Almost two years ago, after watching the Covid virus spread across the globe, many governments responded by closing their borders and implementing lockdowns. The duration and magnitude of these restrictions differed in each country, and they resulted in our missionaries facing some difficult decisions: Should they stay and weather the storm? Should they return home? Our single missionaries have faced multifaceted challenges during the last two years, and as they process and work through these challenges, we have unique opportunities to pray for and support them.
The Struggles They Faced
In order to care for our single missionaries, we need to understand some of the struggles they faced. Covid lockdowns may have looked very different where they served than they did in the States. Some couldn’t leave their homes for months. Others endured transportation bans, restricted travel radiuses, or limited hours to shop. Because of these restrictions, some single missionaries faced extended periods of isolation. They were isolated from their work, the national relationships they had been trying to build, and even their churches and home fellowships.
Due to these times of isolation, some single missionaries faced a season of discouragement. Some moved halfway around the world only to sit in their new home for extended periods of time. Those learning languages struggled to make progress in lockdown. This sequestered season led some to question their identity, come face to face with their loneliness, develop bad habits, or fall into patterns of anxiety and fear. Yet, for many, this lonely time was a crucible that forged their faith into something beautiful and new.
We also need to recognize that Covid was a life-altering event for some of our single missionaries. While many stayed in their locations and weathered significant isolation, many others had to leave their place of service abruptly because of Covid regulations. Some of them were allowed to return, but their ministries had changed significantly, or they had lost friends or ministry partners to Covid. Others are still waiting for visas, two years later, so they can go back. Some moved to more open countries. Some of them even caught the disease and now struggle with the debilitating effects of long Covid.
Finally, some single missionaries may have spent these lonely hours wrestling with their faith. Forced isolation provides ample opportunity for introspection. Some deconstructed their beliefs and left the ministry, their faith, or both. Others grappled with deep mysteries and transforming truths and, like Jacob, walked away with a refined, limp-laden love for their Creator.
Single missionaries may not know anyone who understands what they experienced in the last two years.
Missionaries everywhere, regardless of their marital status, have walked through life-altering changes from Covid, faced isolation, struggled through discouragement, and wrestled with their faith. Why, then, am I honing in on single missionaries? Because these big challenges and unexpected changes can be difficult to weather by oneself. Starting over in a new location as a single person is difficult. Unanticipated culture shock (or reverse culture shock if returning home) can weary even the most experienced traveler. Though marriage comes with its own challenges, it can offer a source of companionship and shared experience that brings comfort in times of upheaval. Single missionaries, however, may not know anyone who understands what they experienced in the last two years.
The Prayers We Can Provide
So how do we help? Here are some specific ways to pray for single missionaries as they deal with the aftermath of the Covid lockdowns:
Pray for healing for those who are currently dealing with long Covid.
Pray that God will grant them wisdom as they make hard decisions about their futures.
Pray that they will find godly counsel who will walk with them as they sort through options about future areas of service.
Pray for those missionaries struggling to jump back into ministry after a season of isolation.
Pray for those wrestling with their faith. Specifically, ask God to use his Word to confirm their faith and calling.
Pray that God will send people to encourage them in times of discouragement.
Pray that God will protect them from crippling fear and that they might be able to walk in faith and in humble boldness.
You can walk with them through the valleys so they can one day reach the mountaintops again.
The Support We Can Offer
Our prayers are powerful and provide a strong foundation for our support of single missionaries who are processing the last two years, but there are also other practical ways we can aid our single missionaries. Here are just a few:
Recognize that each single missionary weathered unique storms differently during the last two years. Do not assume you know their experience. Instead, ask questions and listen.
Check on them regularly. Whether by phone, Zoom, email, or physical letters, single missionaries will be encouraged by continual touchpoints, especially in the wake of long bouts of isolation.
Offer practical assistance to single missionaries still living in the United States as they await reassignment. For example, you could help them find a place to stay, find a temporary job, or help them work through things like obtaining US insurance. You can also provide emotional support—take them out to coffee, invite them to your home for a meal, take them out for a hike, etc.
Build trusting relationships. By intentionally creating a robust relational bond, you may be able to offer godly counsel in times of need.
Lovingly listen to and walk with single missionaries wrestling with their faith. They can sometimes feel an immense amount of pressure to be super-Christians. Through your intentional relationships with them, you can provide them with a safe place to ask hard questions. You can walk with them through the valleys so they can one day reach the mountaintops again.
Support them through practical means, walk with them in trials and doubts, and watch what God will do with a mission force purified by trials and supported by those who send them.
Single missionaries are integral members of our mission-sending force. During the past two years, some of them have dealt with bouts of isolation, unexpected transitions, discouragement, and seasons of wrestling with their faith. Take some time to pray for them today. Support them through practical means, demonstrating that they are part of God’s family. Walk with them in trials and doubts. And watch what God will do with a mission force purified by trials and supported by those who send them.
Anna Daub is the Director of Special Projects and Partnerships for Global Theological Initiatives at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a PhD in Applied Theology with an emphasis on Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a BS in Biology from Howard Payne University. She has served overseas in South Asia and worked with international students in the United States.