Brent Kooi (left) with David Choi

6 Reminders for Singles Considering Global Missions

By Chelsea Rollman, Nov 28, 2023

For single missionaries, the path to the field begins with a thousand “what-ifs”? This is true for any missionary. But for the single, the what-if questions are often directly related to their singleness.

“What if going to the field means I’m single forever? What if I never get married?

“What if I’m the only single on my team? Will they treat me differently?

“What if the field isn’t safe for me as a single?

“What if I can’t handle living cross-culturally alone?”

All of the what-ifs are significant concerns and require serious prayer and consideration for singles exploring a call to missions. It is also important to remember God rarely gives a specific answer to each what-if. Instead, He uses the discernment process as an exercise in faith to grow their trust and dependence on Him. Along the way, He provides encouragement and comfort to propel those He calls to the field. 

Four current single MTW missionaries recently shared their experience of answering God’s call and serving on the field. Here are six reminders for singles considering a call to missions that came out of those conversations.

1. Scripture values singleness.

Scripture does not speak about singleness extensively, but in the places that it does, it puts a high value on singleness—especially when it comes to its advantages in advancing God’s kingdom.

The most well-known passage on singleness is I Corinthians 7, where Paul says that singleness is a gift from God and singles can commit themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. In Isaiah 56, God promises wonderful blessings to the eunuchs who have devoted their lives to kingdom service, saying:

                I will give in my house and within my walls,
                                a monument and a name
                                better than sons and daughters;
                I will give them an everlasting name
                                that shall not be cut off.
                                                — Isaiah 56:4-5

Jesus further commends the life of the eunuch in Matthew 19:11-12 and affirms those who are able to live a life of singleness and devotion to God’s kingdom.

The Bible is also full of stories about God powerfully using singles to progress His plan of redemption—the prophetic ministries of Jeremiah and John the Baptist, Martha’s and Lydia’s hospitality to Jesus and His followers, and Paul’s mission to the gentiles.

Perhaps the greatest proof that God values singles is that He came into this world and lived a life of singleness. Jesus, the only perfect human to ever walk the earth, was single His entire life. He and the Father care for singles. God esteems them and has promised to work in and through them. And He has blessed every one of His children with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

2. There are significant spiritual, relational, and practical benefits to serving as a single.

The missionary journey is hard. Missionaries have to raise support, leave their home, family, and friends, and adjust to life in a different culture. A single missionary has to do all of this without the help of a spouse or family. Yet many single missionaries say this drawback is actually one of the biggest benefits because it leads to a complete and total dependance on God.

As every security blanket is stripped away, single missionaries are pushed to look to God for everything—friendship, encouragement, direction, comfort, safety, provision. Often single missionaries learn what it means to trust God moment by moment, such as one single woman who got stuck on a plane in an unfamiliar city. She did not speak the language and so she didn’t understand the pilot’s announcements or know what was happening. All she knew to do was pray. Immediately after she prayed, a professional translator who had noticed her confusion began explaining the situation in perfect English.

Moving to the field alone isn’t easy but it is an experience God uses to plunge single missionaries into new depths of His love and care. This greater dependence can spiritually develop the single missionary in all kinds of ways—a richer prayer life, a heart of gratitude and humility, and a broader understanding of who God is and how He works.

Singleness also creates an urgency to connect with others and invest in friendships. As a result, singles usually build deep, meaningful relationships quickly. For many single missionaries, the nationals in their peer group become their main social outlet. Families and communities abroad often welcome singles with open arms. Many single missionaries say local families essentially adopted them into the household and cared for them by inviting them over for meals, holidays, and on family vacations.

MTW Bulgaria missionary Dave Culmer encourages singles to “embrace the opportunity in your singleness to develop deep relationships with nationals and really seek those places out as your sources of encouragement.”

Finally, single missionaries have more freedom and flexibility. They can easily take off and travel somewhere new. They can give to the causes they care about without running it by a spouse. They have room for relationships and social outings that married people don’t. MTW single missionaries encourage other singles you to take advantage of freedom and flexibility that is unique to singles. It can lead to opportunities, relationships, and experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have.

3. Singleness is a huge ministry asset.

All of the personal benefits listed above translate into major ministry advantages.

First, singles are some of the best people to teach others about the dangers of self-reliance and depending on things besides God. Their experience of moving to a new culture alone forces them to pay attention to God’s care and grace. They can testify to the ways God sustains His people through challenges and remind others that everything they have is a gift from God.

Their freedom and flexibility also means they can devote themselves to the ministry. Several MTW missionaries said they have experienced the wisdom of I Corinthians 7:32-35 where Paul talks about the unmarried person’s ability to serve the Lord with undivided devotion.

