Tag Archives: single missionary

what no one tells you about marrying overseas

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.

lonely

<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!

woot

the joy of having the MSBs around with you doing wedding-y stuff.

’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??

nope. sorry.

nope. sorry.

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).

i prefer to t-rexzilla with love.

i prefer to t-rexzilla with love.

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.

yay. i really mean it.

yay. i really mean it.

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when you leave a ministry…

earlier today, i wrote a final email to the community that my ministry is in, reflecting briefly on the past almost-five years, thanking them for serving alongside me (albeit virtually, since we’re all in different fields), and saying goodbye.  it was a bittersweet email to write, but i did it.

and then i went into our office bathroom, sat on the toilet, and shed quiet tears for about a full minute.

sniffle.

sniffle.

nobody ever tells you there would be grief in leaving a ministry.

if you had asked me last year how i felt about handing over this role (as the short-term missions coordinator for our field), i would have said, “great.  i seriously cannot wait.  SRSLY.”  but that’s because after these few years, i was burnt out, exhausted, and just not doing well.  all i could think about was all the sleep i lost in the past few years.  all the frustrations that could never really be shared about.  all the hurt from people putting down support work (what my role was considered).  all the advice people kept giving me but who could never fully understand the extent of how complicated the role was.  not to mention, all my body functions that started shutting down – mentally, physically, emotionally, and yes, even spiritually, the longer i was in this role.

i secretly (and selfishly) used to hope that Jesus would return because heaven felt like my only safe place.

i thought i was so ready to finish my involvement in this ministry.

and yet here i am today, remembering the bitter, but also remembering the sweet.  i would not have thought about the fact that i would be putting behind me, four and a half years of my life, spent learning, living, (literally) bleeding, and breathing this ministry that God allowed me to serve in.  it became a part of me that was inseparable from who i am as a person, as a christian, as a missionary.  He taught me how to be content & at peace with being a nobody in ministry, in missions. to be faithful in what He has given me to work with, no matter how big or how small.   in many ways, God used it to further shape my outlook on missions, mobilisation, church partnerships, frontline vs. support ministry, and missions discipleship…among other things as well.  God also allowed me to be a part of various peoples’ lives, walking with them in their own missions journey, praying with them, and encouraging them.  all of those things are what made this ministry a joy to be a part of.

it was also a testament to God’s saving grace in my life – He showed me not only who i am, but even more so on days that were not good, in frustrating moments in ministry – who i would be without Him.  and that wasn’t a pretty sight.  haha.  i can’t even begin to tell you how many nights i went to bed so frustrated that i cried myself to sleep.

me when i'm being real.

me when i’m being real.

but now my time with this ministry on a formal level is over.  i am relieved, i am thankful, i am at peace, and i am content.

relieved that i can finally hand this ministry over.
thankful that God let me be a part of it the past few years, and for the many things He taught me.
at peace with how He will continue to use and move this ministry – His ministry –  forward.
content with how God led me, and continues to lead me towards the future.

as a missionary, i’ve learned to say hellos and goodbyes to people, places, and things.  but ministry has always felt like it’s just there, waiting for you when you get back from your hellos and goodbyes.  it seems silly, but i never thought that i’d be farewelling ministry – not ministry in general, but this particular ministry that i likely will not return to again in the future.  ministry often has it’s highs and lows, but to actually leave that ministry feels so jarring.  so in that sense, even ministry is not constant.  only God remains constant through all of life’s goodbyes.

God is good.  there is grief, but there is joy.  everything is going to be alright.  maybe not today…but eventually.

 

 

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the single missionary & her many, many mothers

the feeling when mother's day is getting closer

when mother’s day is getting closer

mother’s day.  i only realised as i grew older, how much i used to dread this day.  not just for myself, but for those around me who feel like they are missing out on something.

for the single who longs to be a mother, but hasn’t been married; for the married women who long for children but is unable to have them, for mothers who have lost their children; for those who have lost their mothers – a special day to celebrate mothers (who have actually given birth) just makes it harder than it already is to face those facts.  (please understand i’m not saying i’m against mother’s day, but let’s face it – mothers, in the traditional sense, have every day to remind them that they are mothers; the rest of the women have one big special day to remind them that they aren’t and maybe never will be).

