This free PDF entitled “Missionary Marriage Issues” was written by Ronald L. Koteskey, Member Care Consultant for GO InterNational (an interdenominational world-wide Christian mission organization involved in organizing short-term missions, among other projects). While Ron wrote this material specifically for missionaries, his insights, comments, and suggestions are valuable for pastors and their wives, persons involved in ministry, and for any married couple. Ron and his wife (former teachers with 35 years experience in Bible colleges, public and Christian schools) maintain two websites www.missionarycare.com and www.crossculturalworkers.com which provide free resources like brochures and e-books for two culture-kids, marriage issues, and reentry for missionaries.
“Missionary Marriage Issues” (62 pages, 338 k) is divided into nineteen chapters: (1) What about Dorothy? (2) I Don’t Want to Go! (3) Not Called, but Willing (4) I’m Marrying a National! (5) This Is No Honeymoon (6) I’m Just a Trailing Spouse (7) Relationship Time (8) Ministry Separation (9) Marriage or Ministry (10) Sexual Stress (11) Computer Sex or me? (12) Maintaining Sexual Purity (13) Digital Distractions (14) You Spent It on WHAT? (15) FUNd Raising Isn’t FUN! (16) Wounds, Scabs, and Scars (17) How Will We Discipline Them? (18) I Wish Your Parents Would Leave Us Alone! (19) What about Charlotte?
Missionaries, pastors and people in ministry are not exempt from deep marital troubles and are more susceptible to sexual sin
In the preface, Ron states the reason why he wrote this e-book:
Why write a book about issues in missionary marriages when so many books about marriage are available? The reason is because married couples living in cultures other than their passport one face some issues that make marriage more difficult than it is for people remaining at “home.”“If you think you are invulnerable to sexual sin, you are actually the most vulnerable.”
During one year two divorces occurred in missionary families our church supported. The next year another divorce occurred. All three divorces involved people 40-60 years of age, one with empty-nesters and two in families with three children at home in each. A single-mom in her thirties with two children registered for one of Ron’s courses, and it turned out that while in language school her husband had left her for a national woman. We received a call to help a couple in their twenties because the wife was considering divorce to marry a national man. As you read this book, you will see that these issues go clear back to the beginning of the modern protestant missionary movement in the eighteenth century.
In Chapter 8, Ron warns missionaries, pastors and others in ministry about sexual or emotional attraction for someone other than their spouse. He says: “If you feel vulnerable in this area, you are. If you do not feel vulnerable, you may be even more vulnerable than those who do feel it. Such attraction must not be tolerated in any way.”
In Chapter 9, Ron cautions missionaries that they are “more susceptible to sexual sin than someone back home. You may be because of some of the facts of missionary life.” Ron enumerates these factors as high stress, lack of privacy, cultural taboos, more separation, pornography through the Internet, and need for affection and touch. He warns: “If you think you are invulnerable to sexual sin, you are actually the most vulnerable.”
A personal note
In my ministry with www.familymatters.org.ph (free legal information on matters affecting the Filipino family), I have counseled via e-mail more than six thousand people, mostly women, since the website became online in December 2005. Among those I have counseled are:
(1) a Protestant minister whose wife abandoned him and their children for an adulterous relationship with an Asian national she met while working abroad, and
(2) a wife whose pastor-husband has been sexually abusing her and videotaping their lovemaking; she has endured years of abuse thinking that it was part of her submission and to avoid embarrassment for herself, her children and the congregation.
I counseled the minister to at least file a petition for legal separation, termination of the wife’s parental authority and for award of full custody of the children to him. With the pastor’s wife, I counseled her to confide in a few trusted friends and her church leaders, temporarily separate from her husband and to consider filing civil and criminal cases for violation of RA 9262 “Ant-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004”.
As a precaution, I generally do not agree when the troubled persons who e-mail me for legal information want to talk to me in person. On several occasions, I have agreed to meet them but only in church, after the worship service and when there are a lot of people around. I have told church members to see me together with their pastor. I also never reply to missed calls on my mobile phone if I don't know the person who called.
(I once counseled a young pastor, one of my students in Bible school, who was having problems in his marriage. His wife had been crying and saying that he didn’t love her anymore. I told this young pastor to turn off his mobile phone and disconnect his land line whenever he was having breakfast, lunch or dinner with his wife and daughter. I assured him that with the proper explanation, his congregation will understand his need to spend some uninterrupted precious time with his family. For more articles on relationships, marriage and the family, please read the articles from my Salt and Light blog.)
William Carey (father of modern missions) and his failed marriage
Throughout the book, Ron cites the virtually unknown story of pioneer missionary William Carey’s tragic marriage with his emotionally troubled wife Dorothy (she was later confined for mental illness). In page 6 of Chapter 1, Ron described William and Dorothy in their early married life as “two Christian young people who grew up in Christian families, attended the same church, married, and set out to serve Christ in business in their village.” In pages 9 and 10 of Chapter 1, Ron summarizes the travails of William and Dorothy’s life together:
During their years in India the family moved from one site to another. They had little or no contact with other Europeans during that time. They had no Indian converts in the first seven years, though some expatriates from other countries were converted. They were often in danger from flooding rivers, tigers, jackals and other things. They repeatedly had many diseases including dysentery, malaria, and other parasites. Several times they actually thought they were going to die.In pages 11 and 12 of Chapter 2, Ron cites an example of the troubled relationship between William and Dorothy:
On December 12, 1807, William wrote a colleague that “…it pleased God to remove my wife by death. She had been in a state of the most distressing derangement for these last twelve years…” Dorothy, the woman who had expected the life of a wife of a shoemaker in England, died at the age of 51 after 14 miserable years in India.
