In Her Shoes – Missionary to Africa

 

I stand here in the kitchen looking out the window. I am watching my 16 year old daughter, Natalie, and her two friends. One is 17 years old and the other is 12 years old. They are laying in a hammock letting Natalie’s kitten climb all over the three of them. The hammock is strung between a mango tree and its own branch (supported by a wooden stilt). They are giggling and enjoying a lazy moment of girl talk. Three missionary kids.
Now, if you had told me I would be watching this scene six months ago, when we first arrived, I may have believed you, but I probably would have simply hoped it might be true. When we arrived, the pain of separating from her brother and sister were too new. The discomfort and difficulty of schooling for her and for her younger brother were also too new and painful. What you imagine life may look like as a missionary in West Africa and what it does actually look and feel like cannot be predicted by the human mind. You cannot fathom the depths of pain you experience for your children’s loss or adjustments to a new way of life. You cannot fathom the pain you will experience for the loss of daily contact with the two adult children you have left in the States. You also cannot imagine the peace God will provide in walking with Him where He wants you. There is a contentment that cannot be adequately described. I have no doubt that this is where He wants us. So many things had to occur for us to arrive here when we did.
Our path brought us to The Gambia a year after I had emergency brain surgery. In August 2011 I collapsed from a cyst creating a large amount of spinal fluid to build up in my brain. Had this occurred here in The Gambia, there would have been no medical treatment available to save my life. If you had told me then that a year later I would be living in The Gambia it would have been so very difficult to imagine. But our heavenly Father knew all of these details years ago. We had originally expected to raise our support, arriving here within three years of the journey’s beginning and bring all four children to The Gambia to experience life together. However, seven years later we arrived here, with our oldest two children in the States and our youngest two children with us. There have been no surprises to our omniscient Father. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us,
“I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 
I cannot take credit for God’s plans. I can only thank Him that He makes the plans and carries them out in His time. He doesn’t promise endless days of ease, but he does promise us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He does promise peace and lasting comfort for every day. God’s peace and assurance that He will work all things to His glory is enough for me. I pray this reality for you.

In Her Shoes – Missionary to Scandanavia

“When you surrender to the Lord and serve Him with all your heart, it is always worth it!”  Does this sound familiar?  Having finished our second term on the mission field, I realize now that the statement holds truth depending on one’s perspective about the God one serves.  If your God is the All-powerful, All-sovereign, All-knowing God that the Bible teaches then it is worth the cost.  Many though do not fully comprehend what those costs are, or assume that missionaries are almost super human and can face anything easily.  But being a missionary is not easy and does not get easier just because a person obeys God’s will for their life. A missionary is just a normal Christian who has been given a special opportunity to learn the lesson of clinging to Jesus, only Him.

I had the desire to be a missionary since childhood.  God is smart to put that desire in a child who is innocent to the hardships missionary life can entail, and whose God and faith are so strong and not yet tainted with the “wisdoms” of the adult mind.  I had dreams of ministering where no man had gone before and surviving on the bare minimum to do so.  Kids have huge dreams!

In the end, after much prayer and God orchestrating the next stage in my life which included marriage, stateside ministry, and children, God started working more specifically towards missions. To make a long story short, after seeking third world countries and seeing God close doors and push us in other directions, we headed to Scandinavia.  This was not at all what my childhood pictures had portrayed to me.  Now we are buried in snow all winter (good thing my college in Wisconsin gave me lots of practice), working with people who have no desire for the Lord (and see no need for Him either), and living in a society that lives only to please self.  It is not always easy and yet as I see and meet these people, I learn they are just as lost as any native.  They just have to be shown how much God loves them.  They need to see a godly life demonstrated in front of them.  I am learning to see more clearly that “God so loved the world”, not just those who I think look needy.

Living in this country is cold outside, but even colder in the hearts of the people.  That makes for harsh spiritual living conditions. Immoral thinking is rampant, so one must be constantly filled with the truth of God’s Word to stand strong against it.  You must be faithful in ministering even if no one shows interest for 20 years.  You have no great numbers to report, no masses of churches that have been started.  You learn that to God, one person who listens to the gospel, one person who shows interest in a Bible study, one convert in eight years – are all miracles!

On top of the discouragements of slow ministry, you realize you and your children have to face new governmental regulations you do not agree with.  They cannot be schooled at home anymore – that is supposedly this government’s job.  They must learn about things that we know the Bible teaches against.  They hear and see things we might have been able to protect them from a little longer somewhere else.  They must learn this new language from others who teach them swear words right along with the good words.  They will shed lots of tears as people see them as different due to their life choices.  We must invest time daily to unteach the evil that has begun to take root in their minds and then fill up the empty void with the truths of God’s Word.

And in the midst of all this it is tempting to think that all we can do is pray, when prayer is the most powerful weapon we have.  So we pray – A LOT – and rely on the Spirit to pray on our behalf when words do not come easily (Rom.8:26) You realize you must trust God, who led you to this land, with your dear ones as you send them out into the lion’s den so to speak. We have to remind ourselves often that we are in the safest place we can be in life when we are in the center of God’s will.