i still remember growing up, we would give out flowers to the mothers at  church, or they’d ask the mothers to stand up, and i distinctly remember wondering – even at that age – how do they know who’s a mother and who is not?  well, tons of blogs & articles have been written about how the church celebrates mothers day, often in ways that are hurtful to those who are not the obvious “mothers.”  i won’t go into detail about that, as i’m sure you can find that anywhere online.

having been out on the mission field for almost 10 years as a single woman, and being surrounded by plenty of missionary families/wives, it hasn’t always been easier.  but i also don’t want to go into that today (though i’m sure i could fill an entire entry about things that have been said/done that are hurtful to the singles, haha).

appreciate my cookie monster shirt, please.

appreciate my cookie monster shirt, please.

no, today i want to talk about the wonderful way i’ve experienced motherhood on the field.

my own mother is back in my home country, and for the past ten years, i have only had the chance to celebrate mother’s day with her by skyping and saying “happy mother’s day!” or mailing a present to her from overseas.  but i slowly began to realise that, while my own mother will always be my beloved mother, who has shaped who i am today – i now have other “mothers” that i also look up to, and have also influenced who i have become at the present.

when i think through the past 10 years here in taiwan and australia, there were plenty of ladies who poured into my life the way my own mother would, not just on a spiritual level, but also on an emotional and physical level – taking care of me, cooking for me, giving me advice, listening to me share, teaching me how to cook and answering my dumb questions about cooking, etc….there is no shortage of things that these ladies have done to help me mature on all different areas (if that is at all possible, hehe).  if i were back in texas, it would be my own mother helping to teach those things to me.  and yet here i am, on the other side of the world, learning from ladies – who are from various cultures, various age groups, both single & married…and it makes me so thankful.

i love my mother.  and i love all the women who have poured into my life in the past 10 years the way my own mother would.

so i am thankful for my mother.  and i am thankful for my pseudo-mothers as well, particularly the single women who have taught me much about being a single missionary.  i am reminded of Titus 2, where Paul advises the older women to disciple and teach the younger – this is what i have had the blessing of being a recipient of, and what wonderful examples i have to look to.

i don’t know if God will ever give me my own children, but even if He doesn’t, i still hope that in small ways, i can be a “mother” to ladies; giving to, and investing in the lives of other women around me.  i’ve learned that mothers day isn’t just a day for ladies who have birthed children to be appreciated, but a day to appreciate all the ladies around you who have been like a mother to you.  i hope that eventually mother’s day will be about celebrating that.

so happy mothers day to my mother, and all the women around me who have been a part of my life, loving and caring for me.

i am truly thankful for you.

i really mean it

i really mean it ❤


母親節。我漸漸長大後才發現我是如何畏懼這一天。不只是因為自己的感受,也是為我周圍感到生命裡少了點什麼的朋友們感到畏懼。

無論是很想當母親的單身女生,但是還沒有結婚;或是結了婚的太太但懷孕有困難的,或是孩子過世的母親,或是自己母親已過世的朋友們 – 我們大家慶祝一個專門只為懷胎生孩子的女人,只會讓以上的女士們感到更心痛受傷。(在這裡要先澄清一下,我不是反對母親節,而是說 – 我們一般想到的母親 – 生過孩子的 – 每天都有機會提醒自己是一位母親;剩下的女士們有特別的一天提醒她們自己並不是,也很可能以後也不會是)。

我還記得小時候,我們在教會會發花給母親們,或者會特別請母親們站起來,我那時候小小的年紀就很好奇說,他們怎麼知道誰是母親誰不是呢?許多教會的做法常常在這一天會說/做一些無意傷害人的事。知道也有許多網路文章或者部落格都有寫過教會是如何在這一天無意中傷害到那些不是明顯的 “媽媽“們。我在這裡也不會特別講再多,因為網路上已經可以找到很多關於這些的。

已單身女生來到台灣已經10年了,周圍也有很多的宣教士家庭/太太們,在這個環境裡生活也並沒有特別容易。但是我今天也不想要來談這個 (但是相信我有足夠的傷害單身人的話/行動 可以寫出一整篇啊!哈哈哈)

不是,今天因為是母親節,我想要特別講到我在宣教中是如何體驗到母親這個角色。

我自己的母親在美國,而這過去10年,我唯一能夠跟她一起過母親節就是在當天與她skype說 “母親節快樂!”或者就是寄個小禮物給她。但是我慢慢開始發現,雖然媽媽永遠都是我媽媽,也是讓我成為今天的我的人 – 我現在也有別的 “媽媽” 在我生命中付出,影響我的生命與走的路。

