Although there weren’t many single missionaries serving when I was a missionary kid in Thailand, the single missionaries I did meet had a significant impact on my life. I felt this not only in the personal care they offered me, but also in how they equipped me to face a culture that can sometimes put more expectation and value on marriage than singleness. I want to recognize and thank the single missionaries who had an impact on my life. This blog is the first in a series on being single in missions.
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By Harmony Niphakis
Friends from the Start
I kept as quiet as I could at the top of our wooden stairs, each hand holding one of the banister railings as I spied on the living room below.
We were living in a small town in Central Thailand at the time. I remember the excitement I had at the age of 5 whenever my parents told me there would be someone else coming to our small town. Our newest arrivals, two single women, were downstairs receiving welcome and refreshments from my parents. I heard my dad finally call my name from the living room below. My heart beating with excitement and my belly full of butterflies, I let go of the banister railings, hopped down the steps and slid into place beside my parents.
I was often quick to make friends with the single women on our field. My young mind, whether accurately or not, determined that single women were less threatening and more appreciative of my cuteness.
Men, for example, seemed less interested in helping me resolve conflict in Polly Pocket town and Barbie Land (The two nations were often at war because of their conflict over size).
Even married women, who could better understand the urgency of the impending war between the “bigs” and “littles,” did not seem as available since they had a strange magnetic attachment to their husbands that was often inconveniently evident right in the middle of important negotiations, leaving me to create world peace on my own.
At last, I had reinforcements. I squeaked a shy greeting to the two women who stood before me. They smiled and offered kind greetings in return. Their sweet acknowledgment of me freed any lingering butterflies. With excitement, I reached out to them, “Want to play a game?”
Models Since Birth
One of the first single women to impact me was Auntie Lyndsey, a single missionary from Scotland. As my mother’s midwife, she was the first to welcome me (and my sister) into this world at Manorom Christian Hospital in Central Thailand, where many missionaries from OMF were serving.
I think it is significant to note that at a very young age I regularly witnessed the compassion, faithfulness, and expertise of missionary women who had come to Thailand to serve as medical professionals. These women showed me there were exciting and meaningful career opportunities for women.
Honestly, I hardly knew Auntie Lyndsey when I was a child. After all, my memory of the first day of my life is a little hazy. During my college years, however, I discovered my mom was still in touch with the very woman who had delivered me.
Thus, I began an unexpected and encouraging friendship with an inspiring and kind woman. And this is the advantage of being a missionary kid. Distance and time do not break down opportunities for our adopted family to continue influencing us. And when the current culture sends crashing waves of “Marriage! Marriage! Marriage!”, God has grounded me with countless stories of role models in my life who remained single, found contentment in Christ, and led truly inspirational lives serving others.
To my fellow single ladies, be comforted to know we are needed in the kingdom of God! While we may not recognize it now, there are young girls looking at us and logging our lives in their memory as an example of what it means to be single. What are our lives telling them? That seeking a husband is more urgent than seeking and serving Jesus?
For however long we remain single (whether that be for a day or the rest of our lives), let us take advantage of this time to be a shining example to the little sisters watching us. Let us seek Jesus first and never shy away from His call on our lives to serve Him to our utmost. What single women have been an inspiration in your life?
Harmony Niphakis spent her early years as an OMF Missionary Kid in Thailand. She committed her life to God at a young age and now serves as a TCK Advocate with OMF (U.S.) where she finds great joy in equipping and caring for missionary kids of all ages. In her spare time, Harmony enjoys being out in nature, gardening, going out for coffee, and spending time with her family.