people often think that single missionaries stay single forever. not always true.
there are many stories i’ve heard of single missionaries getting married with a local (from their field of service), or when they’ve met someone while on furlough, or later on in their life as well. so yeah, it can happen.
i’m writing today because as i was preparing for my wedding (me, of the aforementioned marrying-a-local type), i literally google searched “single missionary marry overseas” to see if i can get some advice about preparing myself for a wedding NOT in my own country (on a personal level, not regarding wedding culture).
guess what? there was zilch. could not find anything.
i found lots of articles about singleness, lots of articles about single missionaries adjusting to married life, single missionaries’ feelings regarding leaving the field, even marrying someone from a different culture, etc. but none about those of us who are about to marry someone FROM the field, while ON the field.. so i’m here to open that door for you:
it is lonely as heck.
<i should pause here first, and mention that even though i’m writing about this, it in no way overshadows the joy and thankfulness of being able to celebrate marriage with friends and family from afar. it’s just that most people write about the happy part, but no one ever writes about the hard part. and well, if you’ve read my blog before, you know i love tackling the hard-to-talk-about parts! >
so you’re probably wondering what there is to be lonely or sad about, right? well, whether you’re single or married, most ladies imagine being surrounded by their moms (M) or sisters (S) or good friends who are you’re likely bridesmaids (B). i’ve been to plenty of weddings, and even if i hadn’t, you can always find those annoying wedding prep posts from your facebook friends – going to pick wedding dresses with their MSBs, trying on bridesmaid dresses, getting together to help with invitation stuffing, decoration prep, etc. because let’s face it – most ladies (when they are getting ready to wed) assume that’s what it will look like because…well, why wouldn’t it? it’s supposed to be all rainbows and unicorns and prancing and spinning through the field!
’tis not likely true for the single missionary marrying on the field.
for starters, you have to do all your wedding prep in between ministry. that’s right, missionaries don’t get to take it easy on “work” just because you’re getting married. in my case, i was handing over my role to another, i worked straight up until 2 weeks before my wedding day, and had short-termers living at my house with me.
secondly (and the most difficult & lonely part), your MSBs aren’t actually in the country months ahead of time to go shopping with you, or you with them, which means you have to do all your wedding shopping alone. that’s the fun (since they’re coming!), but also sad part of a soon-to-wed missionary, is that your MSBs are likely to be outside your country of service, who have jobs, families, ministry, and other responsibilities, so they can’t just pop over to your country just for a food-tasting, or shoe shopping or whatever else MSBs usually spend time with the bride doing. we did everything through emails and LINE chats, sending each other photos (which i must admit is quite efficient as well haha) and trusting each others’ opinions. but it was hard to to not physically have them around.
STORY TIME! i still remember the one day i actually wanted to take a break from all the emails and ministry prep (preparing to hand over my role) and thought i might as well head out and look for a 2nd-hand veil and cheap shoes to go with the wedding dress. the mini-excitement of doing that quickly faded as i boarded the local bus to get to the bus stop near that shop. as i stepped off the bus and looked around, trying frantically to find my bearings (plus, it was stinkin’ hot & humid outside), tears began to well in my eyes as i felt so alone all of a sudden. wishing that i had anyone from my group of MSBs – or just anyone – with me to go look for the veil, i just walked and allowed the tears to come down my face. the thought just would not leave my mind – “i am supposed to be doing something happy in preparation for a joyous event, but yet i am here alone.” that moment remains with me, and when i think of it, i can still recall the exact setting and emotions i was feeling, which makes me well up again.
i know you may be thinking, “it can’t be that serious, lady, stop being so dramatic.” and if you know me, you know that i don’t usually sweat being a lone wolf. i had thought that i’d be okay to do it alone (since, well, being single all these years, i got used to doing things alone, and facing difficulties alone), but here’s the thing i realised – most girls, no matter how independent they are, still long to share those wedding moments with someone from the MSB group, or any female friend you feel close to. it is so jarring to feel that way, especially for the single women who have taken the step to follow God to the other side of the world and serve there. come on, if you can navigate THAT alone, surely shopping for a dress, veil, or shoes would be way more easy??
thirdly, as much as people say they can help if you need it, it never formally happens, as you all realise there really is no time to do it. for example, the other missionary ladies all kindly offered to help with anything (and i know they genuinely wanted to help), but let’s face it – we were all so busy with ministry and families and other random things, that when i, myself, finally did have a moment to actually do wedding-related stuff, it was so spur-of-the-moment that i could not have just rang up another missionary and said, “hey, wanna come over and help me fold a million paper flowers?” and well, if i’m being honest – maybe we’re just not close enough with one another where i would feel i could do that and not be asking too much of them (and maybe that’s a whole other post for another day).
hence, that’s usually what MSBs are for (also b/c they are the ones who won’t take offense if those bridezilla moments come out, i hope!). so i did much of the little bits and pieces of prep all on my own, when i had spare time (sometimes had the occasional helper, and the short-termer girls living with me kindly helped me with some stuff during the last week; that was their way to do some mindless, relaxing work).
so there you have it. i want to be clear again that this sad part does not overshadow the fact that i loved being able to celebrate with my fellow missionaries (who all kindly were there to help play roles in the wedding/reception), friends, and family on the field, and that my MSB were all there a week or two ahead of time to help (and boy, did they help those last two weeks when we knew there would be details left and right that i’d forgotten about)!! i am so thankful for how many various people from various parts of my life were there not just to celebrate with us, but also help out.
but again – not many articles or blogs write about this special situation (particularly the ability to do typical wedding-y stuff with your closest females due to geography) to begin with, because, well, maybe the single missionary marrying someone FROM the field, ON the field just doesn’t happen all that often. most of them have the opportunity of going back to their home country for the wedding (according to all the blogs i had come across during my google search)…oooor maybe the whole single missionary marrying on the field just doesn’t happen often enough for someone to actually write about it. who knows.
in the end, i look back on that time as a very special moment, unique to my life and most peoples’ wedding experiences. i think it also speaks volumes about missionary communities and how close we feel (or don’t feel) with one another when it actually comes down to it. aaaaaaaaanyway, i want to end this on a positive note, though, because the whole experience itself was not only a great lesson in the missionary life, but also simply because God is good…the ending to that story i shared earlier:
as i made my way to the shop, who would message me but that dude-i-would-soon-be-marrying. he asked what i was up to, and i told him i was out shopping for a veil and shoes on my own, which i then sadly explained that most brides would be doing with their closest female friends. then the dude immediately replied that he would come find me and he would go with me.
but as i sat there waiting, i remembered all the ways that God is good in my life – my whole journey from where i started (coming to this country), to how i ended up where i was that very day…all this time God was and is good. He was good through the good, and good through the hardships.
and this time, the tears that fell were tears of thankfulness.