Solo Zone: Whither the Single Male Missionary?
- Thursday, February 03, 2011
God Made Eve for a Reason
It's not for no good reason that God created a helpmeet for Adam (Genesis 2:22-23). And it's not just the informal survey's female respondents who noticed this. One of the male respondents wondered if the emotive proclivities of women make them better engagers with the nitty-gritty of everyday cross-cultural realities. Maybe the same maternal drives that help females juggle the various demands of motherhood translate exceptionally well on the mission field?
Perhaps this sounds sexist and over-generalized, but nearly all of the female respondents suggested that women can tolerate the intangibles of cross-cultural ministry better than men can. To the extent men expect to work within structured environments for optimum results, perhaps that which drives males doesn't get stoked as much in overseas ministry. Here at home, where Christianity, even if not practiced biblically, is at least validated by society as mainstream, men have a more agreeable environment in which to chart their performance.
Then, too, perhaps the logic men are reputed to master plays a role. Abandoning tangible opportunities for ministry at home to travel halfway around the world to a foreign language and culture doesn't necessarily make a lot of practical sense, does it? Western societies expect their men to pragmatically assess methods for supporting one's family. Short-term missions may be a lark for vacations or an entire summer, but hardly a lucrative option as a long-term vocation. Perhaps the men who overcome these arguments against pursuing missions also realize such a commitment—in terms of practicality—requires a wife as well, regardless of the financial factor. Maybe that's why most of the men who serve in overseas missions either are married when they arrive, or get married soon after.
Indeed, getting married while overseas seems to be a significant occurrence for those single guys who begin their service alone. One reason for this involves sexual purity. Even in some of the remotest parts of the globe, pornography in all of its insidious forms can snatch unmet sexual desires of unmarried men alone in a foreign culture. Diligent single male missionaries who find themselves tempted in this way learn quickly what the Apostle Paul instructs regarding singles who can't keep themselves sexually pure: marry! (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).
The Right Kind of Burn-Out
So, what does all of this say about the single women who far outnumber the opposite gender on the mission field? Hopefully it's not simply that they're more obedient to God's call to missions than men. Are women illogical, sexually ambivalent, emotionally-driven matriarchal adventure hounds? Or, have they somehow been conditioned to better accommodate the struggles and challenges of cross-cultural ministry without a spouse for support? Might they be more adept at focusing on rewards over risks?
Not that missionary work is easy for any gender or marital status. And all kinds of variables remain unmeasured with such anecdotal observations and opinions as have been gleaned from this survey's respondents. One scenario that does seem to emerge from this exercise, however, should give us all pause: the absence of single men on the overseas mission field seems to fly in the face of the rugged, macho male icon.
Could it really be true that behind almost every "successful" male cross-cultural missionary stands … his wife?
Does it really matter if we send out more single female missionaries than male ones? Biblically, it matters only if single men—who receive a legitimate call from God to serve him cross-culturally—don't obey him. Trusting in the providence of our Creator should preoccupy all of us—whether we're married or not. Whether our vocation should be foreign missions or not.
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