After we adjust to realizing that this missionary life for God is going to take hard work, complete dependence on God, and an “I’m not going to quit” attitude, we realize that we cannot just run to other Christians for encouragement as we once did.  We realize that apart from God, we are alone.  On deputation all those wonderful people who shake your hand to say, “We will pray, we will write, we will not forget you” … But real life sets in and you realize that many of them were just being nice.  (Now I know many people who do remember us and pray for us and I am sincerely thankful for them. And know that it would be that much more difficult to survive here without them).  I am talking about all the others, the ones who acted like your friend, even wrote an email the first month you arrived.  But after a few months, you realize life goes on in America. And if you are not seen, you are not remembered.  So you feel completely alone.

To top it off there are no genuine Christians to fellowship with, no doctrinally sound churches to attend, and your husband is now your family’s pastor and you are now your children’s Sunday school teacher and if you don’t get the job done, no one else will help.  Wow, what a wonderful life I had growing up in America.  The Bible was taught in Christian school, in AWANA, in youth group, in Sunday school, in church, in prayer meeting and also in our home.  And that was just in one week.  What a relief for Christian parents to have that support network to help each other pass on the Bible’s truths. So you can see how discouraged I was to learn that if I didn’t do it all, the children would not learn.   So I focus on the truth that God’s Word is all they need and teach as often as I can in every walk of life, praying that someday when they return to the United States they will find a good Bible believing church where godly men and women will get behind them and help them move on in their life for the Lord.

Once we get the fact cemented in our heads that we, our family, could be the only Christians we know here; once we help the children understand that there are no other Christians to fellowship with or be friends with, then we face one more thing.   Our family is not just a county away any more, but a couple oceans away.  I knew it would be hard to say goodbye, but it has been very hard at times. The days come and go – relatives die and you cannot say goodbye, and family members become really sick and you cannot help, or blessings take place and you cannot be there to rejoice with them. 

When years pass and you haven’t met new cousins or had many dates with your husband because there is no one to help anymore, then you finally realize all you have had to give up to follow God.  And you turn to Him and ask Him to fill all the empty places in your heart and help you to run with endurance this “race” He has set out for you.  You cling to the promises in His Word and to His character which will never change and some days you can only cling and hang on in prayer … (remember we are only human).

But other days you see His blessings and His faithfulness and provision and you worship Him for who He is. When you have fought through several years on the mission field and realize you can return to the USA for furlough the excitement level is high.  Then you are shocked to realize that reality in the USA is not the same as you once knew it.  Things change, people move.  You have changed and look at things with new eyes. 

You go to a church and meet one of those people who promised to write but never has, and you smile anyway and try to see them as God sees them and love them just the same. Sadly you see many who only seem to be in church because of an obligation, while you are singing with tears in your eyes as you haven’t sung with a group of Christians in years.  Your children finally meet other Christian kids for once and are shocked not to feel welcomed, or they see that some of the Christians can dress and act worse than their unsaved friends on the field. 

We all see things we have gone without for years, and must guard for jealousy and stay focused on what God has asked of us. Time flies on furlough as you try to minister to supporters and squeeze in some time. You come to understand that you, but mostly your children, do not fit in in either country anymore.  And it can make you feel really lost. 

Then once again you find yourself going to the One person who understands, the One who called you and can help you like no other – Jesus.  And you realize what you are doing is so little compared to all He did for you. Is my God big enough? Yes.

Is it easy to be a missionary? No, not always. Am I tempted to look back at what I had and wish to go back to the USA? Yes, when I am focusing on Satan’s lies instead of God and His Word. But all this was shared not to get pity, but to give understanding and insight into what life is really like for a missionary.

Missionary wives/mothers are just humans like any other Christian wife/mother.  We still hurt, hope, strive, cry, rejoice and hopefully seek God’s will at any cost.  But no matter what “work” is accomplished on the field, the true work has to be done in our hearts and character as God molds us more like His Son.  And this is His goal for every believer, so cling to Him and His Word and allow Him to work in you!(My favorite verses to cling to are Romans 8:26-39.)

 
Thank you so much for sharing about your life in Scandanavia!  We are so blessed and challenged by what God is working in your life.  Love and prayers! 

More about God’s work in Scandanavia

How did you know for sure God was calling you to
Scandanavia?

The
more I have been learning and growing in God’s will, I have backed away from
saying “called” as often as God calls each Christian to so many
things in His Word. It was more like a definite leading which was made more
apparent by God closing all other doors all along the way.  We knew God
wanted us here because He miraculously provided the needed funds on deputation in
an amazingly short time, continued to close all doors except for the ones
leading to Scandinavia and gave peace along the journey.

Do
you think God might lead any of your children to continue as
missionaries in Scandanavia? 

The
Lord alone knows where and how He will provide for my children in the future.
We have no permanent visas or citizenship here, so once they are no longer
dependents, they will not be able to remain in Scandanavia for longer than
visits. Unless they return as adults on work visas, etc. Thus
we must prepare them for moving on even though that is hard for me to think
about. My oldest is almost 16. They would have to pay to continue schooling
here or in the States and here there are no/not many Christians to be found
(thinking toward marriage) , and if they will one day
live in America, a degree from here will not be the best and they will
need to start working on their English more. That is why we are seeing the
States as the one country they legally can move to and stay in for as long as
needed.And possibly get some good Bible education and maybe even meet a godly
young man/woman.

If
the Lord leads our children to return to Scandanavia, praise
God.  But, I can see that they have been starved for so long from
normal Christian influence, that they need to be filled for a while and then we
will see how God leads in the future. It is harder and harder for people to get
into this country, so they might not be able to get in as missionaries any
longer.

