“For God is not unjust to forget
your work and labor of love which
you have shown toward His name,
in that you have ministered to the
saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10
“I will follow God anywhere … except to Africa!” Have you, or someone you know, ever put stipulations on following God? I have. Whether it has to do with bugs, snakes, family, finances, or a million other things, certain places are a “no go” for many Christians.
Over the years I have pushed on the missionary door several times: missions trips here in the USA and to Eastern Europe, dated some fine foreign-mission-field-bound young men in college, and after college pursued full-time mission work with a mentor of mine in Africa. And each time, God has in His almighty wisdom, closed those doors. He faithfully opened, and continues to open, other doors. His best doors for me. And He is always there to walk through them with me. On a few occasions, of course, He has had to drag me through the door kicking and screaming – only for me to find out in the end that He, of course, was right!
A friend of mine who has served God faithfully for years as a foreign missionary, recently told me she felt convicted to surrender to do something she saw as more daunting than planning, packing, flying, and serving overseas: teaching children’s church. It has been a joy to see God bless her efforts as she shares God’s love and truth with children in our church.
Wherever God leads us, and however He chooses to stretch us, we can be certain of this rock solid truth . . .
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
I Thessalonians 5:24
From the moment they heard God’s call, until this very hour, each of the following women on God’s mission testify to God’s faithfulness. Their faith-in-action amazes me. Even more incredible is the power of our wonderful God shown through each one of them. Without further ado, let’s take a walk “In Her Shoes” . . .
Africa and North America
My missionary journey is different than most as I had a husband and four children, and was widowed at the age of forty-four. Since I had not attended college, I needed to further my education. I was accepted on the basis of my high school transcript, attended pre-nursing in the town where I was living, and transferred to another university to get my nursing degree when my younger daughter left to go to college.
The ladies in my church had been praying for someone to go help a nurse who was working alone in Liberia. The Lord prepared me to be the one who would go. Five months after I arrived in Liberia my co-worker was called home due to her mother’s serious illness.
I had worked as a nurse in Liberia for two terms when a civil war broke out in the country. We had to be evacuated. I was due for furlough that year and the mission decided that anyone who was due for furlough should make plans to return to the United States. So I came back home for a year. When the year was completed, it was not safe to go back to Liberia, so the Lord led me to Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). We worked with an interpreter in both Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire as there are several African languages in each country.
There were many challenges, but God does not ask us to do anything that He does not enable us to do. Much of the time in Liberia we worked without electricity or running water. The medical emergencies were a challenge, as well as the roads we had to travel to take them to the nearest hospital which was thirty-six miles away. God gave wisdom, strength and safety for each day.
One of the blessings were the letters we received from those who wrote faithfully to assure us of their prayers. God answered in ways we could not have imagined.
One of the qualifications of being a missionary is to be flexible. You will be asked to do things that are not in your “job description.” He also leads one step at a time. When you take that step, He shows you the next one.
Malaria was also a challenge for me (in spite of faithfully taking the preventative medication). So when I left Cote d’Ivoire, I asked to be placed in the U.S. God led me to Great Falls, Montana to work with Native Americans.
The best way to encourage single missionaries is to write to them, and let them know you are praying for them, whether they are at home or on the field. God has also instructed us to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest. They will be encouraged to know you are doing that, too.
Most of these thoughts come from my time in Alaska, but there are still times here in the Midwest when I am very busy meeting with students, and I wished that I had someone to share the problems with and the joys. Now, I do have a special “adopted Mom” who lives nearby that I can talk to about anything, and I am so thankful for that. That is something that is so needed.
I thank the Lord for the students He has given me to work with over these years. Even though I don’t have the spiritual fellowship with most of them, I have opportunities to share the Word with them, or show hospitality, or help them & this helps me also.
Holidays can be lonely, as well as birthdays. I had a couple I worked with, but they also had their own family. People don’t even send cards very much any more. I enjoy getting cards with notes in them about what the person has been doing or about their church. Sending notes (even by email today) can be encouraging & especially if the person has told you they are praying for you. Sometimes we never even hear from supporting churches – even when there is a pastoral change.
This might sound strange and might not just be single missionaries, but single gals everywhere. It’s just that it is harder to get things done away from the Lower 48. I lived alone, and if I needed something to be fixed, I couldn’t always ask my co-worker and you can’t always just call a repairman. Sometimes you just ask the Lord for wisdom and/or strength to get it done. Digging out from three feet of snow isn’t easy, or when a tree fell on my trailer. I don’t want to sound like complaining, because God often provided help in various forms.
Since there was just this couple and I starting a work, the man often thinks the single gal has much more time to do things than his wife, so he gives her more things to do. They forget we still have to do laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning along with all the ministry things.
One thing I missed, is that I never got to know my nieces and nephews. Even when home on furlough I would only see them for a very short time. And now, I still don’t have a very close relationship with most of them.
