Loneliness…it’s a ministry killer

I stopped doing my blog and podcast several months ago for one reason, depression from loneliness. My status on Facebook was “It’s not the stress, culture, or money that would keep me from continuing to do ministry abroad…It’s loneliness.” Everything kind of came to a head in October where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue being in the Netherlands.

Now, let me clarify, there’s different types of loneliness. I know God is always there for me and loves me. I can feel His spirit and love in the good and bad times. I had friends and people I could be around. There’s several families that I can call on and they’d have me for a meal or coffee about any time. There are friends that I can call and they would be up for grabbing drinks or hanging out. But these people have lives and are often busy with spouses, families, school, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc. Those relationships weren’t the types of loneliness I was feeling.

The loneliness I was feeling was the ability to be around someone who knows me, knows my past, knows my interests, and knows my thoughts on things. Not only that but also someone who wants to be around me. Someone I can pour my life out to and love without the fear of them or myself moving away, them getting the wrong impression, or them using things against me. In other words, a spouse.

Being single beyond university these days can be difficult. Being a single expat/international person complicates things even worse. Then throw in being a single Christian and you’ve just complicated things to a point that you feel like your desire to find someone will never be met. Especially if you want to stick to finding someone with similar morals and convictions on things.

In October I really began thinking if I wanted to continue living in a place where if I want to date someone I’d have to find someone with the same religious beliefs (Amsterdam has about 1% Evangelical Christians in it), which then I’d have to make sure we have similar religious convictions (even Christians in decent churches have very different morals and convictions of what the Bible says), and then if I got to this point, I’d have to see if we could deal with cultural and language differences. Oh wait, I’ve forgotten to include the fact that we’d have to have similar interests and be attracted to each other. I’ve met a few nice girls in Amsterdam. But often they are not Christians and if they do claim to be, their morals and convictions make me wonder what Bible they’re reading. Then there’s the ones where we have similar beliefs, but there’s no similar interests or romantic interest for one or both of us.

When interviewing with Young Life, they asked me what are some things that would hold me back or frighten me about coming on board with YL. I said other than fundraising for myself and the area it would be the thought “am I putting marriage off another three to five years.” It’s definitely something us single people in foreign ministry think about. At least those of us in Europe where the percentage of Evangelical Christians is below %3 in most areas.

You know what though, in the past I’ve had to let go of many things that I was on mission for. Please don’t get desires and missions mixed up. Every time I give up my mission, God gives me a mission better than what I was going after that also meets the desires my mission would have met but He does so even better. I think there will always be a part of me that listens to my culture and wants to be on a mission of finding a wife, a “real job,” and settling down. But you know what, the other part of me, the majority, would rather be on mission of reaching out to people and sharing the love of God with them. Cause ultimately, and eternally, that’s what matters most. And you know what, maybe one day I’ll quit being so cheap and will subscribe to one of those online dating sites.

One thing I would encourage those of you who know single people around you to do is to reach out to us. Love us. Invite us into your life. And don’t just do that for the single ladies you know. There’s single guys that are struggling with being lonely and would desperately love to have a family of our own. It’s not just the women. I know I’m thankful for those who have loved me and helped me feel like family while I’m away from the family I do have and am waiting on the family I’d like to have one day.

With that said, hopefully my blogs will continue on a more regular basis. I’d love to have a few other youth leaders doing ministry in a foreign context contributing to the blog and doing a collaboration type of thing. Would be willing to discuss how that could look if there’s anyone out there interested. Email me at ymabroad@gmail.com.