想想過去10年在台灣與澳洲,有多數的女士在我生命中付出,就像我自己媽媽會做的那樣。不只是在屬靈上付出,也是在情感上與生活上 – 照顧我,幫我做飯,給意見,聽我分享,教我怎麼做飯,也回答我問關於做飯的笨笨的問題…還不只這些呢!但是都是讓我學習成長的地方。如果我人還在美國,應該就是我自己的媽媽在教導我這些吧?但如今我在地球的另一邊,既然可以從不同的女士們學到許多 – 而且還是不同文化,不同年齡,單身/已婚的都有…讓我心裡很感恩。

我愛我的母親,我也愛這過去10年像媽媽一樣的在我生命裡付出的不同女士們。

我也為她們感恩,也為那些”乾媽嗎”們感恩,特別是那些單身的”媽媽”們教導我如何在工場上學習單身宣教士的生活。想起聖經裡提多書2張,保羅請年齡大一點的女士們要教導,照顧,訓練比他們小的 – 我既然收到這樣的祝福,她們也是我仰望的榜樣。

我不知道上帝以後會不會賜給我自己的孩子,但就算祂沒有,我也希望以後能夠對別的女生像一個”媽媽”一樣的照顧;給予,深深的在她們的生命裡付出。我這過去幾年學到,母親節不是只是感謝懷孕生子過的女士,而是一個特別的一天,可以感謝你周圍的女士,特別是那些就像媽媽一樣照顧著/付出給你的人。希望有一天母親節會是來慶祝這個的,讓無論有沒有/能不能生孩子的女士們都可以感受到被愛,被感謝。

所以,母親節快樂to 我自己的媽媽,還有我生命中許多許多為我付出,照顧我,愛護我的女士們。

我真心的感謝有妳。<3

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stress, sabbath, and the single missionary

meet my frenemy sisters, stress & the sabbath.  you might be thinking, *gasp* how could you call the sabbath a frenemy!  God meant it to be good for you!

on the mission field, missionaries are always encouraged to keep their sabbath.  it’s biblical, it’s beneficial, it’s restful and yada yada yada.  yeah, i’ve heard it all.  So let’s start from stress, because that is directly related to how we keep (or, don’t keep) the sabbath.

Stress – i get it, everyone faces stress.  whether you’re married, single, young, old, male, female, there is stress, so there’s nothing to complain about there.  oftentimes, when we say “stressed” – we might just mean “i-need-to-be-able-to-share-with-someone-the-things-on-my-mind-and-then-i’ll-be-okay-and-can-move-on.”  what i want to address is the fact that when singles face stress about something, we don’t have a way to share about that stress without hearing (from married people) “You need to trust God, He will take care of it for you” or “You need to relax.  Take care of yourself.”

hey, you know what?  a lot of times, it’s not really the stress that comes from ministry that is overwhelming (because we know that God is in control) – often it might be all the other things we have to deal with (as a single) added on top of that tiny thing, that – in that slight moment in time – can end up being all quite stressful.  what things, you might ask?  well, things that take time and effort to do like: having to write a newsletter, meeting deadlines with home offices or field offices, paying bills, dealing with everyday household things breaking down, doing laundry, grocery shopping, etc.  you know…life.

just trying to survive life.

just trying to survive it.

and as a single, we don’t have another “half” who can share those responsibilities with us.  so even though it might seem like our ministry stress is not that big, it might possibly be lots of other things piling up.  with not enough time to really share verbally with people (because let’s face it, everyone on the field is too busy and you know it!), the last thing we want you to “encourage” us with is that you think we don’t “trust God enough.”  that is when i go cray-cray.

i’m sorry, but is God going to physically do my laundry for me?  or wash my dishes for me?  or clean the house for me?  in a sense, you don’t have to “trust God” in those things, you can “relax and take care of yourself” and do the things you like,  because you do have a spouse there who can handle those little things for you when you take time off.  i don’t have anything against that, i really am glad for you that you can do that because i know how important it is.  what i need you to understand is that i have similar responsibilities, too, except without a spouse to help me.

