person faster while in the U.S.

Beth: The most significant thing that factored into using online dating was the fact that there were very few single men on the field. I lived in a very small expat community and all the men my age were married. I had dabbled a little in online dating during college (but it wasn’t really successful). However, after I moved to China, I decided to try my hand again after realizing that the options on the field were very limited.

Cici: Several of my friends had met their husbands through online dating, so I knew it could work. When I decided to try it, I factored in cost, safety, and timing. When I joined eH, I was planning to be on the field for another year, and I only signed up for three months because I didn’t want it to consume my time for that long. For me the timing seemed good because I wasn’t too far away from being back in the States if I met someone, but I was far enough away from being home, that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t meet anyone. I originally looked at it as “practice” for when I got back to the States because I rarely interacted with any single men where I was living.

 

Did you feel this was something you needed (or wanted) to hide from your team or organization? Did you feel comfortable sharing it?

Ann: Since online dating is pretty common I didn’t feel like it was something I needed to hide though it wasn’t something I necessarily advertised. I’m more of a private person that way and so it wasn’t unnatural to me that I wouldn’t share it with just anyone. My close friends knew about it though.

Beth: To be honest, I didn’t tell a lot of people on my team about meeting the two guys I dated these past two years online. I felt really ashamed and lot of people were really concerned about it (online dating is seen by the Christian community as not such a great thing — or at least that’s been my experience). Only a few people knew about the first guy I met when we first started dating. However, because of my first experience, I was a little more open telling people about Ben (my current boyfriend).

Cici: I chose not to share with my teammates, but that was based on team dynamics that were already in play. I did tell former teammates about my online dating, including teammates who were still with my organization. I chose not to tell my organization at the time; however, I have been honest and open about the timeline of when I met my now boyfriend and how we met when I’ve been asked questions about my future plans and when former (but who were current when we met) teammates found out via social media.

 

What was the reaction when people heard you were trying it out? Or succeeding? (All three of you have succeeded, so to speak)

Ann: Most people, what they hear that my boyfriend and I met online, say something to the effect of “lots of people meet that way now” or “so-and-so also met their boyfriend/husband online” as if to assure me and/or themselves that it’s a common and valid way of meeting people (not something I struggled with though). I expected more people to ask me what that meant for my life/calling overseas, but I’ve been surprised at how few people ask that.

Beth: I kinda answered this above, but it wasn’t always positive. I started talking to Ben in September but we never actually met in person until I visited him in February over Chinese New Year. People were really worried about me going to Australia and visiting Ben (I had friends on the ground there and I felt comfortable with the whole situation — my friends and family all knew where I was and where I was going so I felt that I was safe enough. I had met Ben’s family on Skype so I was fairly comfortable with the whole thing.) After Ben and I met in person, people were way more open to it and very excited about it.

Cici: Everyone seemed supportive, and I think this is because it’s becoming far more common for couples to meet online. For people who didn’t even know I was dating someone until a couple of months after we begin communicating, there was definitely surprise. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that people had been receiving regular updates on my life and ministry and assumed they knew everything that was going on in my life. However, aside from family and close friends, I chose to keep my relationship private in order to maintain a distance between it and my decision to move back to the States.

 

What have been the challenges and blessings of trying online dating while on the field?

Ann: I met my now boyfriend online while I was still on home assignment. Dating long distance definitely has many challenges and it has its blessings too. Since all we can do is talk while I’m on the field and he’s back in the states, we do a lot of talking! We have lots of good conversations though I miss the opportunities to just go out and do something with him and experience life together that way. But we’re able to build a really good foundation of communication (and the fact that we spent some time together during my home assignment before I went back on the field was really helpful!) Another big challenge has been figuring out how this new relationship and my life on the field fit together, and how and when to return to the U.S. so that we’re not always long distance and we can actually be together to figure out where this relationship is going.

Beth: I did date a guy my first year in China who lived in another city in China, but it didn’t pan out. The challenge was his approach to faith/Christianity — he was really liberal and eventually said I needed to show more of a commitment in physical ways I wasn’t willing to do. This is the downside to online dating. You don’t actually know how they will approach the physical aspect to your relationship until you’re in it.

However, this past year I have seen the absolute blessings associated with online dating. Ben is the man I have been looking for my entire life. Because our relationship started on Skype and emails, we were able to be open and honest with each other. Our relationship started as a friendship first before developing into something deeper. My relationship with Ben is not founded on the physical aspect (which is something that has really tripped me up in past relationships). It’s founded on our love for the Lord and on our friendship and care for one another.

Communication is one of the strongest aspects of our relationship because we have had to work so hard to do it well since we live so far apart. I feel that this is one of the best benefits of online dating. You really get to know someone and who they are. Ben is from Australia and I’m from the US, so it’s been challenging, but because we started this relationship at a distance, it’s made it easier dealing with it since we know it will eventually end (he’s moving to the US sometime next year).

Cici: The challenge for me was how time-consuming it was. It can be like having a part-time job, which was a little stressful when I was trying to prepare to move back to the States. However, it was also a welcome distraction from all of the drama that was going on in my life at the time. Waiting for communication and emails because of the time difference was difficult as well, especially the more I got to know my now boyfriend. Another blessing was feeling like I had a personal life that not everyone was privy too. Much of my life is public knowledge, and I appreciated being able to get to know someone without everyone at home or on the field watching.


Ann, Beth, and Cici thank you for sharing your experiences with us and for helping to remove some of the shame singles might experience in this area.

For the rest of us, what could online dating for singles on the field mean?

  1. Let your single friend or teammate bring up the subject. Just like a married couple may or may not want to discuss infertility, some singles will want to talk about online dating a lot (maybe too much for your taste) and others not at all.
  2. Try not to use language like “we’re losing so many singles to online dating.” This elevates location and current assignment over following God and tends to shut down conversations.
  3. Write your prayers, run your prayers, bake your prayers, however you best pray, pray for singles and the pressures they face when it comes to dating, not dating, leaving the field, and staying on the field. Pray that above all else, that they may know the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in them, the hope of glory.
  4. Might I remind us of the obvious: singles aren’t just women, they are men too. I know this post is female heavy and hope to hear from men so that we can learn from your experience as well.

