“Look for an option that allows you to do justice to both parenting and ministry.”
It’s difficult. The main reason is time. How much time would parenting require, away from your support network and without a partner? How much time would ministry require? When a couple with children goes overseas, parents both spend time parenting and in ministry. A single mother has to do both.
Sometimes single mothers are able to work in schools (e.g., missionary boarding schools), so their child is cared for at the same place the mother serves.
There are other details to be considered. If you have a pre-schooler, then you would be so committed to the care of the child you would have no effective time to serve. Probably no mission would consider you until your children were at least in school. The more children involved, the more complicated an already difficult situation becomes.
Also, “single mother” suggests different things to different people. Any agency would want details, and so would people overseas. You will be asked a lot, “Where is your husband?” “Why don’t you have a husband?” In some places there will be a lot of men willing to become your husband. In other words, you will come under the same pressure as single lady missionaries, and more.
Serving in your own country, perhaps in a home office position, might be a better fit (at least initially).
Answer from David, director of mobilization with WEC International. David has been a missionary twenty-five years, first as a field worker in West Africa and now at WEC USA headquarters.
“Few agencies, and they would ask a lot of questions.”
You may be able to find a few missions agencies that will accept you to serve as a missionary. Please prepare yourself to answer lots of questions, though, including questions will cause you to relive past experiences and hurts. I am of the belief that we should not be forced to constantly explain our past in order to be accepted into service, but sometimes that is what happens.
I hope that you are able to find an organization that will not limit your ability to serve. If not, please pray and consider serving as an independent missionary with the spiritual support of church members, Christian friends, and family members.
Answer from a single parent who has served in the US and West African nations for fifteen years.
“Some YWAM locations work with single mothers.”
In my experience with Youth With A Mission there are a few locations that cater to single mothers. In one of the locations we were working at we had a few single mothers come through the Discipleship Training School and the children were cared for by staff on the YWAM center.
The age of the children can be a factor as well because of the need for schooling. Much depends on location. Your best bet is to contact the ministries and ask what facilities are available for single parents.
I was involved at YWAM Reef to Outback, in Townsville Australia, www.ywamrto.com. You can find other locations on the main YWAM website.
Editor’s note: Another writer adds, “YWAM has a number of single parents. The primary issue would be a practical one of who would care for the children while the mother is working. The mention of working in a school was also a good one. We have a woman on our staff whose husband died last year and she wanted to stay on the field and be with her two young girls. She found a school with kindergarten and preschool and was able to volunteer there, and they even let both girls be in the same class with her.”
Answer from Bill, who has served with Youth With A Mission in Australia, Switzerland, and Canada for eleven years.
“Everywhere is your mission field!”
If God leads you to become a missionary, just go. Don’t listen to unhelpful comments from Christians who actually are further away from God than many unbelievers. We are called to walk as Jesus walked, not to take offense, and to love others. Everyone has a past and all sin is sin… So if you are a single mother because of bad choices but are back on track, it doesn’t matter. Or if you are a widow and feel called, then likewise.
We are simply called to bring hope to the brokenhearted, heal the sick, and be used by Jesus. If you can do that, then you can be used anywhere regardless of an organization.
Being a single parent is an amazing gateway for evangelism, in fact in many situations you will be able to reach those that others cannot! God can use you in toddler groups, for instance, or reaching to other single mothers. God bless you and go for it!
Answer from Len in England.
“You may have a unique ministry.”
Many traditional mission sending agencies may have questions about your being a single mother. However, not all missionaries go with such organizations. There are other ways to the field (NGOs, churches, etc).
As a single mother, you may have a unique ministry depending on where you are. Many of the neediest places in the world where Christ’s message is lacking include very difficult living circumstances for women. A woman who knows what it is like to raise children alone or has experience with relationship challenges may identify more readily with an audience of women in those parts of the world.
Do not trivialize the role you could play as a missionary because you may have an atypical journey to get there.
Answer from Mark in Papua New Guinea, who has served with In His Image International and Church of the Nazarene in Ethiopia, Egypt, Haiti, Papua New Guinea for five years.
“Why shouldn’t there be a place for you in missions?”
I’m a YWAMer. There are many single mothers who serve in YWAM. It is fully possible! God sets the limits on what we can do! Why should it be difficult for God to provide for you and your child’s needs? Why shouldn’t there be a place for you in missions?
My recommendation for you is to consider a location/environment that is family-friendly 🙂 I serve in one of those places, and know of many.
Answer from Joachim, who has been serving with YWAM in Norway and many other countries for five years.