who is going to write my newsletter for me when i don’t have time to?  who is going to take time to cook for me so that i can clean up after having people over?  who is going to sit and wait for laundry to finish while i go out to buy groceries?  things would get done a lot faster if there were two of us…i know that and you know that.  and i’m not saying that i need a spouse to share my workload, but telling me that i’m not “trusting God” enough is the opposite of helpful or encouraging – it just adds to my stress.  YES, i trust God.  YES, i am trying to take care of myself.  but realistically, in my everyday life, things still need to get done.  and well, just sitting around to take care of myself and trusting in God is not going to make my dishes clean or my whites white.

that's the truth.

that’s the truth.

the Bible tells us to bring our burdens and Him and He will be our rest.  He also reminds us to believe in Him and to not let our hearts be troubled.  to not be anxious in anything but in everything, prayer and going to God.  These are all true, and all things we should always strive to do each time we feel a stressor coming on.  however, i’ve also looked into ways to handle stress, and all of them involve finding someone you can share with and listen, encourage, and vice versa.  we’re meant to share our burdens with one another.

so, you wanna help the single?  offer to do something practical.  when you see that i am getting overwhelmed, don’t just tell me you’ll pray for me.  actually offer to help me with something, just like i would offer to watch your kids or cook for you if you just had another kid.  invite me over for tea and give me some time to share something that’s been on my heart (without trying to give me a solution).  don’t add to my stress by doing or saying unhelpful things (hoooo boy, i could write a whole other post about the insensitive things said to singles on the field!)

Sabbath – so you can imagine, when it comes to enjoying the Sabbath, our one day of rest, how much we look forward to it.  except…”Wait, what?! why is my mind wandering to the long list of things that need to be done?  I’m supposed to be enjoying my prayer walk in the park, and instead, everything i’m praying for/about is related to ministry and the things i need to do.  Lord help me!”

That’s what our day of rest is often like.  trust me, i’ve asked quite a few single missionaries, and they agree.  our day of rest is spent not really “resting” because we’re just still thinking about the rest of the week!  we can’t hang out with our local friends because they’re all working, and we don’t want to bother other missionaries/families because they need that day to rest as well.  so our Sabbath ends up not really being a day of rest – just a day of not “doing” anything, yet still thinking about stressful stuff.  sometimes some of us just give up and end up trying to “do” the things we need to do to help take some of the pressure off.  no day to enjoy.  just a day to try and not think about stuff.

trying to get things out of my mind

me trying to get things out of my mind

I had another single missionary share with me how she shared something similar with her team (about not being able to really rest on her sabbath), and everyone just said they would pray that God would help her not to think about those things on her day off – but nobody offered to have her over for board games or anything else to help her take her mind off of things for a few hours.  seriously sad, people.

so if you’re a single missionary who is facing this problem, perhaps this might be helpful for you:

1) get out of the house and to another place – i only started this year to figure out a solution for myself, actively seek out things to do.  i started taking taiko drumming classes (something i’ve wanted to do since a long time ago) and for 3 hours of my Sabbath, my mind is not on anything ministry/life related.  it is free and just running with rhythms and beats through it – it’s a wonderful feeling!

2) do something active – I also joined the gym last month as well, and for at least one hour of each day (i go 5x/week), my mind is at rest because i’m drowning in my own sweat and keeping pace with the one-direction-ish dance beats they have playing in the background.

3) do something that requires no brain work – sometimes i put on my music (sometimes country, sometimes hip hop, whatever helps my mind relax) and start colouring (i bought some colouring books that are just awesomely funny – one called Unicorns are Jerks).

4) end each day with 3 things that you are thankful to God for – they don’t have to be overly spiritual; just simple things during the day that you can say thank you to Him about.

these are just some of the things i’ve done within the past 8 months and so far they have been quite helpful.

not finding an outlet

you, when you don’t find an stress outlet

so there you go.  if you wanna know how you can help a single missioary, there are some ways.  if you are single and spend your Sabbath not really enjoying your Sabbath, there are some ways, too.  the point is, stressors are a part of life, and even though we are Christians, believe and trust in our Father above, know that He is good, and know that only He can bring peace in our hearts – we still need very practical ways to help.  so next time, when a single missionary says they are “stressed,” ask if they need a lending ear, or if they need help with something – don’t take the initial no for an answer because they may just be polite and not want to take up your time.

and most of all, don’t don’t don’t tell them that they are stressed because they don’t trust God enough, or that they need to take care of themselves without helping them with a solution.

this is what i will look like.

this is what i will look like.

 

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