 

The Ineligible Bachelor Overseas

By Dave Parker

I began what I thought would be a long career as a single male missionary in 2002. My years of education and preparation got me through many challenges, but when I arrived, I was not ready for the impact of cultural gender roles.

I soon learned I was an enigma in the culture. At the age of 32, most men are married and have children. So to arrive single, white and rich (according to their economy) set me up for some interesting interactions. It was assumed I could bless my neighborhood. It was taken for granted in the markets I could pay more. And everyone assumed I needed help finding a wife.

One of the staples in West Africa is rice and sauce. Vendors typically place themselves under large mango trees. They have spent the morning cooking rice and sauce over wood fires. For the equivalent of 25 cents, you could purchase a heaping plate of rice and sauce. So being poor (by American standards), it was a great bargain.

There was a mango tree outside the gate where I worked. Each day, the nationals who were constructing our new office building would gather to eat. I often joined them, but I noticed the guys were going out earlier and earlier, while I ate at noon. Often the rice and sauce was gone when I arrived. What happened next should have been a yellow flag.

The vendor began keeping a plate for me so I could eat at noon. This meant the two of us were alone while I ate — a cultural signal for a different kind of relationship. Her French was poor, and I barely knew more than greetings in her language. We smiled at each other a lot.

I came to realize she wanted to marry me, despite the fact that she was already married. I met her husband one day, and he seemed to be OK with that arrangement. She began pressuring me with family concerns. I discussed all of this with my supervisor, and it was clear I wouldn’t be able to marry any Africans. I explained this to my new friend. She soon left to be near her aging mother, and I learned an important lesson in culture and communication.

I had other marriage proposals, sometimes as direct as an old man pointing at some women nearby and asking whether I wanted to marry either of them. Sometimes when I was out with colleagues, nationals would hint that I should marry one of them. I handled these as delicately as I could.

I tell this story to illustrate the importance of understanding the culture of those you serve. Learn about cultural cues and taboos you will likely encounter from your experienced teammates. Knowledge in advance is far better than learning from a mistake or misunderstanding later.

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Dave Parker served as a missionary for three years in West Africa, managing a print shop that produced Scripture and literacy materials in a dozen languages. He has also served for ten years in the Communications department of Pioneer Bible Translators and Seed Company. Dave and his wife are the proud servants of their golden retriever, Jenny. He lives in Ft Worth, Texas, with his family and his drums.

Single Overseas? 8 lessons from someone who did it all wrong

By Elizabeth Spencer

The first time I spent 2 months in Ethiopia by myself, I returned to America and announced to my parents that I wouldn’t go overseas for an extended period of time until I was married because it was just too isolating. That was almost 10 years ago, when I was in college.

But life has a way of making me do things that I vowed to never to do. I graduated from college and got my first real job as an executive assistant. Before long, my boss was asking me to move to Malawi for a few months and manage some exciting projects for him. I didn’t even think as I jumped into the opportunity and a few months turned into a few years.

Those 3 years living in Malawi, single, were some of the most complicated years of my life. It was the best of times and the worst of times; my career was soaring but my soul was decaying. I hate to admit this now, but I did everything wrong that could have been done wrong. I forgot who I was and where I came from. I became a person I never wanted to be; someone I did not recognize.

Here are 8 lessons learned the hard way from someone who did living single overseas all wrong.

 

1. Find community that has similar values. I was strong. Or so I thought. I didn’t go to Malawi with a mission organization and I was working for the government. Though I had a lot of friends, I was never able to plug into a community of believers. Mostly that was because I was stubborn about the type of people I hung out with. In expat circles I find that there are two types of people: the believers and let’s just say the very non-believers. I thought that I could be a believer but hang with the non-believers. Part of the problem with most of the believers I encountered is that they were married and were homeschooling and had 5 kids. I know I am making huge generalizations with my comments but there wasn’t a lot for us to relate to. I wanted friends that I could go out with and dance with and travel with.

 

2. Live with safe people. Never underestimate how your environment can begin to wear you down over time. I lived with a male co-worker who didn’t have the same values and poked fun at me for not going out more and not wearing enough make up. My parents encouraged me a number of times to find a new living situation but he was fun and had a lot of friends and I felt cool hanging out with him. We had a great house with a pool and it was hard to make the changes that I needed to. I should have moved in with some good girls. I didn’t need the added stress of my home feeling unsafe. Your home needs to be an oasis not a war zone.

 

3. Stay connected with people that love you. It’s hard to stay plugged in back home with the time change and the expensive internet connection going in and out, but I wish I had made more of an effort to talk to my family and close girlfriends back in the States. It would have helped me stay more grounded in who I was and where I came from.

 

4. Know why you are going to live overseas. You need to know why you are living isolated in a different country and making all these sacrifices. In retrospect, I see that I was running from my real life to this exotic job; I wanted to be this international woman of mystery. Even though I played the part well, being an international woman of mystery isn’t a good enough reason to live overseas all alone. There are too many cracks in that identity where doubt and fear and loneliness can creep in. Honestly, there is only one reason good enough to live overseas: you have to be called and know it is part of your vocation. There are a lot of doubting moments and in those moments you need to know your purpose and not be fumbling with a mysterious identity.

 

5. Know what gets you into trouble. Is it drinking? Is it when you are lonely or feel rejected? For me it was traveling alone, which I did a lot for my job. I should have had a strict no going-out policy, but of course, I was lonely and wanted attention and always found my way to the dance floor. There is no reason not to have a great time on the dance floor, except when it leads to poor choices. Know your limits and be honest about what you can handle and where you need support as well as boundaries.

 

6. Know your values. Write them down and make a plan for how to stick to them. I thought I knew my values, but when push came to shove my apparent values came crashing down. First, I was a little vague about what I believed to be right and wrong. Second, the further I got from community and the lonelier I became, the more those values seemed to fade into a distant memory. The truth was, I really wasn’t sure what I believed. When put to the test, I got a big fat F. I should have done some soul searching to figure that out, but I was in a self-discovery phase of life that I didn’t want dampened by rules or regulations. Which, by the way, really got me into trouble. Knowing what you believe and what you believe in and how that plays out in your life is extremely important.

