ml 09 marriage

Being Married on the Field


Excerpts from interviews with missionaries, by students in the class “Life and Work on the Mission Field.” Indviduals are identified by their initials.

Interview with the D’s 4-28-03
Married missionaries have the opportunity to model a Christian marriage. The first term was the hardest for them, because they were newly married and had a baby when they first got there. She wasn’t expecting to be a mother-she had been trained in linguistics and it was hard for her to be at home.

Interview with BO, 3-24-03. There is less emotional energy to give to each other, because it takes so much energy to live. The pressure of life is emotionally draining.

Interview with Dr. B, 5-6-03
Living and working can be a problem in a marriage if one person feels called to serve, and the other is simply going along.
The woman may have trouble with sickness and separation. She may have to give up her schooling. She may have trouble cooking and/or eating the local food. It may be a frustration if there is no running water, indoor plumbing, or heat.

Interview with M and S P, by AD
M. and S. admitted that their time serving in another culture was a very stressful time on their marriage. They were not united in their enthusiasm to go. M. stated that “mission work is not something that you can drag others into” and he feels that he was not listening to S. when she expressed concern before they left. This was a large part of the reason they decided to return to the states and serve God in another way He had planned. When they returned they found studies proving that Missionary marriages are three to five times more likely (than average marriages) to end in Divorce, Suicide, and physical or emotional breakdown. They stated that being married on the mission field has its benefits as well. They found that their communication was greatly amplified during this time.

Setting marriage, family, and rest time as priority was important for the P family while in on the mission field. M. stated that it is imperative that you take a day off every week and to find the balance between work and rest. He said that the Holy Spirit will guide you in finding this balanced rhythm. It was hard for S. to set these boundaries. Emotionally, it was very draining as people would come, unexpectedly, knocking on their door. M.and S. also tried to maintain a “date night” while serving on the mission field. They said that this was a necessary time to connect and relax together. It’s not “I’m going to do this for God, but God will work in whatever area he has for me at this time.”

Interview with PG- April 21, 2004
He and his wife found that their time as a married couple grew intensely during their four years in the Philippines. They were the only 2 English speakers on the province which could be an experience that will either “kill you or glue you together.” Their experience was the latter. This time serving in the Philippines as a married couple really prepared them for service in Peru. He thinks that being married in the United States is much more difficult than overseas because life and work are not separate overseas. Some positive steps that they took to guard their family time was to put a door bell on the door of their house in Peru. When they wanted family time, they would detach the doorbell for privacy. They also installed a small gate as they feel that it is important to set those boundaries.

Interview with EB and PB: Marriage struggles and Joys
It was difficult for P. the last few years as her husband traveled quite a bit for work. During this time in Bangkok, it was difficult and lonely for her.

They recommend not going on the mission field if you have a shaky marriage or if you are recently married as mission work can be a real and active stress on a couples relationship. They enjoyed raising their children in another country. P. also stated that it is important for the wife to know and find her place on the mission field- how she will fit in with his call. The call used to be for the husband alone, now many calls are for both the husband and the wife, but the wife must know that she is essential and called to serve.

Interview with WF and FF:
This couple offered the advice that if you try to be everything for each other, it is not realistic. Being realistic, patient, and loving are good characteristics to have while serving as a married couple overseas. It was difficult on her mother as she had just lost her husband two years before they left.

Stepping Out- Chapter 21-Taking Marriage Overseas
Common marital stresses while serving overseas:
-Lack of Privacy
-Confusion over roles
-No time alone as a couple
-traveling separately
-It is important that both of you identify your goals and reasons for going. Get your motives out in the open
-PRAY together about what you have discussed
-An attitude of flexibility is the best preparation for functional singleness. It will enable you to cope with:
–little or no privacy
–distance created by task-related roles
–finding your niche (especially wife’s)
–functioning separately, not as a couple

If there is a tendency to compete in your relationship, expect it to surface overseas. Go as a team, giving mutual support.
*Marriage and ministry “tended to get mixed up together.” The wife said, “We worked so closely together that my husband was my boss.” Solution? “We scheduled in some relaxation time, even separate activities.”

Ministry time can easily absorb all marriage time …your spouse can quickly become a stranger..determine before you go to make your marriage a high priority.

