Are single women missionaries accepted in third-world countries? Married women without children?

“Single women are accepted as missionaries.”

I am single and served overseas for twelve years as a church planter. I believe single women missionaries can be readily accepted in any culture. I work with single women in our mission and am involved in a pre-field training session for single women. 

Single women are more readily accepted in some cultures than others, but just as with everything else on the mission field, it comes through relationships. More than once I have had total strangers (men and women) ask me such things as, “Don’t you want to be married?” or “What’s wrong with you that you don’t have a husband?” If you are confident in the Lord’s call on your life and that for this time (or forever) he has you where you are, others will accept that, too.

There were few single women in the culture where I served, but over time I became friends with local married women. They found it was a great benefit to have a mature single woman as a friend (I say “mature” as opposed to a teenager or university age). 

If I went to their home, we did not have two sets of children interacting to referee. It was easier to talk. If their children were in school, they would ask someone else to take them home for lunch so we could go shopping or somewhere else they wanted to go but couldn’t easily get to. It was also easy to invite me over for a meal: I don’t take up much space and have only one mouth to feed! 

Women would ask me to come teach them to make specialty food. One Christmas I made cookies with seventeen different women! It was easy to invite me out to their home village with the extended family because, once again, I was one person. The extended family welcomed me in. I could say yes more often since I did not have to juggle a family schedule.

All of this led to trust, deep relationships, and a lot of one-on-one discipling. 

Single women make great missionaries. That’s why there are so many of us.

Answer from Betsy, who served with Send International for twenty-three years, primarily in Spain.

“Single women are almost a third of our workforce.”

Our agency is about sixty-two percent female. Of these, about half are married to the thirty-one percent of our missionaries who are married men. This leaves about thirty-one percent single women and about seven percent single men. Those numbers are pretty typical for a mission agency.

We have found that single women are definitely accepted in third-world countries. They have to live in the culture, generally as part of a team, and build their credibility, but they can do so. With more than ninety years of history we have had hundreds of successful single women. Single men actually have a rougher time.

Married women without children are also accepted on the field, especially if they can accept their own childlessness and not feel that God has rejected them.

Answer from David Smith, who has served with WEC International as a field worker in West Africa and at WEC USA headquarters.

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