 

7. Remember that we are all just one degree away from being someone that we don’t want to be. Humility is important. You are going to mess up, and there is grace for you. Living overseas single is one of the hardest life trials, and it could make you question everything that once seemed certain to you. Life in a foreign country is hard enough with a spouse, but alone it can seem impossible at times. Rest in grace; make friends with redemption.

 

8. Know when it’s time to go home. I figured that part out too late. I was stubborn and determined to make Africa work for me. I loved the continent, and I ran my life into the ground before I was willing to wave the white flag of surrender. It was humbling to go home. I felt like I was giving up a dream. I tried to save myself and my situation by every means I could think of, and finally I fell into the arms of God and his salvation for me. I wish I could have acknowledged sooner that I was not in a strong enough emotional place to make Malawi the right place for me at the time.

 

I have learned much from my mistakes and experienced the sweetness of salvation and redemption in a way I never knew before. Singleness can be an incredible gift to understand who you really are, and living overseas single can heighten that understanding further. Push into God and who He created you to be without fear.

 

For those of you who have lived overseas single, what challenges have you faced?

What did you learn about yourself and about God through them?

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Elizabeth Spencer and her husband Greg live in the desert highlands of Northern Ethiopia where Greg manages a clean energy company that manufactures wood-burning cook stoves. Elizabeth buys local because that’s all there is, and she’s an avid cook because it’s the only dining option. She travels with her husband to tiny mountain towns distributing stoves while writing about the grace that has been birthed in her life through loss, rejection, and her own poor choices. Before living in Ethiopia, Elizabeth lived in Malawi for 3 three years working for President Joyce Banda. Elizabeth and Greg met miraculously on overlapping projects in Rwanda almost 4 years ago. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog Making Me Brave.

 

When You Are Getting Married . . . and your teammate isn’t (Part 2)

Normally a Part 2 comes just a few days after a Part 1. So, if you have forgotten about Part 1, no problem. In brief, last month I shared a letter Janice wrote to me in which she is getting married and her roommate isn’t.

  • “My roommate really desires to be married. She is mid-30s, and has been in Laos for over seven years. So she is older than me, she’s been overseas longer than me, and she has probably been praying for a husband longer than me.”
  • “I know that God does not always do things in ways that seem obviously fair to us, but in this situation I feel the unfairness very deeply myself, and I can only imagine how it might feel from her perspective.”
  • How are you supposed to feel, when you know that what is a blessing in your life is the subject of such deep pain and disappointment to someone you love?”
  • “It is painful for me to leave her. I know that our friendship can’t be exactly the same after I leave Laos, but I don’t want to lose it entirely.”

I wanted the posts spaced out for two reasons:

  1. We live in a click-bait, hurry up world. Let’s go deep and then move on. The internet is wonderful—just consider how many different places this very post is being read right now while YOU are reading it?! Kind of mind-boggling, isn’t it? But in general it is geared towards noise and new information. This forms us unconsciously to have a false sense of urgency and move on to the next topic, post, crisis. It confuses our soul as to what is a urgent and what is important.

I believe this is an important conversation to have.

  1. I did not want to jump in too quickly with my thoughts, instead I wanted to create space for God to speak. I did not even look at the comments until prior to starting this post.

(Normally I read and respond to comments; so if you wondered where I was, the spiritual discipline of listening to God instead of checking comments was not easy. And then I read the comments and felt a bit guilty myself that I had “left people hanging.” I share this to say that this speaking and having opinions and thoughts and stories is easier for me than listening.)

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If you haven’t had a chance to read through the comments, please do. They are rich and offer additional perspectives.

In this month of listening, here is a bit of what I’ve have been thinking and praying over:

1.  We need to have these conversations. The very enemy of our souls wants to isolate and through isolation whisper lies mixed with half-truths. In the whispering, we can become disoriented as to what is truth, what is half-truth, and what is lie.

In community—and let me stress safe, healthy, trustworthy community—we do not have to bear burdens alone and we can sort out what is true in our situation and what is not.

2.  Notice how the language of “fair” and “guilt” are both a part of the swirl of emotions, thoughts, and reactions. I find this fascinating how almost universal both concepts are, whether married, getting married, or desiring to be married. Both can be very strong which can be confusing because they seem to run counter to what “good Christians should” believe or experience. Because we do not talk about “fairness” or “guilt:

  • people often don’t know what to do with these feelings
  • how to start conversations about them or
  • how to process them

Allowing them to grow which can lead to greater isolation (see #1 above).

  1. Too often we believe that we must pick between one emotion or the other.

Guilt is often a by-product of one emotion saying “If you feel me, obviously you don’t REALLY care [about either the joy or the sorrow].”

So, for the person getting married, if she expresses happiness in getting married, she may hear in her head, “If you are happy, then you don’t really understand how it feels to live with disappointment.” Or If a someone is not getting married and feels angry, disappointed, and sad, she may believe, “You are an ungrateful, selfish, bitter spinster.”

You don’t have to choose between joy and sorrow. You can have both. Guilt tries to manipulate you into one or the other, so that you don’t live an integrated life.

We need to grow in our capacity to experience (and give permission to experience) more than one emotion at a time.

4. I am more and more convinced we need to lead the charge in a “culture of grief.” We, as Christians, should be the best darn grievers on the planet, and yet, too often we stink at it. I dedicated an entire chapter in Looming Transitions to grief. I now see that the need to weave grief into our lives runs deeper than I ever thought.

Feelings of “fairness” and “guilt” can also be warnings for “an area to grieve.” Look for the loss. Are you loosing a friend? A location? Control? Someone who gets your jokes? The list could go on.

5. God is mysterious. I had a professor in seminary who cautioned us, as Christians, not to be too quick to cry “Mystery!” in the Christian faith. He instructed us to do the hard work of studying scripture, of asking theologians, of knowing history. But he also said, we needed to also remember that at the end of the day, studying, questioning, and knowing may not provide an answer and we will be left with mystery.

