My spouse wants to be a missionary and I do not. How have other married couples with differing desires made their decision?

“If it’s God’s plan, he will work out each concern.”

When I married Chuck, I knew there was a strong likelihood that we would go overseas because he had been to Yugoslavia, had loved it there, and wanted to go back. I knew I did not want to go there, or anywhere else, but I knew I was opening the door to this possibility by marrying him.

My main obstacle then was thinking that I would have to attend Bible school. I also really wanted children, and we were in the process of beginning a domestic adoption, which is a long, involved process. I also knew that neither of our families would want us to go, as neither were believers and no one would they want their first grandchild to be out of the country. I basically got cold feet about going overseas, and we stopped the process.

What was I afraid of? Many things: that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, that I’d go nuts, and that I wouldn’t be able to adopt a second child. 

Seven years later God opened a door for us to take a short-term trip to Central Asia. Even then, I knew we would be returning there to live, but I did not want to go. I began to cry. Finally, Chuck wrestled with God and made the life-changing decision that we would go overseas even if we had to raise support. I agreed. I couldn’t believe myself! I had come full circle on the issue, and I knew this was one more obstacle in which the Lord wanted me to trust him.

Then there was the issue of our parents. Neither of our parents were believers nor were the rest of our immediate families. We had two boys and the only grandchildren on either side. We knew that both sets of parents would be against our going but God worked even that out. Even though our parents did not really want us to go overseas, they did not make a big fuss. They were as supportive as they could be, even though they would miss the boys and us greatly and worry a lot to boot.

Answer from Stacy, who serves in Central Asia with Operation Mobilization.

Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks.

“Only go if both agree.”

You should not go unless you are both sure it is God’s will. Missionary marriages come under a lot of strain, especially in the early days of cultural adjustment, loneliness, and language learning. The last thing you need is for one of you to say in a heated moment, “Well, I never wanted to be a missionary anyway!” These kinds of tensions can ruin a marriage. When the knocks and strains come (and they will come) you must pull together rather than pulling apart.

Don’t let this damage your marriage relationship. To be honest, geographical location is far less important than serving God wholeheartedly wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Affirm each other, build each other up and seek God together.

If he wants you to go, he will give you peace, which is not necessarily the same as a burning excitement about going! If he doesn’t, he can show that to your husband and enable him to let go of his dreams and find ways to serve at home. For example, agencies all need support staff at the home end. Whatever you do, don’t go unless you are both sure it’s right.

Answer from Peter, who has served eight years in Spain.

“Only after both agree 100 percent.”

We decided early in our mission involvement that any commitment to overseas missions should be a 100 percent call to both of us as a married couple. There are too many other stresses in overseas service; to have a half-committed partner would be a real problem. For one spouse to go only because the other feels called will likely not result in an effective ministry. 

There are other ways in which a couple can serve in missions: on your church mission board, going on or leading short-term teams, supporting missionaries financially, hosting missionaries and foreign visitors in your home, or being involved with organizations such as Wycliffe Associates or others who rely heavily on home-based membership. These activities might even lead the reluctant spouse into overseas service. 

Answer from Craig, who serves in Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

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