What kinds of missionary women answered our survey? All are age 35 and below. (Sorry J. B.!) Six veterans are single, and twenty-four are married. Four women are self-proclaimed “newbies” on deputation for the first time, and the rest have been on the field for a while. (The average for these who’ve been on the field is 6.8 years as missionaries.)
I know you’ll enjoy hearing from our younger, joyful missionary women. (Notice all the smiley faces!)
The question they’re answering is: Based on your experience, what advice would you give to women?
The “newbies” on deputation answered:
- Trust God. He promises to provide your every need. Stop worrying. You don't have time for that. smile
- I think deputation is Gods way of teaching patience, and it is an opportunity to work with and try to be a blessing to hundreds of Christians and other co-laborers you never would get to meet otherwise. So enjoy it! It shouldn't be a time you look back on with dread. It is also a chance to see God work in ways you haven’t seen yet! Also, you get to be alone with your hubby all the time and have little to no house chores, so count your blessings! smile
- Many times I need to stop, step back and be reminded, "Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:10-11). Balancing deputation and classes with a baby has been challenging, but when God brings you to the end of yourself and your own ability, that is when He can really work, both in you and through you. I don't know what it is going to be like jumping into language study and learning a new culture, I don't know what opportunities God has in store or what challenges lie ahead, but I do know that my God is in control and He will be exalted and glorified. I do not serve people because I love them (because there will be days when I won't). I serve them because I love God, and He loves them and desires to be glorified in their lives.
- Don't worry. Allow God to show Himself faithful. He always comes through, so there's just no need to worry or fret. Also just be you. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to impress people in the churches you are in. Just be yourself and be genuine.
The single* missionaries answered:
- Never doubt God or think that He can't use you. He has a purpose and a plan and His timing is perfect. Don't listen to what the world has to tell you. If I listened to the world, I would have never become anything, but I listened to God, and now I get to tell children and adults that there is a God who loves them!
- Especially to single ladies: if God has called you don't be afraid to do it. You are complete in God the way you are. You do not need to wait for a man to do what God wants you to do (although sometimes it would have been nice to have someone to talk to and do the driving!) smile I had a quote on my computer that says, "Get in there and get started, then hang on with a bull dog tenacity that refuses to quit, and let God work."
- For women in general, think of the mission field as an adventure that God has given you. Make your home (house on the field) a piece of America "home;" don't treat the field as "America," though, and expect everyone in your church to do things the "American way." Make friends and be positive (but also honest) on social media. Remember, you don't have to post everything, but it is good to let people know you’re alive, share a blessing, share a funny story, etc. Take a "special day trip" or longer every few months with your family. Plan it and have something to look forward to (for example: going to a pool, resort, shopping spree, "nice" restaurant). For single women, protect your time! Don't feel like you have to do everything. Plan your "me time" (relaxing time) at least once a week, when you can go shopping, watch a movie, or read a book, but just take a mental break. Enjoy the adventure and explore when you can. It helps you fall in love with your country. Submit to the missionary's advice, but remember that that they are human also, and you are a grown woman. You're not their little girl. You might not agree with everything, and that's okay. Submit when it's reasonable and possible, but if it's not, don't be afraid to be honest and set up perameters for yourself and your ministry. (Remember, you don't have to do everything.) You want to be a help to their ministry, but you can't do that if you get burnt out and bitter. Also, make friends with other single expats; it's a whole other outreach that singles can easily have! smile
- To new missionaries, I would say that although I think everyone arrives with a desire to serve and wants to jump in both feet first, this is not always the wisest thing. I would be involved, and serve of course, but also observe carefully . . . observe everything—the believers, how the ministry functions, if you're working with a team the roles that different members fill, how the team members relate to each other, etc. . . . and ask a lot of questions, and of course praying before jumping in.
- It's not really so much about what you are doing for God but about who you are with God, because everything you do for God that produces any kind of real lasting fruit flows out of relationship with Him. God breaks people before He can really use them. Your prayer life and knowing how to study God's Word are the most important things. Very few American ministries actually emphasize prayer as the main thing. Write your prayer letters with the vision of awakening the American church to a passion for God's glory, missions, prayer, and stirring worship in the body of Christ rather than just feeling like you have to report back every now and then. They don't want to hear lots of newsy details. Tell stories and weave in the frank truth of your weaknesses and what God is teaching you. Being dead to self always stings, but it always brings so much joy and opportunities that you will forever be grateful you had. Not spending all of your time with the ex-pat community and instead jumping out there into uncomfortable bonding experiences with women in your host country requires a lot of death to self. Dying to self daily is harder than saying you are willing to be a martyr.
- Don't lose sight of what God has called you to do. As a single woman, I found myself wanting to serve in the same capacities as the married women I work with, but that's not what God called me to do. He called me here for a specific ministry and a specific purpose that is different than those I work with. I can't try to be like them or I will become stressed and discouraged trying to do something God hasn't called me to do. I have to keep my focus on Him and His purpose for my life. smile
What a blessing! Thank you, young BMWs, for participating.
Next month, we'll get to see the married women's responses. You'll enjoy them, too.
* Note: The reason I divided singles and marrieds was not to discriminate; it was because singles are addressing their advice to singles, and the married women to other married women and moms.