Why do some get married and some don’t? Why do some spouses die and others don’t? Why do some struggle with this addiction but not that? Why do some children have problems that other children do not have?

It may seem cheap to say it, but only God knows. And we have to live with that tension of the mysteriousness of God.

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Above all, God can be trusted with all of our emotions. If you are angry, you don’t need to hide it. If you are sad, you don’t need to “put on a happy face.” If you are excited, you don’t have to pretend you are not. If you are not at the same place emotionally as someone else you don’t have to fake that you are.

But you do have to own it. You do have to offer it to God. You do need to find community to bear and process it with you.

Trusting that in the offering, God is good, sovereign, mysterious and . . . at work. 

This is what I’ve been pondering this month. I’d love to hear from you. What have heard? What conversations with God and others have you had? What would you add to the discussion? We need your input.

When You Are Getting Married . . . (and your teammate isn’t)

I received an email from a young woman who had read Looming Transitions. Janice is a Canadian serving in Laos, but soon to leave as she is moving to France to marry her French fiancé. She wrote so beautifully about the tension singles can feel around marriage. I received permission to share this excerpt.

Dear Amy,

“In this type of lifestyle, my roommate and I spend a lot of time together. We live together, we work together, we go to the market together, we go out visiting people together, we go on walks together, we pray together, we watch movies together, we read each other’s books.

Before I came to Laos I didn’t know her. However, we found we get along quite well. We have many overlapping interests and can talk about some personal subjects. I feel bad about not being there to help deal with challenges like money requests and electrical system issues. I also know that my leaving means that there will be periods of time where she is alone as the only expat. In the past there have been periods when I was alone in our town for weeks at a time. Despite having locals I was working with and visiting, and despite the fact that I am largely an introvert, I struggled with loneliness. I feel guilty about potentially putting her in the same situationeven though she doesn’t mind being alone here as much as I do.

“Aside from this, is the fact that I am leaving to get married, which is where I feel the worst about the situation. My roommate really desires to be married. She is mid-30s, and has been in Laos for over seven years. So she is older than me, she’s been overseas longer than me, and she has probably been praying for a husband longer than me.

“I know that God does not always do things in ways that seem obviously fair to us, but in this situation I feel the unfairness very deeply myself, and I can only imagine how it might feel from her perspective. In the past, she’s expressed her frustrations to me about how difficult it is to meet men while living here. And then I connected with this man, and now I‘m engaged. Everything about it just seems so unfair. And I know that there are many other single women like her serving overseas, because there are so many more of us than there are single men.

“To be honest, this has been sort of a difficult area in my faith. Before I came to Laos it was a struggle for me personally; knowing that if I stayed overseas a long time, I might not marry. But I felt God leading me to go, and I went anyway. And I learned of so many others in the same boat as me, including my roommate. Now I am stepping out of the boat. I am so grateful to God for bringing my fiancé and me together, and I do not take our relationship for granted. But I find that even now I still feel the pain somehow, though in a different way. And I feel guilty.

“I have found these feelings somewhat difficult to explain to people who haven’t been overseas and aren’t aware of the general situation. I have tried to talk about it with my fiancé. He is quite willing to listen, but I have found that if I get stuck on this topic with him too much, it is not beneficial. I don’t want it to sound like I feel bad that I’m marrying him, because that’s not what I mean to say. Right now some of my joy is buried beneath these other things. I keep hearing about people in Canada and France who are so happy for us. But I feel somehow removed from the happiness. How are you supposed to feel, when you know that what is a blessing in your life is the subject of such deep pain and disappointment to someone you love? 

I’ve seen that my roommate has been having a difficult time with this over the past few weeks, since some hopes she’d had for a relationship recently fell through. In the past she has been really supportive of me when I’ve gone through difficult times, and I wish I could do or say more. It tears me up inside, to think of her feeling so hurt and disappointed. But I don’t know what to do besides listen, and tell her I’m sorry, and tell her I’m praying for her. And I do pray for her, and when I do, I feel very hopeful for her. I have tried to tell her this, but it’s not very specific, so I don’t really know if it’s helpful.

“I really want to finish well with my roommate. It is painful for me to leave her. I know that our friendship can’t be exactly the same after I leave Laos, but I don’t want to lose it entirely. Since I got engaged four months ago, I’ve tried to tell her that I care about her, that I’ll miss her, that she’s been an important person during my time in Laos, that I hope we can keep in touch, that she’ll be in my prayers, that I wish her well. I hope we can share honestly with each other about how we are feeling, because I wouldn’t want us to have regrets later about things we wish we’d said to each other. But at the same time I know that there are so many deeply personal emotions involved that it can sometimes be difficult to talk about it. During this time I am also going through some of my own transition stress, but I still want to be sensitive to what’s happening around me and be able to express myself to people who are important to me in a way that is honoring to both of us in the long term.”

“Thank you for letting me write to you, Amy. I know this is quite a long email, and I don’t expect a super long response. If you have any thoughts on anything though, I’d be interested in hearing them. Again, I really appreciate your book; it’s been a blessing to me during this season in my life.”

