Everyone’s ministry goes through stages. I arrived on the field with a baby. A few years later, we had another baby and were in charge of a youth group that was growing and thriving. We started a new church with our co-workers, did evangelism together, tried things that worked (and some that didn’t), saw some people saved, witnessed, and started a Sunday school. We kept on, and our kids grew. I became “taxi service” for two active teens: music lessons, playing with friends, and orchestra practices. Our weeks were full. Plus, I homeschooled, and in high school it was a challenge to keep ahead of my students! Now, our children are grown, married, and live in other points on the globe. The church ministry has changed over the years—multiple times—and so have we.
And, during all of these years, there was a void. It was a need I didn’t even feel sometimes, but other times it gnawed at my heart with a vengeance. It was the need for female spiritual fellowship.
To be fair, there were very few missionaries around, especially when we first arrived. So, there weren’t a lot of believers near us. Our co-workers were great. (They’ve retired, now.) I would take advantage of a few precious minutes with our kids’ piano teacher after their lessons. Those times were special.
Everyone needs a friend.
Everyone needs not only a girlfriend, but also a spiritual iron-sharpeneth-iron kind of friendship. We need encouraging in the faith, personally, and prayer support for our families. We really need a friend.
“Oh,” you may say, “That sounds great in theory, but how do I make that kind of a friend, when there’s no one nearby?” I’m glad you asked!
Let me share a few ideas. See if one (or more) of them works for you.
- Pray specifically for God to give you an encouraging girlfriend. It may not happen right away, but it will happen in God’s time. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him (1 John 5:14-15).
- Consider all of your friends—those back in your home country and those on your field. Is there one of them that will pray for you and uplift you? Is there one (possibly your home pastor’s wife) that you can rely on to be a spiritual friend? Do you know someone through an online community—like this one!—who will encourage, challenge, and be there for you? (Don’t rule people out because of age differences. One of my closest friends is young enough to be my daughter.)
- Is there someone you can minister to, wherever you are? Do you see a “Ms. Opportunity” waiting for friendship? Ask God to help you to be perceptive. Do you know a single missionary? Do you know a widow? Do you know someone who’s introverted and doesn’t get noticed?
Let’s assume you’ve found a potential encouraging Christian girlfriend. What can you do together? (Here, we’re assuming she’s on the same mission field you are. Later, we’ll address long-distance friends.)
- Coffee, tea, juice, etc.—I’m amazed how much can get done over a simple refreshing drink. I met with a friend just this morning. We did some grocery shopping and then sat down to visit. We laughed, prayed, talked about families and animals—a chicken on her neighbor’s balcony (in town!)—and it was a great time. We did practical things plus some precious, genuine fellowship.
- Bible study—I’ve never done this because of busy schedules, but it might work for you. You could do a simple Bible study with another missionary woman—or all the women on your team. It could be amazing if you can carve out the time once a week to share what you’re learning in the Word.
- Sharing—Another friend and I bounce ideas and women’s studies off of each other once a month. She has some awesome perspectives!
- Caring—Why is it that we’re so private with our needs? I don’t know if it’s pride or not wanting to bother someone else. But, we need to be aware of others’ needs. (I’m preaching to myself, here. I can be so blissfully blind.) Does your friend have a physical need? Help in a concrete way: a meal, do her laundry, take care of her kids, feed her dog . . . . Does she indicate that she’s having a hard time emotionally? Be a listening ear. Offer a shoulder and a hug. Pray with her. Is your friend going through a financially tight time? What can you share? Money? Food? Carpooling? Look for opportunities to be a blessing.
- Exchanging—Especially if you’re on a non-English speaking field, it’s great to share magazines and books. You can even exchange decorations, recipes, and Pinterest ideas. Help enrich each other!
- Asking and giving—I don’t know why it’s so hard to do this, but we often fail to find out what the other woman likes. Why not make a list of her favorites: flower, food, dessert, kinds of books, colors, etc.? When you visit her home, look around. Could she use a new kitchen towel? Did you notice the colors in her bathroom? (Soaps, towels, etc.) Do you know what style/colors she uses in decorating? (Candles, dishes, placemats, etc.) Could you buy her something she will love?
- Encouraging—Nothing helps me more than someone who says, “Keep on keeping on.” Everyone needs that from time to time. Bless your friend with encouraging words, and graciously accept her sincere compliments.
For your far-away friend:
- Pray for each other daily. Make sure both of you keep your prayer requests and news up-to-date. Pray for each other’s families. A great time to pray for your special friend is first thing every morning, before your feet hit the floor.
- Write encouraging e-mails, tweets, or messages. Share Bible verses. Help her understand your field and your ministry. It’s great if you can Skype or Face-time with your friend.
- Give small, thoughtful gifts, when you can. Everyone loves something pretty from another country. When you go back home, take something special for your friend.
A man (missionary woman) that hath friends must shew himself (herself) friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother (sister) is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man (missionary woman) sharpeneth the countenance of his (her) friend (Proverbs 27:17).