When Divorce Comes Home

Divorce -


T

This month we are looking at a very painful topic: divorce.  Thank you to each of our dear sisters who prayerfully prepared their testimonies to share with us. 

When God Brought Me to My Knees

My experience with abandonment and divorce is probably not much different than others.  I had no inkling that my husband was having an affair and desired to leave our family.  It shocked me that my husband could so completely turn his back on his family and God.  My husband started his affair when our youngest son was three months old.

She was a coworker of his who was having marital problems.  It first started as a friendship then progressed to more since I was preoccupied with my new born son and my job.  The worst part of it all is the fact I know the lady he was having an affair with and work with her mother.  The other woman’s mother knew, but did not say anything to me because her daughter was happy.  The two of them are still together, and they now have a baby together.

 

Probably the worst part of it all was the divorce trial.  I would not settle out of court because I knew I had to fight for my boys.  Fighting over custody is not easy and brings out the ugly in some people.  I was blessed to have found a Christian lawyer who understood what I wanted.  It is unnerving to see and hear someone you love say negative and mean things about you to try and show you are not good for your own children.  That was the most heart wrenching thing to hear. I could not believe that my ex would use my Christianity as a reason for me not to be a fit mother.  His lawyer tried to make me out to be close-minded and a bigot.

 

Thankfully, the judge did not see it that way, and saw past the attempts.  Also, I had to trust God with my finances, because my husband refused to pay child support.  It was hard to not worry about how I was going to pay bills when I was not getting any support.  It was amazing how God worked everything out with help from family, friends, and my church.  God definitely knew what I needed more than I did. For that I am eternally grateful.

 

I was completely lost and shaken to the core.  God used this to bring me to him and show me that I had been trying to do things my way and not his.  I was broken and knew that I could not try and fix our marriage on my own.  I knew God was leading me to him through all of this.  Yes, I yelled at God and asked him why he was punishing me by allowing my family to be torn apart.  I could not wrap my head around how a divorce could be in God’s plan as for what was best for me and my two boys.
My ex and I had three mandated marriage counseling sessions.  These sessions brought so much to light that I had been trying to fix on my own and not allowing God to lead me.  I found out, that I needed to stop fighting and allow God to work in my life.  I took it upon myself to continue counseling sessions to help my growth and to ensure I was walking down the path God truly wanted me to go.  Counseling was the best thing I could have done for myself and my boys.   I had an advocate who was right there beside me all the way helping me anyway that I needed. The pastor I had counseling with was there to let me work through all my emotions and problems at my speed.  It was wonderful to know I had a safe place where I could go and let it all out.

Getting counseling for my eldest son was also a priority because he was having a hard time coping. He could not wrap his head around how his dad could turn his back on God and his family the way that he had.

 

My family, my ex’s family, my friends, and my church family have also been such a wonderful support for me.  They have all stuck by the boys and me and have been there unconditionally.  I have so many different people to go to for help with anything.  My boys have no lack of Godly father figures to learn from, and I am so thankful for that.  I am glad that God has brought me closer to my ex’s family through all of this and that I can lean on my father-in-law for help with discipline and love of my boys.

 

Since the divorce was finalized, I have moved to be closer to family and friends who are my support system.  My husband is still living with his new family.  I am able to work on showing God’s love to them all on a daily basis.  I know that this is what God wants me to do, and it allows me to show my ex that I still love him.  We all pray that God will bring my ex back to himself and to his family, but if that is not God’s will than that is okay.  God will show me his will for the boys and my life.  I completely trust him in all because he has done so much for us already.

 

Through this whole trial that has encompassed the last 2 1/2 years of my life I have learned so much about myself, about God and his will and path for my life.  This is definitely not the path I would have chosen to walk down, but it is the path God has chosen for my boys and I to walk down.

 

God has laid many scripture passages on my heart through this all and I have my favorites memorized and the others written up and hanging in places around my home where I see them daily.  My favorite Bible passages are: Jeremiah 29:11-13, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:4-9. These all give me comfort when I am having a bad day and struggling a little more than normal.

 

 

Stopped In My Tracks … God Carried us Through

 

Conflict, Separation, and Divorce: The three words that can stop any woman in her tracks as she walks down life’s pathway.

Sometimes, as I look back, I see that what I thought was a life choice on my part, was only on my side of my marriage.  People must make the decision to remain married for themselves, no matter where they are in their relationship, whether two years of marriage, twenty, or more.

 

At the beginning of our marriage we seldom argued because neither my husband nor I liked conflict in our home. We did have a few arguments and quite a few discussions about how our family was managing.  After being assured that I was being too sensitive about a recent discussion with my mother-in-law, I began to lesson my guard and tried to understand why a woman who had been married to seven different men would be telling me to be careful and keep my eyes open for changes that may be coming (?).

I had been feeling happy with how our jobs were working out and how we were dealing with financial difficulties. Some of our greatest needs had been met with the help of an extra part-time job.  So when we were not able to spend as much time together as we wanted, it was credited to all of the hours that we were working. While I was working the evening shift, he would watch our two young children. Then he would load them up in the car and drive to work were he would punch in two minutes late, so that I could punch out and walk out to the car and he would go into the building and punch in for his overnight shift.  Everything was going so well that I couldn’t have been more pleased.