Blessings,

Janice

~~~

What a gift to us, eh? The way Janice expressed all that is going on. Part of me wants to dive in with thoughts and answers. But because of the length, I sense the Holy Spirit saying, Amy and A Life Overseas, sit with this email. Feel how Janice—and others—are pulled in many directions. Next month, you can share your thoughts. But I want you and this community to grow in your ability to bear witness before you seek to solve. We do not have to rush this conversation and move on to the next post or subject. We will circle back next month and keep this conversation going.

So, in the comments, could you let Janice and me know that you will take a month to sit with her words. That will will listen to the Holy Spirit and other singles we know before we jump in to speak. That we see how wonderfully complex this is . . . for all. Will you join me in listening?

To the single on the field at Christmas

 

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Dear friend,

I want this to be a letter instead of a normal blog post because, to me, a letter feels more personal. I also started off “Dear Friend” not “Dear Single Friend” because I do not think “single” is the most interesting or defining part of you.

That being said, Christmas was the time I felt my singleness most acutely on the field (that and taxi rides where my marital status was a hot topic!). I love my life and the richness it contains, but like every life, I have God given limitations. Part of being single on the field means being away from family and family traditions you grew up with during holidays.

When I first moved to the field, I was in my late 20s. My teammate was also in her 20s and single, and experiencing her first holiday away from family. We were intentional about decorating our apartments and even biked down to the local flower market and bought the closest thing to a Christmas tree we could find. Still being new to the culture, we made a few faux pas. For instance it turns out that what looked like a festive snow flake hanging from the ceiling elicited a look of horror and the question, “Why do you have death hanging in your home?!”

Oops. Turns out funeral decorations in Asia and American winter decorations are similar. Other than that small blunder, we managed to celebrate in a way that was meaningful to us and helped with the deep longing to be with family.

We were only teammates for two years and then I got a new teammate. Shelley and I were teammates for three years and the Christmas that stands out was the one where our entire building was under renovation. All people were moved out except for the two of us. Because we lived in a construction zone and the pounding only ceased for a 30-minute break in the middle of the day, no one wanted to visit or “do fun Christmas activities.” That year we didn’t have Christmas cookie parties, or students over to sing Christmas carols, or really much of a sense of Christmas.

Instead we climbed over piles of construction trash just to get to our front doors and no running hot water for three months. All on top of a medical situation that would have been draining in normal circumstances. Some Christmases are like that.

Then I moved to Beijing and joined a more stable community. Like other singles, the constant in my story was . . . me. (Of course “and God.” Want to provoke a single person to thoughts of violence? Remind them they always have God. Which they already know, so instead of entering into their loneliness and bearing witness to it, you have just trivialized it.)

By this point I had five Christmases on the field under my belt, but no one in my life that I had actually spent a holiday with. One of the joys of living on the field, whether single or in a family, is sharing your family and cultural traditions with teammates and local friends. We shared traditions, especially during the month of December, but come actual Christmas Day? I never felt we hit our rhythm like we, as a community, did with other holidays.

Christmas Eve in our city had turned into more of a date night, so traffic was awful and if we went to church it meant one less seat was available to a seeker. Generally the singles gathered at an apartment across down on Christmas Eve and play games and watch movies. While I appreciated the gesture, I found the arrangement wasn’t what I wanted to do for Christmas. I know others in my community loved it and I do not want to take anything from their enjoyment.

This is the tricky part of being single, eh? The month of December itself was rich and busy with ministry, but come Christmas Day, it felt like each year there was a negotiating of activities and traditions.

Which, um, seems to be the opposite of what traditions are supposed to do. Instead of rooting me in a bigger story, it was a one day reminder that my own story was more counter-cultural than I usually think.

All of this to say my single friend, I don’t know if this is your first or your seventeenth Christmas on the field. I don’t know if you came from a family that you miss dearly or are relieved to be away from. I don’t know if you feel lonely on Christmas or a part of a family. I do know that any of the above may be part of your story.

We here at A Life Overseas don’t want to rush in with a bunch of suggestions (You probably know them anyways).

Instead:

If you are lonely, we want to sit with you.

If you are able to share the Christmas story for the first time with those who have never heard, we rejoice with you!

If you feel far from your family, we bear witness to the distance.

If you are enjoying festivities be they baking, decorating, holiday music, or any of the other ways, we are grateful for the life that springs forth from you.

As the angel said to the shepherds, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Good news, for all people. You, too, have a Savior who sees you, right where you are and loves you with a never-ending love.

Not because you are serving Him. Not because you are single. Not because you are willing to suffer for Him. No, He loves you simply because you are.

I know my story is but one of many and I’d love to hear it. What has your experience with Christmas on the field been like? Anything you want to stay the same this year? Or change?

Merry Christmas,

Amy

Dear Single Missionary

I once was an “expert” single person. After five years in China, I knew how to travel across the world with 100 pounds of luggage, stay in hostels alone, barricade myself on bunk beds at night on 27 hour train rides, and cook for one.

Sometimes it was fun, but often it was lonely.

At 32, I did end up miraculously getting married to a man I wouldn’t have picked at a time I wouldn’t have planned. But that is another story.

Ten years later, I write this to my 26 year old self who had just sold her car and possessions, quit her job, and left all her prospects for marriage to go live in the middle of nowhere (only four foreigners in the entire city and an eight-hour bus ride from an airport) and obey the call of her Jesus.

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Dear Younger Self,

I know you are scared of being lonely.  The following may not assuage your desire for marriage, but it may help you to see the value of this season on the days when you just want someone to rub your feet and listen to your day.

First of all, because you are single, God is going to meet your needs in very tangible ways. This is hard to accept, but sometimes God purposely leads you into the wilderness. Loneliness can be His means of grace in your life. He has demonstrated this through the heroes of the faith who have gone before you, and in your wilderness, He wants to:

~ Tell you that He sees you and wants to give you something to quench your thirst as He did for Hagar (Gen. 16:7-11, 21:17-21).

~ Bring you to the end of your own strength so that you will rely on Him alone to give you the nourishment you need for the journey ahead as He did for Elijah (1 Kg. 19: 4-8).

~ Provide for your very basic needs through His daily provision of manna as He did the Israelites (Exodus 16:1-36).

~ Simplify your priorities when you have been stripped down to only what you really need like John the Baptist (Mat. 3:1).

~ Test your faith in Him as He did Jesus–and then send angels to minister to you in your need (Mat. 4: 1-25).