This does not mean that married people are not devoted to God’s kingdom or are less important to God’s mission. Nor does it mean that singles have unlimited time and capacity to give to the ministry. But in most cases singles do not have to divide their time and attention between ministry and a family.

When Dave was interviewing with MTW’s team in Bulgaria, they were excited to have a single join them. Some of the women on the team told him, “You as a single guy are going to be able to spend time with the Bulgarians that our husbands can’t because they are home with the family. You as a single guy are going to have the freedom to set your schedule in a way that can accommodate those relationships the way our husbands can’t always do it.”

Furthermore, since their main social outlet is often with nationals, single missionaries usually learn the language and acclimate to the culture faster than their married counterparts. Their frequent interactions with nationals and the meaningful relationships that inevitably develop provide helpful insight for the team on the most effective way to minister and care for the people in their context.

4. You will never truly be alone.

Loneliness may be the most significant challenge for single missionaries and there is no denying that they experience intense periods of loneliness. It is important to remember that these seasons are cyclical and they are not unique to single missionaries. Loneliness is part of the fallen human experience. Everyone will go through times where they feel alone and isolated and times where they feel connected and known by other people.

The good news for the Christian is that you are never truly alone. Jesus has promised to stay personally connected with every one of His people during their time on earth. He is your friend. He knows what it is like to feel alienated and abandoned. On the cross, He was completely forsaken by His family, friends, and by God the Father so that we will never have to be. One of the best ways to combat loneliness is to lean into His friendship, love, and care.

5. Don’t use singleness as an excuse.

One of the main reason singles who feel called to missions don’t go to the field is because they are afraid it means they will never find a spouse. Many put off going until after they are married. MTW single missionaries advise against this.

“I think that singleness can sometimes be used as an excuse not to go,” said MTW Australia missionary Brent Kooi.

According to Brent, a pattern develops in their way of thinking. If they get married, they say that they need to wait until their marriage is more established before making a big transition. Then they start having kids and don’t want to take them away from their extended family. Then they can’t go to the field because their kids are graduating and getting married. Others find themselves still unmarried a decade or two down the road and wonder, “What if I had gone to the missions field?”

“You’ve had excuses, and your entire life has gone by,” said Brent.  

Brent is not saying you shouldn’t take getting married and having a family into account when deciding to become a missionary. Brent’s point is that it is easy to make an excuse not to go to the field during every stage of life.

MTW Europe missionary Pamyla Burrack raised additional concerns for singles who wait to find their spouse before pursuing God’s mission.

“It may happen that one marries someone who, while a Christian and compatible in many ways, doesn't share a common sense of mission, resulting in dreams and aspirations that are deep in our hearts … to be put on a back burner. I personally can think of many couples who have come through our process for which this has been the case … And I know of a couple of widows who had a lifelong call to missions, which they were free to pursue only after their husbands died,” said Pamyla.

Pamyla encourages singles to guard against making marriage an idol by desiring it more than God and His mission. Remember that God is not limited by geography. It is just as easy for Him to introduce you to your spouse in the remotest corner of Madagascar as it is in the bustling crowds of New York City. You don’t know His plans for your future. Are you honoring Him by saying “yes” to whatever He is calling you to today?

6. The mission field needs you!

Census figures from the United States and the United Kingdom from 1970 to today show that there has been a significant increase in the percentage of single adults in both countries. From 1971 to 2004, the married population in the United Kingdom declined from 68.1% to 51.0%. The same trend is happening all over the world.

“We need a missions force that reflects this trend,” said Pamyla.

The mission field needs singles. We need them to reach a world that is becoming more single. We need them to further represent the diversity of God’s kingdom. We need them to connect and minister to people in ways that married couples can’t. We need them to remind us of the sufficiency of Jesus for every aspect of life. Singles bring different perspectives and insights into who God is and His work throughout the world.

If you are a single considering a call to global missions, MTW needs you to be effective in our mission to make disciples among all nations.

Take the first step today by filling out the Get Started form and someone from your regional hub will contact you.

 For Further Encouragement

Chelsea Rollman

Chelsea Rollman is a marketing specialist and staff writer at MTW. She formerly served as the girls’ discipleship coordinator at Village Seven in Colorado Springs, and as a marketing assistant at The White Horse Inn. Chelsea graduated from Covenant College in 2016 with her B.A. in English. She and her husband, Hudson, live in Jacksonville, Florida, and attend Christ Church Presbyterian where Hudson serves as the youth director.

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