 

Then after a couple of “guys nights” where he came home very late, I was not so happy.  He seemed to be pulling away and finding fault with everything that we were doing.  He was not happy.  But the biggest secret was not one that I was keeping; it was the guilt of the one he was keeping.  There were other people in our marriage that had not been invited by both of us, so the conflicts began.

 

He was unable to share how he felt and he chose to escape our difficulties by having a couple of girlfriends, as well as other interests.  As one thing led to another, the dishonesty was overwhelming to him, and finally he left.  I went to work one night after asking my family to watch the girls, so that he could go visit and help his mother at her house.  And he just didn’t come home.  I was devastated! I was completely unable to understand that he was not coming back… ever.  He had taken the opportunity to move in with his mistress, just one of the women with which he created a relationship.
The separation of our family was complete. Repeated attempts to reconcile with advice, counseling, and therapy just did not work. It was as if he had made up his mind and there was no changing any of the circumstances or outcomes.  This is not what I would expect from a soft and gentle spirit and someone who knows that God is able to repair and renew relationships.

 

As far as I could see my life was over. But God had a different plan.  This was just one step in God teaching me to rely on Him … not me, not my husband, not even my church and the friends I found there.

I read in the scriptures that a marriage covenant is from now until death do us part (I Corinthians 7:39).  I take this to be certain.  Not everyone believes the same as I do, but since I came from a divorced home with many “girlfriends” and “guy friends” being brought into my relationship with my mom and my dad, I knew that was not going to be right for me.  (I didn’t like getting to know a new person just to have them disappear after about two months of visitation or four or five months of being around.

The constant coming and going made me not trust too many adults, and I didn’t feel like I could be alone with them without them wanting to “get to know me better” or just getting rid of me.)

 

So I chose to stay single at least until my children were grown and out of the house.  If God had a plan of a different path then it would be up to Him to show it to me.  God showed me scripture in a whole new light, like this passage from Isaiah 55:7-9:

 

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

 

If raising children as a single parent was so easy then everyone would be doing it, right? So, I just kept on doing the best that I could.  I would get my children connected with their Sunday school teachers, youth workers, and youth pastors so they would have connections with godly examples of how families should work.  Sometimes it was a great fit, other times not so much.  But the families in our church would include my children in as much as they could so the kids would see how godly families were designed.

 

And I never told my kids that divorced life was what was easy.  The time spent with their dad and step mom was difficult.  And although they had opportunities to do things with dad that we couldn’t afford to do, I didn’t want them to think poorly of their father.  He was always a hard worker and really tried to understand why the children were conflicted about our situation. The conflict that it created for our children was a constant point of contention in how he and I related as co-parents.  His current wife was not always contributing in a positive way, and it caused conflict within our family quite a bit.

 

But, God is bigger than the human problems that we construct. God is much wiser than the human mind. God is much more gracious than the human attitude. So I found peace in seeking God’s will for not just myself, but also for my “broken” family.  We were a family that prayed together, went to church together, made too much noise during the service together, and served together in our church through visitations, nursery work, children’s church and many teen activities.  This is what our family did to combat the inward looking self-pity that often accompanies divorce.  We used our God-given skills and gifts to reach others with the gospel.

Looking back and looking around… those who are going through divorce, conflict and separation are both a mission field and a ministry opportunity just waiting for loving, patient, godly friends and family to lift them up, befriend them and support them as they find the path that God has for them through and after the conflict.

 

Are you willing to reach out to a family going through this type of conflict?  Here is my advice for reaching out to divorced women and their children:

  • Pray for them
  • Tell them you are glad to see them when they are at church- no matter how many of them are able to make it.  Please be gracious and avoid comments like, “I haven’t seen Dave much lately … has he been ill?”
  • Ask if you could watch the children so the woman/man can go to the store without taking all the children out.
  • Invite the children to your home for an evening meal and family time… this is especially helpful if the father is absent from the home and not involved with leading family devotions.
  • Ask if there are any car repairs/home maintenance issues that you can lend a helping hand to, or recommend a good expert (plumber/electrician…) to help them when they need someone to handle a large job.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my story.  It was difficult, but also a blessing to look back now and see again how wonderful our loving Father is, and how He was always with us during this and all times.

 

Heartbreak andRedemption

 

We were high school sweethearts and as a senior I knew I was going to marry him. We dated through college and were married on June 11, 1994. He felt God calling him to be a seminary professor.  So the focus for eleven years became his schooling. During that time we moved seven times, received three degrees, and had three children. In 2005, he was hired at a seminary, and we settled in loving where God had us.

 

Around November, 2009 I saw things that concerned me. When I asked him, he reassured me everything was fine. About ten months later I stood in the shower sobbing to God, knowing something wasn’t right. Soon after, I started searching the house – drawers, between mattresses, closets – I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I was looking.

 

On October 9, 2010, I found a phone in my husband’s work bag.  I confronted him.  And what I didn’t think would ever happen to us had happened – my husband was having an affair and the woman was someone I considered a friend. I was devastated, confused, and numb. When he asked me to forgive him, I said I didn’t know what that looked like. After finding out he had bought a ring for the woman, I made him leave.

 

The next morning was like any other Sunday except the kids questioned where Daddy was. I said he had a meeting at church so he left early. After church he told the kids (ages 7, 10, and 11) that he loved another woman which hurt mommy a lot and was wrong … so he could not live at home for a while.