Married people feel lonely, too, but when you are single, you must rely on God alone to provide for you in your wilderness.  Some days you will find yourself face-down in a dusty field, wondering what you’re doing and why you’re doing it–alone.  It is those who are the most thirsty who are most ecstatic over the provision of water.  God will see you, provide for you, hold you, and strengthen you.

Because you are single you will have the opportunity to go deeper in your relationships more quickly than married people.  I know you don’t want to hear this, but you have the gift of time.  Time to wander the markets, time to accept spontaneous dinner invitations, time to visit new friends at their homes in the countryside, and time to study language.  A married person doing marriage well will just not have the time that you have to delve into relationships in your new culture.

You are also more likely to have more satisfying relationships with other singles on your team and in your organization than you would have if you were married.

There will come a day when you will miss the sweet friendships you naturally developed with other women just because you had to share a room with them at your yearly conference or eat meals together because the families on your team were all busy.

Because you are single, you are going to fall in love with Jesus in ways you might not have if you were married.  Those times when you are bumping along in a crowd, with families on your team, or eating a delicious meal that you cooked and ate alone, you will feel that twinge of self-pity and longing, yet you will also have a deep sense that Jesus, Immanuel, is there with you. And He knows you to your core.

If you so choose, you will have hours to seek, find, hear His voice, and know Him. You will not only sit at the feet of Jesus, but you will lean on his chest. Yes, you will have guilt that you just binge-watched an entire season of Gilmore Girls instead of spending time with Him, but the minutes you spend in His presence will create a reservoir that you will one day, especially if you do marry, draw from daily.

Finally, because you are single, you will be called (forced?) to come to grips with sacrifice. You feel like the greatest sacrifice you are making in going overseas is surrendering your desire for a husband. Like the article you ran across many years ago entitled “Chastity: Love Wasted on God,” about the woman breaking her jar of precious perfume on Jesus’ feet, you, too, will feel that you have so much love to give that is being “wasted.”

All I can tell you is that the joy, peace and pleasure of Christ Himself that will wash over you as you pour yourself out for your first love will sustain you. And don’t be ashamed when you leave your gift at the altar only to run back and scoop it back into your arms again. He is a loving Father. A kind Father.  A forgiving and giving Father.

He does not give His children gifts of rocks or snakes, but only the best gifts are reserved for those He calls His children. 

And nothing we give Him is ever—EVER—wasted. 

Keep handing your desire over to Him.
Keep walking.
Keep living.
Keep learning.
Keep loving.
Keep growing.

It is not too hard a thing for the Creator of the earth to bring someone into your life if that is His plan. He brought Eve to Adam in his sleep, after all.

And I know that you know this, but if you are not content now in your singleness, you are certainly not going to be content in your marriage. Nothing can fill the true longing in your heart for intimacy like intimacy with Christ. 

Not even a man.

In His thirst-quenching, never-changing, always-fulfilling love,

Your Older Self

Adapted from original

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Leslie VernerLeslie Verner is a goer who is learning how to stay.  A wife, mama of two, former teacher, student of cultures, runner, extrovert (with introvert tendencies) and lover of Jesus.  She has her BA in elementary education and MA in intercultural studies.  She has traveled all over the world and lived in Northwest China for five years before God U-turned her life and brought her back to the U.S. to get married.  She blogs regularly about faith, family and cross-cultural issues at www.scrapingraisins.blogspot.com and recently completed the series 31 Days of Re-Entry.

A Dirty Little Secret of Singles on the Field

I’m not a fan of dirty little secrets. Dirty little secrets are laced with shame and create hiding and distance.

I am a fan of having confidants and knowing how to hold a confidence. Oh the joy of being known and feeling safe enough to trust someone with a piece of yourself!

I first became aware of this dirty little secret talking with married friends around a pool in Thailand. We were chatting and I mentioned a stat from some research I’d conducted for a presentation at a professional conference. During my research I’d learned that 32% of the singles in our organization had either tried or were currently trying on-line dating. We were in a fairly large organization so this was no small number.

Online dating

With shock and a tinge of panic they said, “No! We are going to lose too many singles to eHarmony!” That is a fairly common response from married folks on the field. Is it any wonder many singles are ashamed to admit they might want to try online dating? The result is that many singles have no idea how many others are trying it–and once they find one or two, it’s almost like they have fallen down the rabbit hole, left to wonder, “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?”

Shame from fellow servants isn’t the only pressure singles can face. On the other extreme, many folks back home want to know why a single is not on a dating site and pressure, pressure, pressure them to try and get married.

Of course, not all singles are the same and their experiences are going to vary as will their definitions of “success” when it comes to online dating. Since this topic is broad, my goal today is simply to say online dating is happening and to get the conversation started. Instead of talking in stats and hypothetics, I contacted three singles I know who started dating someone via online dating in the last year and asked if they would share their stories with us and they agreed saying, “Finally. Finally we as a community can talk about this!” So as to not get bogged down by whether you know them or not, I’ve changed their names. 

How long have you been on the field?

Ann: I’ve been on the field since 2003 (with a one year and a half year home assignment since then).

Beth: I was on the field for 2 years. I’m back in the States now.

Cici: I’d been serving with my organization for nine years when I signed up for eHarmony. I’d been overseas for about half of that time.

 

What factored into doing (or not trying) online dating?

Ann: I had a few friends on the field join eHarmony and they were really honest about the process, with the struggles and ups and downs of online dating including dating long distance. One of my friends on the field met her now husband on eHarmony and she really encouraged me to think about joining. I knew she didn’t suggest it lightly because she had joined eHarmony the year before with no “success.”  I felt like I had a pretty realistic and balanced view of long distance online dating and, with a lot of prayer and consideration, I decided that I would join while I was on home assignment since had time to invest in it and could theoretically meet someone in person faster while in the U.S.

Beth: The most significant thing that factored into using online dating was the fact that there were very few single men on the field. I lived in a very small expat community and all the men my age were married. I had dabbled a little in online dating during college (but it wasn’t really successful). However, after I moved to China, I decided to try my hand again after realizing that the options on the field were very limited.