Dorothy was the wife of William Carey, widely acclaimed to be the “father of modern missions.” No one can question the commitment, dedication, effectiveness, and discipline of William Carey—but what about Dorothy? What about their marriage relationship? How did this marriage of the “father of modern missions” influence those of missionaries that followed? Did William learn anything from this sad ending? Did mission agencies learn anything from it?
Another missionary couple was present during some of their disagreements, and the visiting husband wrote, “She has uttered the most blasphemous and bitter imprecations against him,…seizing him by the hair of his head, and one time at the breakfast table held up a knife and said, ‘Curse you. I could cut your throat…you rascal…God almighty damn you.’” Before she was confined, she followed William through the streets raving and railing against him.Excerpts from the book
I have posted below some excerpts from this very valuable book. As I said, the book and its insights, comments and suggestions apply not only to missionaries but to pastors, people in ministry and married couples:
Chapter 3. Not Called, but Willing
Why is the “call” a marriage issue?
It is not an issue if no one is called or if everyone is called because everyone is the same. However, if or when one spouse feels called to leave the passport country to spread the Good News and the other sees no reason to leave home, this becomes an issue. If they stay at home, the first spouse is frustrated because he or she may feel guilty for not obeying God. If they go to another culture, the second spouse may resent it when he or she gets beyond “vacation mode” to the time when culture shock and the stress of living in another culture set in.
Chapter 5. This Is No Honeymoon
During the early days or months of living in another culture, while still in “vacation mode,” a person experiences interest, fascination, joy, and enthusiasm living in another culture. This may last for days, weeks, or even months.
However, when the inevitable difficulties with language, people, housing, and food arise, people may become critical, frustrated, resentful, and angry. Simple tasks become daunting challenges, and disillusionment sets in. This post-honeymoon time is very hard on marriage relationships, resulting in lower satisfaction in marriages.
If a couple marries and leaves very soon to serve in another culture, the early days may be wonderful. Then if the two “honeymoons” end simultaneously, the following days may be dreadful. The couple may confuse cultural adjustments and marriage adjustments. The resulting disillusionment may cause them to leave the field, perhaps even the marriage. Even if they do not leave the marriage, their marriage may be damaged.
Chapter 8. Ministry Separation
I can’t believe I’m attracted to ____.
Although being attracted to someone other than your spouse takes many people by surprise the first time it happens, it is very common. This attraction may be either sexual or emotional. As one song put it, “When I’m not near the girl (guy) I love, I love the girl (guy) I’m near.” Typically we come to like the people we interact with most, which is usually our spouse. If you feel vulnerable in this area, you are. If you do not feel vulnerable, you may be even more vulnerable than those who do feel it. Such attraction must not be tolerated in any way.
Chapter 9. Marriage or Ministry
Could you, a missionary, get pulled into immorality or adultery? Of course you could, and the “slide” into it usually begins in harmless, innocent ways. For example, you are field director, so it is your responsibility to show the attractive new single missionary around. Or, you feel sorry for the new missionaries who have no place to stay, and you invite them to live with you temporarily. Or, while talking with a long-term missionary friend, Chris, you find out that Chris feels neglected at home, so you try to give Chris some extra attention. Before you realize it, the two of you are sharing deep things, and this intimacy leads to increasing time together, and finally adultery.
It happens not only with other missionaries, but with nationals as well. It happens to both men and women. It happens with young and old. If you think you are invulnerable to sexual sin, you are actually the most vulnerable.
Could two missionaries begin a homosexual relationship? Yes, they can, and it can happen with either men or women, married or single, young or old. As a result of isolation and loneliness, people living together with same-sex partners may form emotionally dependent relationships. These rather exclusive relationships may become possessive and lead to physical activity with sexual elements. An embrace may become more than just comforting.
This may progress into homosexual activity, so that the people involved have progressed into a sinful relationship. But even if it is stopped before reaching this level, confusion, guilt feelings, and the relationship itself need to be carefully examined.
Chapter 13. Digital Distractions
Lose real contact. A person enmeshed with digital distractions may not recognize problems with family and spouse, not know that anything is wrong until too late.
Drain on time. When one spends hours keeping up with “friends” on Facebook, viewing DVDs, or playing electronic games, it may mean less time for the physically present spouse.
A February 2009 article in Newsweek is titled, “Will the Blackberry sink the Presidency?” Stopping to spend 15 minutes with your Blackberry may not sink your marriage, but it may cause your spouse to question your relationship to him or her.
Chapter 14. You Spent It on WHAT?
Husband and wife should agree on a limit as to how much money each can spend without discussing it with the other. This is to prevent problems, such as, “You spent it on WHAT?” If both of them have similar views of money, setting a limit may be easy.
Conflicts about money are often over other issues, and it helps to uncover these deeper issues. Here are some examples.
“Spender vs saver:” “Let’s do… vs. No, that costs too much”
“Now vs later” “We need a new…vs. Why, our old one is OK for a while”
Note: You might be interested in my Salt and Light blog articles on relationships, marriage and the family.
Notes:  Related post: Are you single and in ministry?;  This blog does not necessarily endorse the opinions or beliefs of the resources cited here.