 

I got counseling, and by the end of November I knew I needed to reconcile. In early December, just as I was accepting the idea, my counselor asked to see me. When I arrived she prayed like always, but it was slightly different. She ended with “help Amy to know how much we love her.” Immediately my heart began beating faster. She said, “He needs to talk to you. There’s more.” We walked to the pastor’s office, and he told me they had done things in our house and in OUR bed.

 

Before I left that day my pastor said, “I don’t know how you are going to walk into your house or sleep in your bed tonight, but God loves you.” I replied, “I will sleep in my bed tonight, because a week ago a friend insisted on buying me new bedding. I’ve had it on my bed for two days. A week ago I told her it wasn’t necessary. God knew it was, and He took care of it. I know He loves me.”  In February I told him I wanted a divorce. I couldn’t trust him, and I couldn’t go through this again.

 

God worked though, and by the end of April I knew God wanted me to reconcile. One of the things He used was a ladies conference at our church in March. The speaker said, “When my husband asked if I could ever forgive him for the sin he committed against me and our children, I said ‘yes.’” She followed by saying, “In that moment I didn’t need to trust my husband. I needed to trust God.” The next morning I told him I forgave him.

 

Around that same time my pastor said in a message, “The extraordinary acts of God in the world often take place in the context of the faith of ordinary believers who obey God in circumstances that are neither pretty nor easy.” April through September included uncomfortable times in counseling as a couple and dating. It was an exhausting time for me, because while I knew what God wanted me to do, I wasn’t good with it. A godly man gave me this advice, “Obey God now and the feelings will come.”

 

On September 15, 2011, we exchanged vows in front of our closest family and friends. It wasn’t easy to promise “till death do us part,” because this time I knew what I was promising. The past two years haven’t always been easy, because I am still afraid of getting my heart broken again. He recently spent two weeks half-way around the world teaching a theology class to a group of pastors – something a couple years ago he didn’t know if he would ever do again. It was during the time he was away that God showed me I wasn’t trusting Him with my future. God knew I needed him to be gone as much as he needed this teaching opportunity.

 

Things I decided early on:

 

1.)  My life would continue. It didn’t matter what happened the day before, I went to church! I didn’t cancel a brunch I had planned at my house for that Monday.

2.)  I would not talk negatively about my husband in front of my children.

3.)  I would be kind to him. I claimed Ephesians 4:32 and often read, “Forgiveness is all about me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” One time I knew the Lord was telling me to invite him to stay for dinner. I thought, “I don’t want him here.” Yet, I felt the same prompting “invite him to stay for dinner.” I actually stomped my foot and said, “Fine! I’ll let him stay.”

Things God did for me:

1.)  He loved me.

2.)  He was faithful in keeping His promises.

3.)  He was good.

  • The morning of October 10, the first Facebook status I saw was “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love” (Eric Lidell). God hugged me in that moment.
  • When unable to decide if we should come home for dinner or just go to Wendy’s to make the evening easier after a crazy day a friend dropped by and said, “I thought you could use this.” It was a gift card to Wendy’s! It was like God said, “Let me buy you dinner tonight.”

4.)  He prepared me. That summer we were challenged at church to read through the Bible in 105 days.  Our family took the challenge, and every day the kids and I spent an hour reading ALL of God’s Word.

5.)  He took care of my children. My counselor encouraged me to get a notebook for each of them to write anything related to the situation. One night I was looking at my seven-year-old’s notebook, and she had written: “I am scared Daddy won’t get to come home.” Next she wrote “What time I am afraid I will trust in God.” He brought Scripture to her mind when she needed it.

6.)  God provided for us.

  • He provided a vehicle through my in-laws when ours wasn’t worth repairing.
  • He provided financially. The seminary gave me his paycheck through the end of the year. He started a new job on January 3 so there was always an income.
  • He provided a vacation. For a long time we had been planning to go to Disney with friends in January 2011. In October I was sure that trip wasn’t going to happen, but God provided every penny.
  • He took take care of school. My children were in a Christian school, a benefit of my husband’s job. The seminary graciously paid the tuition for the remainder of the year, but I knew the following year I could never afford to keep them there. In March I was hired to work in the school office. One of the benefits is my kids go free which only God could have arranged!
  • He provided a new home. In April I told God He would have to provide a new house for us to move into before he could move back in. That August the kids and I moved.

There are no words to express the pain of betrayal by a spouse. Even with my closest friends by my side I felt alone. But, God never left me. It was after I told him I was going to divorce him that I said to God, “It’s you and me, God, and I’m good with that.” I know He only allowed those things to happen to me that would make me more like Jesus.  And while I can’t say I was thankful for the trial, God helped me to be thankful in the trial. With all the things God taught me and did for me during that time I felt like Job when he said,

“I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” Job 42:5

 

Here are some ways you can help a hurting friend:

  1. Do something! If you feel a prompting from the Lord, do it. Remember the bedding and the gift card? He might want to use you to meet a need in His perfect time.
  2. Don’t say “if you need something let me know.” She won’t know what she needs.
  3. Make a meal.
  4. Don’t stay silent! Let her know you love her and that you are praying.
  5. Be there for her . . . when she is ready. She may have just a couple close friends she turns to. Be okay with not being one of them.
  6. Remember she still has the same interests. She is going to get tired of talking about her situation.
  7. Don’t gossip.
  8. If she has children offer to take them for an afternoon. She has gone from having a husband who shared the load to doing it alone.
  9. Sit with her in church. It can be very lonely sitting in a church pew by yourself when you’ve always sat with your husband.

