Three Things God Taught Me about Singleness in My Years Overseas
By Amanda Lynn
Friends are settling down, buying houses, and starting families. You? Your path takes you to the ends of the earth—alone. Sound scary? Crazy? In this article, part of a series discussing barriers to serving in mission, a former missionary shares what she discovered about singleness and the hidden benefits it may offer those serving cross-culturally.
Millions of questions swirled in my head as I prepared for my move to North Africa. Will I get parasites? What should I wear? Will I be able to learn multiple languages? But the two that loomed largest were about singleness: (1) Am I throwing away my chances at marriage? (2) Am I signing up for a life of loneliness? People who love me were asking the same.
I felt the need to give a good, spiritual answer—something like, “This seems to be how God is leading, so I trust He’ll take care of me.” I knew it, but the scary thoughts were loud.
Here are the three things God taught me about singleness in my years overseas.
“Yes, people saw my singleness as a problem to be fixed, but I got to share how Jesus takes care of me, and usually within the first ten minutes of our meeting.”
1. I can trust God with my singleness.
I realized I could take matters into my own hands and make a marriage happen. And I saw others do it. But I wasn’t willing to risk the long-term consequences for the short-term relief of my singleness. I’d rather wait for something that God wants to give me. North Africa—or where you’re going—is not off His map. God can, and sometimes does, bring suitable spouses around the world. But He also sustains those who remain single.
Though God is trustworthy in this area, something in me fights surrendering control. I have learned to go again and again to His throne to find the grace and mercy I need to trust Him and surrender my control.
2. No matter where you live, or what your marital status, you will walk through times of loneliness.
Some of the best years of my life were in North Africa, bursting with fellowship and fulfillment. I learned what it means to live in community and to have intimate friendship. Yet some of my loneliest years were also there. The truth is, lonely times can happen anywhere.
I remember lamenting my singleness with a married colleague one night. She interrupted me, saying, “Be thankful you’re single because being lonely in marriage is no joke.” Let’s face it, her statement wasn’t comforting, but it helped me see that married life isn’t always the happy advantage I assumed it to be.
3. Singleness gave me an advantage while working cross-culturally.
Being single helped me in EVERY interaction. Yes, people saw my singleness as a problem to fix, but I got to share how Jesus takes care of me, and usually within the first ten minutes of our meeting. As I got to know each person better, God’s provision for me as a single woman became a testimony of how He works. After years of interaction with one family, the grandma asked, “Can’t I fix you up with a nice Muslim man?” I looked at her and laughed. She sighed and shook her head, “I know, I know. God takes care of you.”
Singleness opened doors for me.
In comparison to inviting over a couple or a family with children, people had to do very little extra preparation to have me in their homes. I could fly under the radar, getting behind-the-scenes access to kitchens and dance parties among sisters. While paying bills or running errands I also met local women who would ask me to visit their homes on a whim. Singleness gave me the freedom to accept those invitations.
A little advice…
Heading overseas as a single isn’t necessarily easy. My advice to you is to find a few friends who will pray with you regularly about issues related to your singleness. Also, find connections with families. I feel more single when I am disconnected from family. Spend time with and serve whole families on your team and in your host community. Become a sibling, a daughter or an auntie to the children. They need you as much as you need them.
We have a dedicated team of mission mentors whose heart is to listen to your story, help you discern where God is leading you and pray with you in your next steps.
For more information…
- Read these articles about singleness and marriage overseas.
- Explore issues relating to singleness on the website A Life Overseas.
- Hear from a Pioneer serving single in France.
- Check out this book about serving single, or look for biographies of singles who have served in missions.
Amanda Lynn has served single in missions and mobilization ministry for the past 18 years. Some of the most vibrant and fulfilling years—and also some of the most challenging—were the seven years she spent ministering to the women of North Africa.
Stories from the pursuit
More Women in Missions: Four Reasons Why
Women in missions have long outnumbered men, sometimes by a 2:1 ratio—especially in the hardest places. Why? Is it a problem?
The Legacy of Lilias Trotter
A missionary you should know, Lilias Trotter pioneered a new ministry in North Africa. She's still inspiring new missionaries to do what seems impossible.
A Photographer, Midwife or a Teacher… and a Missionary
No matter your training and talents, there is a place for you in missions. Interested in exploring specific opportunities? We are waiting to hear from you!
Creativity Loves Constraints: Ministry During a Pandemic
Creativity loves constraints. What if you had unrestricted access to the people God leads you to serve? What if your access was all but cut off?