Hannah is 27 years old and from North Carolina. She is a full-time laborer serving in East Asia.
She is also a single woman.
I asked her about finding her niche overseas, and this is what she said.
“Serving East Asian college students is definitely my niche. I love them. I can see myself in many of them. Because they have done nothing their entire lives but study, they are just starting to understand social interactions. This makes them socially comparable to American middle school students. I clearly remember being an awkward middle school student, and so I understand them well. What has changed for me since middle school is that I have found my identity in Christ. I love being able to explain this to my East Asian college student friends. I love watching them find their security in God, during a time in their lives when they need it most.
Another way that I fit this niche is that I am in the same place in life as most of them. I am young and single like they are. I have, and am, struggling with a lot of the same things they are. I also have this in common with the girls on my team, who are single and young like me. I am able to open up my life to them. I am their leader, but I am also their friend, sister (sometimes mother), co-worker, and classmate.
We need each other. I think that is a special thing about being single and overseas. The relationships that I have here are extremely needed. Yes, the most important relationship is with Christ, but He made us to be relational. My relationships with my teammates are the most important relationships that I have here. I serve them, and I also have to let them serve me and love me. God calls us to love one another. He tells us that we are a family (Hebrews 2:11). He tells that we are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) and we are working together to serve Him. In living out of these truths, inter-team relationships become very close.
This is also one of the greatest struggles for me, as these relationships change often. I work with college students, so they are constantly coming and going. I work on a team with a lot of short-term people, who are here for one or two years. It is easy to feel lonely. It is easy to feel burned-out on building relationships, and easy to feel like it’s not worth it to be vulnerable again. This leads to idealizing marriage, and thinking, ‘If only I were married there would be someone stable in my life. Sure, I would still be building new relationships and having to work on those, but there would be someone to do that with, someone who already knows me.’
But then I remember that God already knows me better than anyone else ever could. He is the one who holds my hand and never lets go. ‘For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you do not fear; I will help you.’ Isaiah 41:13.
The fact that I am the oldest and ‘wisest’ person on my team means that I really value the time I get to spend with families and people older than me. My advice to people serving alongside women like me is: be intentional. It can be hard to be overseas as a single woman, and it can be beautiful. It can feel lonely, and it can be so much fun! Ask questions about all of these things. Ask about my friends, and my life. Ask about God, and ask about the hard things too. Sometimes we are afraid to ask questions that may have messy answers, maybe me most of all, but if we are really going to love one another as a family of believers the messy is going to have to come out. I think that we as sisters in Christ, single, married, young and old need to be intentional with one another in struggles and in joys.
And my advice to young single women considering serving overseas is, ‘Come on over!’ If you are like me before I came overseas, then you are probably amazed that you even let yourself look at a blog about women serving overseas. But God is bigger than your fears. He wants to use you. Let Him. His plans really are perfect and good.
When I was deciding whether to come to East Asia long term, I was praying and he gave me a picture of myself being carried by a huge flying bird, kind of like the ones in Narnia. The bird was God, and I was me. We were flying so high and I had no idea where we were going, but we were going together, and He knew the way. I was not afraid, rather I was completely at peace because I knew Him and I trusted Him. That is the place where I want to be. I want to be completely surrendered, to know that He is the one who has designed my niche, and He will continue to make me more and more into the one suited for the plan He has for my future.”
What niches have others found? How is your niche influenced by your stage of life?
Photo Source : Gratisography