Cici: Several of my friends had met their husbands through online dating, so I knew it could work. When I decided to try it, I factored in cost, safety, and timing. When I joined eH, I was planning to be on the field for another year, and I only signed up for three months because I didn’t want it to consume my time for that long. For me the timing seemed good because I wasn’t too far away from being back in the States if I met someone, but I was far enough away from being home, that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t meet anyone. I originally looked at it as “practice” for when I got back to the States because I rarely interacted with any single men where I was living.

 

Did you feel this was something you needed (or wanted) to hide from your team or organization? Did you feel comfortable sharing it?

Ann: Since online dating is pretty common I didn’t feel like it was something I needed to hide though it wasn’t something I necessarily advertised. I’m more of a private person that way and so it wasn’t unnatural to me that I wouldn’t share it with just anyone. My close friends knew about it though.

Beth: To be honest, I didn’t tell a lot of people on my team about meeting the two guys I dated these past two years online. I felt really ashamed and lot of people were really concerned about it (online dating is seen by the Christian community as not such a great thing — or at least that’s been my experience). Only a few people knew about the first guy I met when we first started dating. However, because of my first experience, I was a little more open telling people about Ben (my current boyfriend).

Cici: I chose not to share with my teammates, but that was based on team dynamics that were already in play. I did tell former teammates about my online dating, including teammates who were still with my organization. I chose not to tell my organization at the time; however, I have been honest and open about the timeline of when I met my now boyfriend and how we met when I’ve been asked questions about my future plans and when former (but who were current when we met) teammates found out via social media.

 

What was the reaction when people heard you were trying it out? Or succeeding? (All three of you have succeeded, so to speak)

Ann: Most people, what they hear that my boyfriend and I met online, say something to the effect of “lots of people meet that way now” or “so-and-so also met their boyfriend/husband online” as if to assure me and/or themselves that it’s a common and valid way of meeting people (not something I struggled with though). I expected more people to ask me what that meant for my life/calling overseas, but I’ve been surprised at how few people ask that.

Beth: I kinda answered this above, but it wasn’t always positive. I started talking to Ben in September but we never actually met in person until I visited him in February over Chinese New Year. People were really worried about me going to Australia and visiting Ben (I had friends on the ground there and I felt comfortable with the whole situation — my friends and family all knew where I was and where I was going so I felt that I was safe enough. I had met Ben’s family on Skype so I was fairly comfortable with the whole thing.) After Ben and I met in person, people were way more open to it and very excited about it.

Cici: Everyone seemed supportive, and I think this is because it’s becoming far more common for couples to meet online. For people who didn’t even know I was dating someone until a couple of months after we begin communicating, there was definitely surprise. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that people had been receiving regular updates on my life and ministry and assumed they knew everything that was going on in my life. However, aside from family and close friends, I chose to keep my relationship private in order to maintain a distance between it and my decision to move back to the States.

 

What have been the challenges and blessings of trying on-line dating while on the field?

Ann: I met my now boyfriend online while I was still on home assignment. Dating long distance definitely has many challenges and it has its blessings too. Since all we can do is talk while I’m on the field and he’s back in the states, we do a lot of talking! We have lots of good conversations though I miss the opportunities to just go out and do something with him and experience life together that way. But we’re able to build a really good foundation of communication (and the fact that we spent some time together during my home assignment before I went back on the field was really helpful!) Another big challenge has been figuring out how this new relationship and my life on the field fit together, and how and when to return to the U.S. so that we’re not always long distance and we can actually be together to figure out where this relationship is going.

Beth: I did date a guy my first year in China who lived in another city in China, but it didn’t pan out. The challenge was his approach to faith/Christianity — he was really liberal and eventually said I needed to show more of a commitment in physical ways I wasn’t willing to do. This is the downside to online dating. You don’t actually know how they will approach the physical aspect to your relationship until you’re in it.

However, this past year I have seen the absolute blessings associated with online dating. Ben is the man I have been looking for my entire life. Because our relationship started on Skype and emails, we were able to be open and honest with each other. Our relationship started as a friendship first before developing into something more deep. My relationship with Ben is not founded on the physical aspect (which is something that has really tripped me up in past relationships). It’s founded on our love for the Lord and on our friendship and care for one another.

Communication is one of our strongest aspects of our relationship because we have had to work so hard to do it well since we live so far apart. I feel that this is one of the best benefits to online dating. You really get to know someone and who they are. Ben is from Australia and I’m from the US, so it’s been challenging, but because we started this relationship at a distance, it’s made it easier dealing with it since we know it will eventually end (he’s moving to the US sometime next year).

Cici: The challenge for me was how time consuming it was. It can be like having a part-time job, which was a little stressful when I was trying to prepare to move back to the States. However, it was also a welcome distraction from all of the drama that was going on in my life at the time. Waiting for communication and emails because of the time difference was difficult as well, especially the more I got to know my now boyfriend. Another blessing was feeling like I had a personal life that not everyone was privy too. Much of my life is public knowledge, and I appreciated being able to get to know someone without everyone at home or on the field watching.


Ann, Beth, and Cici thank you for sharing your experiences with us and for helping to remove some of the shame singles might experience in this area.

For the rest of us, what could online dating for singles on the field mean?

  1. Let your single friend or teammate bring up the subject. Just like a married couple may or may not want to discuss infertility, some singles will want to talk about online dating a lot (maybe too much for your taste) and others not at all.
  2. Try not to use language like “we’re losing so many singles to online dating.” This elevates location and current assignment over following God and tends to shut down conversations.
  3. Write your prayers, run your prayers, bake your prayers, however you best pray, pray for singles and the pressures they face when it comes to dating, not dating, leaving the field, and staying on the field. Pray that above all else, that they may know the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in them, the hope of glory.
  4. Might I remind us of the obvious: singles aren’t just women, they are men too. I know this post is female heavy and hope to hear from men so that we can learn from your experience as well. I can be reached at messymiddle (at) gmail (dot) com.

A Life Alone

After writing the post on single missionaries about a month ago a number of people who are working overseas and are single contacted A Life Overseas. And it was so good. Because we realized we had been neglecting this critical part of our community. Today our guest poster Geren St. Claire talks about what he has heard from some single missionaries through his work at CalledTogether. You can read more about Geren at the end of the post. 