10.Send cards and include a Bible verse stating a promise or attribute of God. She can read them when she needs encouragement.

11.Don’t immediately preach at her to forgive and reconcile. She needs time to process all that has happened. Let God work.

12.Most importantly pray for her!

  • That she doesn’t make emotional decisions
  • That she will forgive
  • That she will be open to reconciliation
  • That she will be kind to her husband
  • That she would constantly be in God’s Word and stay close to Him
  • That she would see how good God is and know He loves her
  • That she will sleep because everything seems a little better after a good sleep

 

Hope and Healing Through Christ

When Sara first asked me to contribute to this article, I was in the half asleep fog of early morning and agreed to it before I really comprehended what she was asking.  I began mulling over some of the things that helped me through the struggles of being divorced, and I felt excited at the idea that my experience could encourage someone else.  I had every intention of sitting down really soon and writing out my thoughts…but then I was overcome by fear and doubt.  I have a tendency to think I’m not good enough, I don’t have any answers, and I can’t help anyone.

Over the holidays I continued to struggle with these thoughts.  It’s difficult not to feel your “aloneness” more acutely when everything around you is centered on family, togetherness, and love.  I spent too much time feeling empty and alone, and not enough time thinking about the things I’m thankful for, the true meaning of Christmas, and the hope and promise of a new year.  I somehow forgot all the things that helped me, and even wondered if anything really did help.

I put off writing the article.  I think Satan must take particular delight in distracting me from Christ and what He’s doing by getting me to focus on the brokenness of my own life.

When you’re divorced, it’s easy to focus on the brokenness of life. The shattered pieces are all around: the aching loneliness and rejection, the hurting children, the weariness and uncertainty.  But the reality is that all of us, as humans, experience these things to varying degrees and in various ways no matter our circumstances, because we are all broken.  There is a battle for our attention; the brokenness of our lives vs. the victory of Christ. When I focus on the brokenness of my life, I feel discouraged, unloved, and alone.  But I can choose to turn the eyes of my heart toward Christ and His love for me instead.

The truth is that I am deeply loved by the very Creator and Sustainer of the universe. In John 15:9 Jesus says,

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”

 

In Galatians Paul says that the Son of God loved me enough to give Himself up for me.  And in Ephesians he tells me that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge and that knowing that love will fill me up.  I don’t need to feel empty and broken, because God loves me so much that He became broken for me, so that I could be whole in Him.  Remembering the truth of who I am in Christ gives me the courage to face each day as it comes, believing that God is loving and good, and that He has a plan and a purpose for me.  My hope is in Him, not in my circumstances here on earth.  To quote the hymn,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

 

 

Thank you, dear Sisters, for sharing your stories with us.  I am so very sad for what you have gone through.  At the same time, I am awed by God’s loving provision for you and your families. Thank you for helping us learn from you, gaining wisdom and understanding to more compassionately lift up our divorced sisters and their children.  May God continue to lavish His love on you and your families!

Images courtesy of http://www.canstockphoto.com/images-photos/divorce.html

 


Is God Calling You to Full Time Christian Service?

Honestly, I never felt called or led by God to be a pastor’s wife.  Both of my sisters married pastors, and before I went to college my parents sweetly told me never to feel pressured to follow their path – the most important thing was to follow God’s leading for my life.

Most of the time when I was growing up I believed God was leading me to be a missionary overseas.  I would pepper visiting missionaries with questions.  I even got to the point where I practically told God, “I AM going to be a missionary, no matter what You think” (yikes).  Finally, He got me to a point where I said, “YOUR will be done” (whew).

Zooming ahead … my husband and I both graduated from Bible college.  Yet, we are not in full-time Christian service.

  • Did we waste money and time on our Bible college education?
  • Was it all for nothing?
  • Are we disobeying God?
  • Do we please God less because we are “electrical engineer” and “stay-at-home-homeschooling-mom” instead of “Rev.” and “Mrs. Pastor”?

It couldn’t be further from the truth!  God in His wisdom led us to Bible college, and then He led us to be Full-Time Christians.  In our church and in our community God opens up opportunities all the time to share His good gifts with others.  We are far from perfect about following up on all of His opportunities, but with His strength He is using us and we are constantly in awe of His provision!

God doesn’t call each of His children into the same field.  Where would we be if all believers were pastors and pastors wives?  Where would the body of Christ – the foot, the eyes, the knees be, to fulfill the callings of the local church in our communities (I Corinthians 12)?  He wisely places us in the position He knows will benefit from the talents He’s given us most effectively.

 

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 NKJV

 

When Tim was attending Bible college, seeking God’s will for his life, his pastor took him aside privately and told him that he was confident that God wasn’t leading him to be a pastor.  Was Tim willing and open to be one?  Yes!  But, God used his pastor, who knew his personality and heart well, to give him loving, specific counsel.  Following Bible college, Tim pursued his (God given) interests in math, radio systems and computers, attending community college and then a state university.  The education he learned there, especially learning how to work through the tests of faith and how to face the bombardment against God’s Word, has been priceless.  I can’t tell you how many times God has opened doors for Tim (who pushed on the door of missions by taking a college Missionary Apprentice Program to France) in his engineering field to answer difficult questions about life, death, God, creation, family, etc.  Tim’s Greek and doctrinal training from Bible college days helps in his teaching/music ministry at church, as well as on a daily basis enriching his personal Bible study and walk with God.  God didn’t call him to be a pastor, but God is using him every day!

