What does it look to be a single ‘mature’ missionary on the mission field? How does that affect my current ministry of language and culture learning? Every coin has two sides—I’ve discovered that’s also true as I adjust to missionary life.
Positives and negatives
I appreciate having the freedom to learn and explore the Japanese language and culture on the mission field, while not feeling guilty of taking time away from family members for self-care. The downside is feeling lonely as you’re technically “alone” as a single. As an extrovert, it’s an extra challenge. Yet, you can learn to be on your own without feeling lonely. I embrace the opportunity for reliance on God for personal and spiritual growth.
Also, as a single person there’s more time and space to spend with friends to develop strong friendships. Maturity has helped me to use approaches that enhance positive relational experiences and minimize negative ones. But, of course, I still need to learn new language and social skills as I engage in daily life activities and interact with local people in an unfamiliar community.
As a mature learner, are you older and wiser?
Well, memory decline is inevitable—both short-term and long-term memory. This makes it harder to learn, store, and retrieve new data. But maturity helped me understand the situation, and allow myself to grow through it rather than to be diminished by it. Past life experiences and knowledge has helped me to be more reflective in learning from my limitations and strengths, and able to develop an effective learning approach. This compensates for declines in memory.
The flip-side is the challenge of seeing myself through new lenses. New missionaries have all discovered how the past has shaped us into who we are today. Living in a new culture has challenged my own cultural and individual assumptions, values, and identity. It’s a challenge to seek to understand the way those in my host culture live and compare it with my own culture, so as to interpret and describe, but without being judgmental. It takes much courage, wisdom, and work to see and respond in a culturally sensitive way with a biblical stance.
We often take comfort in seeing and responding to life as we’ve been shaped to see it. I’ve needed to be aware of my past, without letting it control me. I’ve been challenged to see the present situations, challenges, and limitations as new possibilities of God working in and through me. And to not be afraid to adopt new ways of thinking, learn new skills, and pursue dreams for and with God! The question is: am I willing?
Regardless of whether you are single or married, younger or older, when God calls—I trust that’s the best timing! Different life phases may bring different and unique life experiences to the field and ministry.
By Simone, an OMF missionary