Each couple needs to work at building a strong and enduring marriage upon biblical principles. This will involve sacrifice and creativity. . If you want to grow together as a couple, expect to give up some group activities or special events to spend time together.
Plan to study scripture together regularly. Set aside time to pray as a family. Try to plan a date night at least once a week to get alone and talk.

Ideas from JJ, 2003
Definition: Marriage can be very stressful when not on the mission field. There is only a certain amount of work that one can do in a day and I would say a good way to do ministry is with your husband or wife right at your side. This is what we would call a marriage opportunity. There are many opportunities to do mission work with your wife. You have taken two vows. One is to your mission work and the other is to your husband or wife as you stood before the Lord and promised to Him and each other. That means that there might be some good ways for one to get around strains by looking for opportunities. I think that one of the best ways to do this is to simply spend an adequate amount of time together. I also think that there should be many things that you each do independently on the mission field. Let your husband or wife do many of the same things that she did before you became missionaries. If your wife did the grocery shopping then let her do the shopping on the mission field. If the husband did some of the cooking then let the husband still do some of the cooking. There are going to be certain barriers that come up when we are on the mission field but keep in mind these are just a place to start.

Interview with JF: The things left behind were hard to leave. There is always sacrifice involved in ministry. Jim’s wife road a bicycle to the market to buy food every other day. Jim and his wife had to learn Chinese together. They needed a support system in one way or another.

Interview with D: D had another side to marriage strains and opportunities that we haven’t discussed yet. Her and he husband had both lost their spouses in car accidents many years ago. They never had any children together. But they seemed like the perfect mates for each other. While they were overseas her husband did most of the teaching and her role was more to encourage the people, but when the Chinese people didn’t understand something she would step in and say something and be able to explain in a way that her husband couldn’t. It was really a wonderful team teaching experience.

Interview with “anonymous”: This person wished not to be named. He had the problem of never getting married even though he really wanted to. One of his life long dreams was to get married and have a family and partly because he was on the mission field for a couple of years really in his opinion hurt his chances of finding a wife. This was really a burden for him and doesn’t feel like he will ever go back on the mission field. He seemed very unhappy with life because he hasn’t found a wife but I told him that he still could get married and possibly have a family. One never knows what the Lord has in store for you.

2. Ideas from BP, 2003
Here are some practical ideas that many short-termers have found helpful when feeling the stress of a new culture.

Talk it out:
Talk with your spouse. It’s helpful to describe your feelings to others. This may prevent explosion that sometimes occurs when emotions remain bottled up. It’s also a good idea to get another person’s perspective so that your few bad experiences don’t outweigh all the good ones. Once caution here: there are some things that should be told to God alone. Simply dumping everything on another person may do neither of you any good.

From books:
From the book Culture Shock, Pg 89 (AD)
To maintain Good Emotional health, successful couples:
1. Have a wide range of interests and friends from whom they draw personal satisfaction
2. They are able to “roll with the punches” — their broad range of interests helps them to see alternative solutions to personal crises.
3. They recognize and accept their limitations and their assets; they enjoy what they are, and don’t try to be something different
4. They treat other people as persons; they have empathy for the needs and concerns of others.
5. They are active and productive, using their gifts to benefit themselves and others; they are in control of their activities, their activities are not in control of them. Maybe a more accurate statement would be: do everything to the best of your ability, and know that God is in control.

Don’t take the opposite view either. Don’t put too much pressure upon yourself, for in the Garden of Eden: God curses the ground. Man will be a farmer and there will be thorns = since the fall of man this will be the normal condition.

To avoid guilt under stress, remember that you are Human (My body belongs to God- it is not my body), so: your body needs exercise; food; rest.

Other excerpts: Don’t take yourself too seriously, 93; Reduce stress where possible, 95; Make your Culture change gradual: Bring artifacts from home and take customs with you

Stepping Out: Ch.16, pg 97-98, Problems between teams members can be especially difficult when you spouse is part of the mission team. What if one of you is doing something someone else is uncomfortable with? How do you confront your spouse?

Culture Shock: Ch. 1: Stress can cause some big problems in a marriage. This is especially true when it comes to sexual related issues that stress can cause including impotence and missed menstruation.