Before we were married, I taught for three years in a Christian school.  Many of my students were from Ukraine, as well and Pakistan and India.  One of my Indian students and her brother came to know Christ in our Christian school.  A few years later their mom trusted Christ and has shared the gospel with family and friends around the world – many who are coming to know Christ personally!  Praise the Lord!

A couple years ago we hosted a Muslim exchange student from the Philippines, and a Christian young lady from Ghana.  Talk about a mission field!  We are part of a church that is blessed with many students from all over the world attending a state university.  God has brought the world to us.  We are missionaries in our mid-western city – God’s place for us.

Our backgrounds come together to greatly help us in our most important mission field of all: our sons.
Most every day the boys and I pray for Daddy as he goes to his mission field at work, and for God to help us be a light for Jesus in our mission field: our neighborhood, and people we come into contact with at doctors offices, grocery stores, restaurants, parks, etc.  Just today my oldest son wanted to give a gospel tract to some friends of ours who were visiting.  Our mission field is very real!

Pastors and their wives, missionaries, missionary wives … these dear men and women have a sacred calling from God that is different from all else.  As shepherds leading us, as they follow the Good Shepherd, they have unique responsibilities, challenges, sacrifices, and rewards.  We must be committed to loving them (in word and deed!), praying for them, and supporting them.  But, if God didn’t call us to those ministries, we would be sinning against Him by disobeying His lead in our lives.  God’s will is the best place to be.

Perhaps, some time in the future, Tim and I might become missionaries.  We’ve talked about the possibility that after his retirement from his engineering mission field, God may call us to serve in areas of Bible translation (he’s continued using his Greek and enjoys learning Hebrew in his spare time), teaching, technical help, music, etc. on foreign and domestic mission fields.  Until then, we will walk with God daily on the mission field of His calling.  He knows best, and we are confident He will lead us every step of the way!

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV



Summary:  We each need to seek God’s individual leading, through His Word and the guidance of godly counselors.  He will, in time, impress us through His Spirit in the way we must go.  No fear of missing the boat!  Walk with Him today, every day, and He will faithfully guide to the next step.  Churches need godly pastors and their wives, as well as godly laymen and laywomen.

What about you?  Are you a Full Time Christian, where God has called you to be?  God will provide all the strength and resources we need to fulfill His calling.  Best of all, He promises to be with us every step of the way!

 

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:1-5 NKJV

 

In Her Shoes – Missionary to Japan

This month we get to hear from Susan in Japan.  I am so thankful for her willingness to share from her experience on God’s mission, here in the States and in Asia.  Thank you, Susan, for your testimony!
 
“Missionary wives are not so different from any other Christian wife. The only difference I can tell is location. Our lives are maybe more upside down at times than the average American’s, but when it comes down to it, we are simply women who desire to glorify God and serve Him, just like you.
Here are a few observations I’ve made after being a missionary or appointee for fourteen years.
Ways You Can Be Involved
 
First of all, we love hearing from our supporting churches.  Unless someone takes the initiative to do the telling, we rarely hear any church news. Occasionally a pastor writes quarterly updates, but many times, we are out of the loop for years at a time. We like to know what’s going on in your church (ministry opportunities, upcoming events, etc.), including pressing prayer requests. Sometimes we don’t know a new pastor has been called until long after the event. If church email addresses change, it is very helpful for us to know that, too.
Missionaries need your prayers. And one of the most encouraging things to a missionary is to hear that you are praying. Sometimes we wonder if we are “out of sight, out of mind.” When you write or email to tell us of your prayers, we feel fortified.
If you are a member of a supporting church, develop strong relationships among fellow church members. You might wonder how that helps a missionary, but if our supporting churches are weak, splitting over minor matters, or dying, it affects us greatly! But if American churches are strong, vibrant, and growing in Christ and in unity, all of us benefit.
Many of you host missionaries in your homes. We are very grateful to each of you! If you asked me what you could do better, I can’t think of anything! You all do a very excellent job. Thoughtfulness and basic cleanliness are a plus.
Do you feel that missionaries are super-spiritual saints? Wipe that thought from your minds! It’s simply not true. We are fellow Christians, with no higher access to God than you. I’ve heard people introduce me, and the awe in their voices makes me cringe. When people act like that, it usually means they feel like they could never do what we do. That is not true either. Whatever God asks you to do, you can do in His strength and enjoy it.
Some people feel awed that we would sacrifice so much in order to serve God. We don’t see it that way. (Or we shouldn’t!) We are only doing “our reasonable service.” God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The Christian’s only response can be one of gratitude and joyful surrender of our lives to Him. Not everyone will serve Him overseas. Each of us is placed in the Body of Christ as God has determined. We can’t all be the “eye” or the “ear” or whatever position that seems most attractive. We all should serve God wherever He places us.
The missionary wife needs spiritual encouragement, too. We need to spend time in God’s Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with other sisters in Christ. Sometimes, when the church plant is new and small, fellowship is hard to come by. Many needy people take and take and take from the missionaries, with little encouragement being given back to them. Ways to encourage a missionary wife may include sending a note saying how God has spoken to you recently, sending Godly Christian music on a CD, sending a good Christian book that has helped you, visiting if possible, or making a phone call or setting up a Skype session.
Helping You Understand Us Better
 
