"I could never do what you do. I just knew that I'd never be able to go overseas as a single. I knew that I'd need to have a husband to go."
It's a line that I've heard a multitude of times and I appreciate what people are trying to say: "You're strong! You're brave! I admire you!" But it's something that irks all missionary workers to some extent - we don't feel that we belong on that pedestal. It's intensified as a single, because of that statement on the end, "I'd need to have a husband to go." It's a double irking. For me, it makes me feel like I'm a different species. It feels as if I'm ontologically different from others, as if I was put together in such a way as to be particularly suited to singleness and single missionary worker life. Except that I'm not.
All my life, I'd assumed I'd have some sort of career and ministry, but it would be in service of my family. The possibility that I'd be single didn't even occur to me! I was a born nurturer! I loved being hospitable. I loved kids! Of course I wouldn't be single. And I certainly couldn't be an m-worker. I had no travel ambitions beyond going to see the Great Barrier Reef. I was someone who liked order and routine. Unpredictable situations made me nervous, and I preferred the familiarity of home. I did love learning languages, but I was impatient with people who couldn't speak English properly. I ticked almost every box in the "not suited for missionary work" list. Putting the family and the overseas thing together, if there's a single missionary worker species, I'm not it.
And yet here I am. Because God equips His people.
After much agonising, I went for a little 6 month trial overseas and once I got here, I discovered that the missionary worker ‘type’ is a myth. I found out that my attachment to home was actually an asset in my security-tense environment where I can't move freely, and I experience lockdowns. I discovered that being single wasn't a life sentence of loneliness and actually had some perks! It turned out that there is order and routine in other cultures if you give it a chance, and the God of order gave me a love for deciphering these new systems. I found out that patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit, and God can grow that in you, especially as others bear with you as you mangle their language! God either used or transformed the liabilities that I'd identified in myself, to accomplish his good work. Imagine my surprise! Who knew God was so clever?
The greatest surprise of all for me has been that I actually love being in Central Asia. Not for the lifestyle, obviously – today, I accidentally drank from a water bottle with a spider and her 100s of babies in it! No, I want to be in Central Asia, because God has transformed my impatience with other languages into a delight in his creativity in designing different cultures! And he’s taken my love of ‘home’ and doubled it – I now have two homes to love!
That was never me. I could never do this. I was the one who couldn’t even imagine leaving my hometown. But I too easily discounted how much I was capable of, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Because God’s love is so immense, that he will transform the fearful and the reticent so that the people of Central Asia might have a chance to hear that he wants to live in them too!
It seemed all so clear to me that I couldn’t handle life in another culture, or without a husband, and certainly not the combination of life in another culture without a husband! But God was not content with that for my life. While I was saying, "I couldn't ever…" God was saying, “Don’t limit me”, and “Give me a chance to equip you.” So to my sisters who say, "I couldn't ever…" let me respond, "Neither could I… until I tried and found out that God equips his people!”
Ruth lives in Central Asia, serving the Great Healer as a psychologist and sharing about Him.