Ch. 2: We look outward out of self-love and humility just as God looked outward as He sent His Son to make the ultimate Sacrifice for us. We are able to show our love to our spouses in this way.

Stepping Out Chapter Summaries
21: Taking Marriage Overseas:
This chapter primarily focuses on overseas ministry as a couple. One section is focused on deciding whether or not to go on the trip and then identifying goals the husband and wife each want to accomplish on the trip. Another section discusses what it will be like if a husband and wife are on a team with the other people all being single. The next section focused on what it would was like to work as a team overseas. There was the threat of one of the people being the other’s boss. The important thing to remember and do is to communicate and also to get some time to relax both alone and together. The final section deals with priorities. One of the main focuses is to know that ministry time can take up all of marriage time. This cannot happen in a healthy relationship. There needs to be both. It suggests taking one night a week to reflect on your marital relationship and incorporate ministry life into that. There can be many other aspects involved as well, like if you have kids or each of you have to learn a new language.

Motive Mix Checklist pg. 31: Why am I going?
This is a checklist that one should go over especially if he or she is married. This checklist will help both people understand why the other wants to go. There are both pure spiritual and personal issues involved in deciding whether or not to go overseas and it is good and healthy to have a mix of both. Topics range from Spiritual, Personal, External, Needs Related, and Cause Related. It is good and necessary to go through this list so you are not unready for unexpected challenges and hardships.

Evaluating Your Experience pg. 183
This checklist is an invaluable tool for a husband and wife when they return from the mission field. It helps them to put into perspective all that they have learned both good and bad, both ministry related and marriage related. This can be a great tool for strengthening the relationship between husband and wife as well as prepare them better for the next time that they might go overseas on another mission.

Brokenness ch. 14 pg. 89
This chapter focuses on God’s Mission. There are many things on the mission field that we might and will do wrong. Then we hear God telling us that we are wrong and all we can say is, “Yes Lord you are right I am wrong. Your word is right, my idea was wrong.” That is what it means to be broken. It is okay to be broken, it is good to be broken because that way in our humility God’s will is done. It is God’s will for all people to be saved, we are part of this mission but the mission is still God’s. We can’t claim it for ourselves. When we are wrong it is proper to ask both God and the people we wronged for forgiveness. Sometimes this is not easy, but nonetheless it needs to be done. We can wrong a lot of people, but most of the time it is those we are closest to that we hurt. A good example of this would be a husband and wife on the mission field and one of them says something that is inappropriate. Humility and brokenness are going to be present in a healthy relationship. The chapter ends by saying that people won’t come to Christ by anything that is in you as an individual, but only because of the Holy Spirit helping and leading you to be a humble servant of Jesus Christ even though you don’t fully understand it.

From Stepping Out, page 148.
Marital pressures in missions:
Lack of privacy
Confusion over roles
No alone time as a couple
Traveling separately
Functioning separately

Other issues:
Marital communication
Long-term effects on finances and careers
Relatives’ opinions
Language aptitude
Taking children overseas

Identify goals and reasons for going as a couple
Discuss motives, feelings about the above mentioned issues,
Pray together!
Have an attitude of flexibility
Schedule in relaxation time to avoid mixing marriage and ministry
Determine before you go to make your marriage a priority
This involves sacrifice and creativity
Study Scripture together, pray as a family
Read through a book together
Have one time a week set aside to get alone and talk

– Stepping Out, pg. 119-121

“Among a team of short-term missionaries, friendships are often intensified by culture shock, by the narrowed field of relational options, by the long and erratic schedule, and by the bit of loneliness everyone feels.

Team ministry is the ideal for a marriage relationship overseas. However, this has not been achieved successfully very often. Part of the reason that team ministry has not been achieved overseas between spouses is that a significant amount of energy must be spent on “surviving” (keeping house, buying food, cooking etc.). It is not possible for both people to be doing full-time ministry.

From book Stepping Out, chapter 7:
A 7-Point approach to communication: 1. Use guidelines; 2. Have regular discussions; 3. Inform your partner quickly; 4. Ask for your partner’s opinion; 5. Send short notes; 6. Invite bad news as well as good; 7. Relax together

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