Many missionary wives struggle with their role – or maybe it’s their perceived role. We feel like we have to perform missionary duties since we’re part of the missionary couple. Where does motherhood fit in? Or wifehood? Where should our priorities be? Many missionary wives I’ve met struggle with balancing these roles.
I have to constantly remind myself that my family must come first. If my children suffer from lack of attention or spiritual direction, I have missed my first calling. I must spend time with my children, investing in their lives while they’re young. The problem comes in writing that prayer letter. What did I do the last two months? Well, I changed diapers, washed a lot of dishes, attacked massive piles of laundry, and told Bible stories to my children. In my human thinking, that doesn’t sound like a successful missionary strategy! And I feel guilty.
In talking with other missionaries, I’ve found that many times we rest in the fact that just being there on the mission field as a support team for our husbands can be a huge factor. If wives are doing their job (cooking, cleaning, caring for children), this frees up the husband to do the work of making disciples. In some cases, the missionary wife is the husband’s sole encourager on the field . . . and sounding board . . . and assistant.
In conclusion, missionary wives are just common people, trying day by day to follow God’s leading. If you feel you cannot imagine what their lives are like, ask them! And maybe one day, if you yourself continue following God one step at a time, He may lead you to be a missionary wife, too! It’s an adventure of faith!”

In Her Shoes – Missionary to South America

 
“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). What an amazing verse! I have a Bible study on Wednesday afternoons with two ladies from my neighborhood and this was one of the verses that we studied today as we studied about the importance of reading God’s Word daily.


When we started this Bible study, both ladies were unsaved and very embraced in their Catholicism. Over the course of a year, slowly, ever so slowly, God’s Word began to work in their hearts and eventually both of these dear ladies asked Jesus Christ to forgive them of their sins and become their Savior. Wow! Do I like being a missionary wife??? I LOVE being a missionary wife! I get to do this all the time!

My husband and I left the United States fourteen years ago to go to language school and frankly, I was scared to death. For my husband it was a breeze. He, being a missionary kid, was returning “home” for his dream come true of being a full time missionary. I, on the other hand, had dreamed of living next door to my parents and was only going to the mission field out of complete obedience to God because He had directly called me to serve Him in this way.

The first four years of serving as a missionary were very hard for me. In obedience to God I returned with my husband for our second four year term. This term was awesome! I saw God use me in small ways, and I saw God use my husband in HUGE ways! We returned to the States for a year break, and I began to beg God that he would “really” use my life and my children’s lives to draw people to Jesus Christ. God was already using my husband in amazing ways. With a passion I wanted God to use my children and me to reach the unsaved.

When we cry out to God, He answers. February 2010 we started our third term. God moved us into a neighborhood where everyone knows each other. Being a runner, I quickly became known as the “Gringa” that runs every day. God placed on my husband’s and my heart to start a church right in our neighborhood. He provided the building and now after a year and a half we have about ninety to one hundred people coming each Sunday. Many of these people are still not saved, but God is working in their hearts. There is so much to do. The needs are so overwhelming; but the awesome thing is that God is not just using my precious husband to reach the unsaved but He is using me also.


Just wait, that is not all … God has so blessed my life because He is using my dear children also. On Sunday afternoons, my oldest son and I have a Bible study with two boys his age from our church. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to my Lord for this privilege. To watch my son speak so gracefully in Spanish and to listen to him answer their questions with such knowledge is a beautiful gift from my God.

On Sunday after our Bible study with these two young men, my son looked at me and said, “I do think that I would like to be a pastor.” He then with a laugh said, “That is after I am a professional soccer player.”

Soccer. Now there is a story. For years my husband and I prayed for a soccer ministry. We never dreamt that we would reach soccer players thru the life of our son. Our oldest son started playing competitive soccer at age four. Three years ago, he joined a very competitive team that plays all year and practices every day but Sunday.  In 2011, thru his testimony and our family’s testimony ten of his soccer friends accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Many of these boys would come to our house and stay the entire weekend. It was amazing. In that same year different teammates began living with us. This gave us amazing opportunities to disciple these boys. This continues to this day as one of his teammates still lives with us. This young man was saved a year ago and continues to grow while being a part of our family on a daily basis.
In January, our son had to train in a town about twenty-two hours away. As he and his teammates were loading the bus, a mom came running over to our son. With tears in her eyes she begged our son to tell her son about Jesus. She said, “He listens to you, please don’t stop telling him about Jesus. He will listen to you.” Two weeks after returning from his trip this young man came to our son at practice one day and said, “I finally asked Jesus to be my Savior and it was because of you and all you said to me.” AMEN!!! 

 


Do I wish to live next door to my parents? Yes. Do I wish to have a Target down the road? Yes. Do I wish to be able to take my kids on fancy, fun vacations? Yes. Would I trade my life for all that. NO, not at all! I LOVE serving the Lord on the mission field and I will forever be thankful that God has given me this life!!!

(Update: “The Bible study on Sunday afternoon that I spoke of that I do with my oldest son … the two boys in that study got saved on Sunday after the study.  It was awesome.”)

 
 

In Her Shoes – Single Missionaries

  
     “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.”
Isaiah 41:10


“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.

North America

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.
 

Africa

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! 


Africa
 

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)


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Heartfelt thanks to our sisters in Christ who contributed to this article – your beautiful hearts are a blessing!