Missionary Men

Single vs. Married Missionary Men

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Missionary Men

Missionary MenMost missionary men either arrive married or marry within a few years of arriving in the mission field, where single missionary women outnumber single missionary men 6 to 1.

Compared to single missionary men, married missionary men enjoy companionship and sexual intimacy with their wives, fatherhood, and greater social respect. Before reaching for those benefits, however, truly called single (future) missionary men should consider the following.

1.  Married missionary men do less missionary work than they would unmarried.

Single missionary men who spend 6 hours to sleep, 2 hours in QT, 1 hour to exercise, and 3 hours to wash, eat, clean, etc., have the remaining 12 hours per day for missionary work. Married missionary men who dedicate 2 hours per day to their wives still have 10 hours per day for missionary work, but everything changes with kids. Even if your wife is their primary care giver, children need their father, so more hours per day will need to be dedicated to them, to do more chores around the house to relieve the pressure on your wife, to shop and run errands outside the home, etc. When the children enter (international) school, the time spent directly caring for them declines, but instead of running around to the villages, you will end up running around to their sports games and other extra-curricular performances, half hour at each when they overlap. Many married missionary men raising families end up with little time for missionary work.

2.  Married missionary men with families cost (a lot) more money to support than single missionary men.

Single missionary men can live practically anywhere. Married missionaries require more comforts and privacy, while those with children need a proper house, have more mouths to feed, and (Christian) international schools cost $7,000 to $20,000 per year per child. Married missionary men need to raise a lot more money, spend more time to raise it and/or to work for income.

3.  Most married missionary men can't / don't serve in frontline mission fields.

Married missionary men can't / don't take their wives and children to frontline mission fields (an exception is Free Burma Rangers) like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, etc., where missionaries are most needed. Instead, most missionaries with children who serve in the developing world live in or near cities that teem with missionaries, not because the Lord is harvesting there in a great way but because the international schools, as well as better hospitals, western amenities and food, are there. And the over-saturation of missionaries makes them compete fiercely, offering free English lessons, art lessons, even martial art lessons, to draw attendees so that they have photos to send to their donors, while the rural areas remain un(der)-evangelized.

4.  Newsletters get harder for married missionary men.

Writing to supporters are easier for single missionaries since they can simply report their missionary activities since the last update and all of their needs are directly tied to their missionary work. Married missionary men busy raising families have less current missionary activities to report, so their newsletters are more prone to include exaggerations, regurgitate past missionary activities, report the missionary activities of those they have taught, etc., and increasingly fill with news, photos and needs of their children.

5.  Wives often end the service of married missionary men.

When asked if they feel called to the mission field as well, aspiring brides in love often say yes, then realize or admit in the field that they weren't, and demand to return home (see Dorothy Carey). The priorities of even wives who are faithfully serving alongside their missionary husbands often change when they bear children and their maternal instincts kick in. When they see the children's needs go unmet, they demand their husbands to raise/earn more money to meet their needs, spend more time with the children, and/or move the family back home, especially when children reach school age in a place with inadequate local schools and unaffordable international schools.

6.  Children often end the service of married missionary men.

If any child is unable or unwilling to adapt to life in the mission field or develops a medical condition that precludes life in it, the entire family needs to return home.

7.  Wives' parents sometimes end the service of married missionary men.

If there is no one to care for the sick or aging parents of missionary wives, they often demand to move back home to care for their parents.

8.  Married missionary men are ill-prepared for life back home.

Churches are aging and emptying in USA; a quarter of them can no longer afford their own pastor. If you grew up dreaming about and planning to spend the rest of your life preaching the Gospel to the unreached overseas, ending up returning home to pastor a dying church of pew potatoes, stocking shelves at a "Christian" bookstore, and/or taking orders at a Chick-fil-A drive through will be a let down.

9.  Marrying a local Christian usually leads to more challenges than envisioned.

Even within the same culture and with similar backgrounds, marriage is hard at least at times. Cross-cultural marriages that straddle developed and developing worlds add cultural, linguistic, social, economic and other challenges that, while not insurmountable, make marriage significantly harder. Poor women in developing countries also tend to consider marrying an American akin to winning a lottery that will secure the financial future of her family of birth.

10.  The Bible sides with remaining single.

"Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife... I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord - how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world - how he may please his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:27, 32-33).

Notice that Paul was addressing the need to please just the "wife"; he didn't even deal with the need to please the children. Every missionary God called and sent out in the Bible was and remained unmarried. Can you imagine a wife and children suffering through this with Paul:

"From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).

Won't remaining single be lonely?

Yes. Lottie Moon wrote, "I pray that no missionary is ever as lonely as I have been." When a prospective missionary wrote to Amy Carmichael and asked, "What is missionary life like?" Carmichael famously wrote back, "Missionary life is simply a chance to die."

Why would anyone take up that chance?

People who truly believe in heaven invest this life for a better resurrection. A recent example is John Allen Chau, the young man photographed above.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain" (John 12:24).