At 24 years old I went on my first mission trip for three months to a country in Central Asia. I loved my time in that country, but I also got a taste of missionary life which made me realise that it would be hard going as a single. I declared that would only go back to this field if I were married. Yeah, don’t ever say that!
Fast forward six years and I came to realise that God had other plans for me.
I’m now 30, single and back in the same country in Central Asia but this time I’m committed long term. This is not the way that I would have chosen to return, but this was God’s way. I’ve been here for a grand total of almost 10 months, and I am learning daily that He knows what is best for me.
There are many challenges to being single on the mission field.
Loneliness would be the biggest one, especially in the midst of difficult days or special occasions. Missing the weddings of family members and friends back home makes my heart ache.
Adjusting to a new culture is a challenge, especially as a single woman in a Central Asian culture that highly values marriage and motherhood. Being 30 and single is somewhat of an anomaly here. A well-meaning friend told me that I need to “give birth” because my time is running out!
Making inroads alone is difficult.
By nature I am not a very outgoing person—back home I always felt awkward in unfamiliar social gatherings. For me, the anxiety doubled when I entered the field on my own. I had to start forming relationships in a new language whilst still not being aware of all the cultural rules, as well as getting involved in teamwork and church ministry in a new culture.
But for all the challenges that exist, there are far more blessings.
I have seen God’s incredible love and provision for me in ways that I believe are only possible because of my single status.
Psalm 68:6 says, “He sets the lonely in families…”
God has certainly provided surrogate families for me here in my new country. He has provided loving local ladies who cluck over me like my own mother. He has provided local and missionary sisters who are more than happy to have me go on about my day with all its ups and downs.
I am blessed with the freedom to study language full time without the demands and commitment of a family of my own. There is time for relationship building with young women, which Lord willing, could lead to them coming to know our Saviour and His love for them.
I have the opportunity to live life with my beautiful local sisters—who are under extreme pressure from family and society to compromise their faith for the sake of marriage—as a single woman who desires marriage but at the same time desires to love and serve God with all her heart and wait upon Him to provide in a way He sees fit.
If I had landed on the field as a married woman, I would certainly be facing challenges.
They may be different, they may be the same—I don’t know. But I know the Lord’s words to Paul are absolutely true when He says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
A born and bred Kiwi (New Zealander) and an occupational therapist by training, Karly is currently a language student on the mission field in Central Asia. She hates fish pie, loves photography, and believes food is a good way to show love to people so you’ll often find her baking or cooking. Karly thinks the best thing about being single is that she can eat blue cheese and crackers for dinner and not worry that she’s not feeding her family well. But really, she values it because it leaves her with more time and flexibility for building relationships with the people God brings into her life.
*Photo credit: ToastyKen