“It could be a great problem, or a great opportunity.”

It has either the potential to be a great problem or a great opportunity.

If the person you meet and potentially marry is looking to leave their homeland and sees you as a ticket out, then you will be in for a lot of heartache.

If the person you meet and marry loves and respects you because you love their people and shares your desire to see their people redeemed and drawn into a living relationship with Jesus Christ, then you will join many other Christian servants who married among the locals and found that their relationship served not only to bridge cultures, but also to communicate the love of Christ.

Make sure you have the same vision and are like minded on the basic direction of your life before pursuing such a relationship. And it would also be wise if both the expat and local received some cross-cultural missionary training together. Most importantly, maintain a life of forgiveness and focus on Christ. It will be so easy to get distracted, but for those who fix their hearts on the Lord, there will be a great reward.

In some ways, the relationship of Christ to the Church is just this sort of crossing of boundaries: from heaven to earth to show the love of God.

Answer from Mert in Michigan, who has been a mission mobilizer for many years.

“It depends.”

First of all, it makes a big difference if the person you meet there is an expat (a foreigner like you) or from your host country. It also depends on if you have spent many years in your host country and understand the culture or not. I would say if you haven’t spent at least ten years in the country and haven’t researched the culture, don’t do it (unless you have direct confirmation from God). 

It also depends on if you are a female or a male. In many cultures the man has total control and has the right to use physical violence… child rearing is another big issue, money is another big issue…

In any case, expect to love and respect your spouse as they are, and not try and make them into what you would have if they came from your culture. 

Where you live, either in the spouse’s culture or in your culture, will also affect what culture is dominant. 

There are difficulties and joys. I speak from personal experience. 

If you are talking about marrying someone from your own country, then I would assume the same applies as if you were in your home country, but with the warning that often you may get along well with someone in another country fine but when you get back to your home country, suddenly you don’t know that person anymore, as they revert back to how they were before. Often people who live overseas have two “selves,” one for the host culture and one in the home country.

Answer from Suzy, who has served with Adventist Frontier Mission in Benin for 17 years, in addition to a year in Mongolia.

Editor’s note: For a helpful resource on cross-cultural relationships and marriage, look for a copy of Love Across Latitudes: A Workbook on Cross-Cultural Marriage, by Janet Fraser-Smith.

See also this series of articles on missionary marriage issues.