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A Life Alone

Everyone who has ever experienced the joyful shock of uprooting their entire life and re-implanting it in a new culture knows how surprisingly lonely such a move can be. But what many of us do not fully understand is the double burden carried by those who move overseas without the comfort and support of a spouse. Singleness intensifies isolation. Consider the following illustration:

A life alone

 

 

The intensity of isolation grows when a person does not have the support of a family. One single worker put it this way:

“Cross cultural loneliness is its own kind of loneliness. No matter what you do or how hard you try, you will never be able to integrate 100% into your adopted culture. Yet once you integrate even a little, that culture has become a part of you. You will never see or fit into your home culture the same way again. This whole process can be surprisingly wonderful, but at the same time terrifyingly isolating. It is no wonder that many of us do not want to walk this path alone. We want someone there with us who can honestly tell us, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Singles on the field often tell me about their difficulty coming to a sense of true belonging, even among their team. Perhaps that is why singles are about 40%-50% less likely to go overseas long-term. Add those numbers up: With a global total of around 500,000 cross-cultural workers, the international Church may be losing as many as 80,000 potential harvesters due to the isolation of singleness.

As we pray for the Lord to send more workers into the harvest field, we ought to consider new ways to recruit, sustain, encourage, and empower singles for the work ahead. I oversee a network of globally-called singles, and I invited some of them to share their hearts with you—both the good and bad. Here’s a summary of what they said:

4 ways to Empower Singles (As Told by Singles)

  1. Honor them. “Give… honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). Singleness on the field is difficult and scary, and those who follow Christ in the face of these difficulties are worthy of honor. 71% of the singles who responded to our internal poll said that isolation is a major issue for singles who serve Christ overseas. How can you recognize and honor that sacrifice?
  1. Invite them to belong. We are designed for more than just marriage. We’ve been grafted and intimately woven together in Christ. We are one Body. One Bride. Brothers and Sisters. Adopted Children. When I read the book of Acts, I am always overwhelmed by the familial intimacy shared by the early Christians—to such a degree that the Romans mistook them as incestuous. The early Christians adopted one another into their families, and shared life with one another. We ought to do the same today. But this doesn’t just happen by itself. Melanie recounts her experience on the field,

“it seems like 99 meals out of 100, I eat alone. For about a year, I had a standing weekly ‘date’ to eat dinner with a worker family on my team. Words can’t say what this simple thing meant to me. It’s generally not enough for a worker family to say, ‘Oh, you’re welcome here any time.’ But specifically inviting me to share meals and life and events with them was a great blessing.”

Are there singles in your city? What would it look like for you to adopt them into your family? Did a single recommend this article to you? Maybe take that as a friendly hint.

  1. Don’t Look Down on Singles

There are a whole slew of emotions that can stem from being single on a team of married couples, and singles are not often in a position to express their frustrations. Staci offered some helpful examples of team dynamics that had hurt her:

 [last year,] our team leader didn’t think it was worth it to keep doing our monthly team meetings because the other married couple was out of town. Now, from my perspective, it felt as if somehow we (the singles) weren’t important enough to keep our team-meetings going…

 …Another thing I often experience is being treated like I’m a teenager. Our team leader is only a few years older than I am, but often calls my team-mate and I “the girls” and talks about how young we are and how we need looking after… it often feels belittling whether they mean it or not.

Lest we drift into pride, lets reflect on a few simple truths and ask God to expose any error in our thinking. Here are some truths about singleness and marriage that may serve as correctives:

– Singleness is not something to be pitied. Certainly, there are side effects of singleness that may warrant compassion—loneliness, insecurity, dreams lost or delayed, etc. But singleness itself is not a bad thing, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7. Making this distinction can help you immensely as you try to empathize with singles.

– Marital status isn’t something earned or deserved. There shouldn’t be pride or shame in either case, because marriage is always a gift from God.

– Marriage is a blessing. God loves good marriages, so seeking a good marriage is one way to honor God. There is no shame in desiring or pursuing marriage, because God calls it good.

– Marriage cannot be used to enhance or prove someone’s value or worth—to attempt to do so is idolatry.

– Likewise, marriage cannot complete a person.

– Marriage doesn’t make a person more holy. God sanctifies through marriage, but He also sanctifies through singleness. Given that Jesus and Paul were both single, it is dangerous to say that marriage opens a person up to ‘higher levels’ of sanctification. That may be the experience of some, but marriage has stifled the sanctification of others. What sanctifies is living in the light of community, and this can come through, or apart from, marriage.

– Singleness has some advantages that should be recognized. For example, as Melanie writes, “Many singles integrate into a host culture in a way that married folks and families don’t. When they return to their apartment each night, they don’t have a home-culture family to retreat to. Value this skill.” Likewise, the apostle Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 7 about how singles are able to focus more intently on the work of the Lord, because their time and attention is not divided.

How have you hurt the singles around you by harboring false attitudes towards singleness? Where might repentance be necessary? What about confession?

  1. Hook a brotha up!

Once our attitudes are correctly calibrated (and usually not until then), we can begin to help our single friends search for a godly spouse. Most (but not all) singles have a strong desire to be married, and you might be surprised just how willing they would be to receive your help. But you need to offer help with the right kind of attitude, or it can come across as condescending.

You can network with other team leaders within your organization, or with friends back in your sending churches. Singles on the field have very few opportunities to connect with potential marriage material, and they may gain a lot of hope just knowing that the doors are still open, whether or not you actually find the right person for them.

Finally, you might consider telling your single teammates about www.CalledTogether.us, which is an inter-agency network of globally-called singles. The website has grown quickly since its May ‘14 launch to include more than 1000 singles, further highlighting their felt need for community.

Are the singles on your team open to your help in their search a spouse? Is your attitude toward singleness getting in the way? How can you help them in their search?

Conclusion

There are great gains to be made, both for the Church and for our teams, if only we can learn to love singles more effectively. And truthfully, love should not need a justification. It is its own reason. So I challenge you to connect with, belong to, and love the single God has placed around you, for the sake of Jesus’ name.

— Author Bio —

Gerin St. Claire (@gerinteed) is the cofounder and director of operations for CalledTogether. He recently completed seminary and now lives with his wife in Dallas, TX.