Jessica Goldschmidt-Habyarimana talks about ministry as a single woman and how she is trusting in God for the future.
I had the privilege of serving with AIM in Rwanda for eight years, helping in a youth camp ministry (3D Christian Camps) and a programme called WHY WAIT? (Life Skills Curriculum). I started dating Eric (my now husband) after seven years, which means that my experience on the mission field so far has been as a single woman.
I think the first thing I’d like to say is that it’s not primarily about being a man or a woman; it’s about being where God wants us to be. He calls us to a specific place because he has a plan for us. A verse that spoke to me during a visit to Rwanda before going long term was John 15:16, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.’ So, it’s not about waiting until we are married or thinking someone else would be better qualified than us (otherwise we might never do anything because there probably is someone better qualified than us). It’s about obeying, it’s about bearing fruit that will last and it’s about knowing that God will equip us, even when we feel we still have so much to learn.
Were there challenges to being a single woman in Rwanda? I think there are other countries where the challenges would be greater, where a woman doesn’t have as much say and can only interact with other women for example. I lived in the capital city of a country that is predominantly ‘Christian’. I did receive some comments, like being asked about being an umumasere (a nun) or whether it wasn’t ‘cold’ (referring to the fact that I was living alone). We are indeed not made for being alone. Even though Western societies are very individualistic, we all have a need to belong, to be able to receive and contribute. There are many ‘one another’ commands in the Bible, therefore we need to build relationships. Whether that is within a mission team, the local church (if it already exists), with other nationals or expatriates, we need each other! God blessed me with other AIMers on my team and another missionary who became a dear friend, with whom I could share and pray.
There are ministries both men and women can be involved in but I do think some situations are more appropriate for one or the other. And there are situations where it is an advantage to be single or to be a married couple, hence the importance of having both men and women, singles, couples and families on the mission field! As a woman, I was able to walk through an unwanted pregnancy with a Rwandan friend, for example, or have a girls’ Bible study at my house.
I am currently working for the AIM French speaking mobilising office and my husband is studying theology in the Netherlands. Although we don’t yet know where God will lead us next, things will be different this time. I am not just making a decision that will affect me (even though, when single, my decision to serve abroad did also affect my family). But this time we are two, and before my husband finishes his studies we will be three. So, our decision as a couple will also influence our child. Which country/context will we raise her in; what influence will that have on her life; will she have a place to consider home as I do; how will finances work out? I don’t necessarily have all the answers, but I need to be reminded that it’s about obeying, it’s about bearing fruit that will last. And that verse in John 15 ends with a beautiful promise, ‘Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.’ If we go where our Father appoints us, we can also go with the knowledge that our Lord will give us what we need as individuals, what we need as a couple, what our child will need.