I have recently been enjoying reading the testimony of Lilias Trotter, a 19th Century, single missionary who devoted her life to serving God in Algeria*.
Such stories of single people serving the gospel in cross-cultural settings are so inspiring, but are not just a thing of the past. Paul’s missional exhortations in 1 Corinthians 7 still apply. Life, ministry and personal cultural adaptation are simpler when you don’t have to worry about the pressure it will put on your marriage, your children, or their grandparents.
Whether singleness for the Lord is a choice or, as in my case, a simple fact, the freedom it brings is not without challenges: loneliness, no immediate accountability, and having to face practicalities and paperwork on your own. I had excellent advice and support as I prepared to move to France 13 years ago and was forewarned about some of these particular challenges. But there is one aspect that I don’t believe anyone ever mentioned that has ended up being absolutely crucial for me: the need for family in France.
Part of the family
In my last church, where I was based for over seven years, I had the privilege of being included in the lives of a couple of families. They did this in endless ways: invitations to special family birthday meals; gifts of home-harvested honey and home-made jam; organizing a 30-guest birthday party for me in their home; giving me discreet but generous gifts at financially tough times; cooking me meals when I didn’t feel like cooking; giving up time for me when I had a bump in my car, or when another car was stolen.
Psalm 68:6a says: “God sets the lonely in families.” I can testify to this. It has been his particular grace to me to help me to persevere in times I might otherwise have given up. My friendships with other single people in France have also been a rich blessing; but having a relationship with a whole family, with all of its members – wife, husband, teenagers, kids, toddlers, babies – has meant a richness that no one person could provide on their own. As I join a new church in Central Paris, my prayer is that here God will, once again, set me in families. Please pray that with and for me.
How can I respond?
I hope this testimony will be an encouragement to all readers, whatever their situation. And so here are some questions to ask yourself:
- For single mission workers – do I have these kind of relationships? Can I pray for them and seek them out?
- For married mission workers – do we have single people in our team who would benefit from being included in our family life, or the life of a local Christian family?
- For supporters of single missionaries – can I ask them if they have such families around them, and if they don’t, pray that the God who sets the lonely in families would do so? Can I be that family to them when they are on home assignment?
And as we see God provide, what a joy it will be to praise Him for His abundant loving kindness, just as David did:
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him – his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Deborah Prisk serves in women’s ministry at Connexion Church, Paris
* A Passion for the Impossible, Miriam Huffman Rockness, 1999, 2003, Grand Rapids, Discovery House