A Life Overseas – Not an Afterthought!

Deb, Eunice, me

I’m at A Life Overseas talking about connecting with single men and women overseas. It’s an often neglected topic in churches but critically important. I’d love to hear what you think.

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I grew up in a Muslim country where women were largely absent in the public space. The inner courtyards of my Muslim friends was where women socialized. This is where talk, laughter, eating, and discussions on birth control took place. The inner courtyards were wonderful places. Places where the smells and colors mingled and to this day cause me to smile.

I also grew up surrounded by strong women. They were moms and grandmothers, they were sisters and aunties. They were also nurses and doctors,  interpreters and translators,scholars and linguists,  literacy specialists and more.

And more than fifty percent of them were single. 

I still smile when I think of sharing meals around the table with Dr. Maybel and Dr. Mary; Hannah and Phyllis, nurse midwives; Helen – a brilliant linguist. The talk was stimulating and I owe them much in shaping my life and my story.

Because here’s the thing: In a life overseas we need our single friends, we need our single brothers and sisters. We are incomplete without them. 

Every year Hannah would accompany us on our annual vacation to the Karachi coast, to a small beach hut affectionately called the “Sea Breeze.” This hut saved many a Christian worker from despairing and heading across the ocean back to their passport countries. It provided solace and rest to people who worked hard in a country sometimes hostile, other times hospitable to those of another faith. Hannah was part of our family for that week. We would rest, read, build sand castles, eat special foods, and play various games of tag in the soft sand. Hannah was vital to our family. She wasn’t a last minute add on, she wasn’t a final “plus one.” She was Hannah and she was special. Hannah was friend to both my mom and dad, older sister and auntie to the rest of us. Hannah was a gift and so were the other single people in our community.

Our single friends provide perspective and focus, they help us to parent better and love our spouses more. Our single friends are not an afterthought in the body of Christ, they are not an afterthought in the mission field. They are a sustaining force of grace and a picture of God’s good work in our world. Read the rest here at A Life Overseas! 

6 thoughts on “A Life Overseas – Not an Afterthought!

  1. This is so good, Marilyn. In our mission in particular we felt the need to relate as family. Being in such a conservative area in a Muslim country, we considered the single women as sisters, and we who were married were their sisters and brothers, which is as it should be in the Body of Christ. But there it said to the community that we were their “protectors”. We had their back. From the beginning we had women on committees and their viewpoints were respected. We made a point of having them over for meals as individuals, not as a group, and when they had a couple of days off and couldn’t go as far as Karachi, we let them know they could come and stay over if they wanted to, just to get away. They truly became much loved sisters and Aunties. I do think it’s a sad situation that so many churches are so segregated into groups by age or marital status. It’s one reason why I prefer a smaller church where it isn’t so apt to be done. Thank you!

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    1. I hate the segregation that I’ve seen in recent years. And now I’m at a church that has the babies to the 90 year olds all together. Sunday school is afterwards so the worship is all together. Thank you for fostering friendships with Dr. Anne, Hannah, Anne Noble, and so many more. It made a difference for us and we didn’t even know it.

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  2. What a fantastic article! And love the picture of you with Eunice and Debbie! I was one of the single “aunties” to my special TCK’s in Pakistan for a season. I loved the winter time when they all came home from Murree Christian School. I spent a winter with Gene and Joy Stoddard in Attock City compound and loved how they brought laughter in the middle of that grueling language study. And, the winter in Rawalpindi with Joy Mitchell sharing with her my “butterfly” story of God’s special love for her. And laughing at Cindiy Irwin trying to blow watermelon seeds over her folks house at Bach. So many more memories of the the Rasmussen kids who always invited me for Christmas and we always made white divinity fudge and the Stents who took me on their family vacations. Once we took a train trip to the Afghan border. Jeremy and I counted every tunnel and he probably still remembers how many! So thank you thank you to every family that took me into their hearts. You shared your special time together with me, a sometimes lonely single missionary nurse who will never forget you.

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    1. I love that picture as well Barb! I read through this comment just smiling. I know all these kids now adults. Just saw Jeremy Stent at the Pak Reunion which was a gift. In fact, I was so impressed with him. From little things to big things he is so aware of others — even to the point of getting me kleenex as I was in tears saying goodbye to someone right before the memorial service on Sunday morning. I thought the community in Pakistan modeled this well on both parts – singles and families. So I love what you have said here!

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  3. I found this a little sad actually. Growing up as a TCK who’s parents had been missionaries I heard lots of stories about different missionaries. What became obvious over time was the number of them that were single women. I didnt really undrestand why. But as I am now a single woman in my mid thirties I’m starting to wonder if part of the reason is the lack of value/ status unmarried & childless women are given in churches where everything revolves around families. I am basically pushed into the singles groups in their 20’s or with women in their 50’s who are divorced or their children are grown. Mission work grows more appealing as a way of finding purpose, validation and community. It also conversly seems to cement singleness as to pursue a missionary lifestyle is less appealing to men looking for marriage partners. Rather sad prospects if marriage and family are what is wanted!

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    1. This made me sad and reflective and I’m really glad you shared. I think you have brought up something crucial and that is the way the Church responds to single men and women. In the historical church single men and women were part of the bigger body – even if in society they were relegated to a less than status, in the church they were not to be. So anything different from us is reflecting society – not Christ. I feel lik I’ll get it wrong if I try and respond here, just know that I long to sit over tea or coffee with you and really talk about this, really hear your experiences. Thank you for coming by. I feel like you add so much to communicating across boundaries.

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