During lonely times and trials, it helps to have someone to pray with me and I can pray with them about theirs. Now that I am older, it is difficult to fit in with those my age as most are married and a single person makes an uneven number. I hope to be able to attend church adult fellowships, when they don’t conflict with ministry responsibilities.
I grew up on the mission field as an MK (missionary kid). West Africa became my home, my love. I was very wisely advised, though, to not return to the mission field because it was more comfortable, but to be sure God was calling me there. Attending Bible college reinforced my desire to serve the Lord, and He made it clear He wanted me to teach. All through college, I was heavily involved in Student Missions Fellowship and even went on a short-term missions trip. But it wasn’t until after I taught for a few years in Colorado that God made it clear that I could teach overseas … that He could use me in the same capacity but a different location.
Being a single female missionary on deputation was just plain HARD. Making phone calls and sending out information, trying to get meetings (but not preach!), certainly required a lot of trust in the Lord and courage and strength that only He could give! I was also “accused” of not being a “real” missionary, since I was “only” teaching (and not directly involved in church planting). I was given many opportunities to display God’s grace and keep my mouth shut! God provided support through mostly individuals instead of churches and I spent seven years serving Him in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger.
Once I arrived on the mission field, the tables were turned. I lived on a compound/campus where there were as many single missionaries as there were couples! As a single person, I found I had more time for the students outside the classroom. For the first four years, I taught 5thgrade, but God also gave me a very rewarding mentoring ministry with some of the middle and high school students in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends—time I wouldn’t have had as much of if I’d had a family to take care of.
When civil war chased me from that ministry (twice), God moved me to Niger and a very different ministry. Being a single woman in a Muslim country was a much more difficult ministry, both socially and emotionally. No longer living on a compound made it even harder, so I appreciated the families who included me in meals and social activities.
I never felt issues of single vs. married on the field. My co-workers treated me as an equal. My best friends were married women. I was always an important part of the team. It was coming back on furlough that I dreaded, facing all the extremes of church presentations.
In one of my churches, I would speak in adult Sunday school, then children’s church, show my slides/presentation in the evening service, and speak to a women’s Bible study—all in one weekend! At another church, I was in the basement with the kids and MAYBE gave my testimony in “big” church. As much as I love children’s ministries, they aren’t the ones who are sending me to the mission field! Please include your single missionaries as a vital part of your missionary team. No, we can’t preach, but we have so much to share about what God is doing around the world!
How can you best serve/minister to single missionaries? Communicate with them. Email and facebook make that sooooo much easier now! Care packages with treats from “home” are such an encouragement, too. When we’re visiting your church, give us a chance to share our hearts—with women, children, and even the whole congregation. A five minute testimony isn’t enough. Remember that we are human, too, and need friends and acceptance and prayer and encouragement. God can use ANYONE and EVERYONE!
As a single missionary to Cameroon, God is teaching me much. It is true that the foremost reason missionaries leave the field is because of interpersonal problems. So, yes, I struggle with keeping the balance between depending on men to help me with various things such as car problems, home maintenance, and spiritual leadership in the villages, etc. and doing things on my own to avoid dependence.
Most often the men helping me are single Christian nationals who need work. They are dear brothers struggling to grow in the Lord. It is difficult as a single woman when the missionary men are so busy, and their wives do not lead. So, any decisions and communication usually must first go through the wife who then defers to her husband.
However, being single, for me, also means at times living with, or at least very closely to the nationals. Hence, I often know and hear things that the missionary families do not know. This has its advantages and disadvantages: advantages in that I learn much more about the people and their culture, but sometimes disadvantages in knowing of probllems in the Body of Christ and trying to help bridge the gap between the understanding of the nationals and the missionaries.
At times, I have had to teach on the home and family because the others were too busy to do so, or answer questions from national believing leaders because there were no mature Christian men around to do so.
My heart naturally yearns for a companion and leader, but these unmet desires must be met in Christ, the One Who has promised to supply all that I need. When He sees that I NEED a husband, He will provide. Until then, He is all that I need.
As Isaiah says too, the children of the barren are more than the married wife. How true! I frequently have 15 to 20 kids at my door, and must deal with their sicknesses, quarrels, etc., as their parents often leave them for the whole day to work in the farms.
I have been attacked by bandits in my home, have been stranded in very remote places, and more, but God has always been and will continue to be faithful to me, and I have seen that truly, safety is of Him! Ladies, others will fail you, but God never will. We can depend on Him all of the time. He uses times of trial to draw us to Himself and learn more of Him. The waters, and rivers, and fire are ways that we come to know our Lord more intimately – Isaiah 43:2. It is the greatest joy for me to serve the Lord here in Cameroon, the place and the people to whom God has called me to minister. I would not trade it for anything.
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” Philippians 3:10 (KJV)
. . . . . . . . . .
Heartfelt thanks to our sisters in Christ who contributed to this article – your beautiful hearts are a blessing!
Thank you so much for this encouraging article.