Lindsey Gray is Chief Pilot for AIM Air. She flew her first solo flight at the age of seventeen and holds an FAA Commercial single/multi-engine pilot certificate, instructor ratings, and is a certified aeroplane dispatcher.
Statistically, female pilots make up about 7% of the mission workplace, aircraft mechanics only 2%. Female pilot/mechanic, there’s not even a statistic for that. But that’s no different than the secular workplace. What’s unique about the mission workplace you ask? The unique statistic in the mission world is the one we often joke about. The current missionary population is made up of 70% married couples, 30% single women, and the rest are single men. We call single male missionaries ‘unicorns’. We’ve heard they exist, but very few have actually seen one.
It feels like I’ve written this article a dozen times. What are the advantages and disadvantages to being a female in a male dominated world? This is the most common question I’m asked about my most common descriptors: pilot, mechanic, female, single. I could share all the usual stories, like this tower conversation in South Sudan:
Tower controller: “How many souls on board?”
Tower controller: “Say souls on board.”
Tower controller: “Madam, say total number of souls on board.”
Me: “Sir, only me. Yes, I am flying this airplane alone.”
Being a woman aviator has perks, too. Like when I’m the only female on the radio channel and I receive priority routing while all the other male pilots hold.
Finding a spouse
I once heard a speaker say that the way to find a spouse in ministry is to ‘run hard after God, and while you’re running, look to your left and right. Those running alongside you in ministry are your potential mates.’ But if I’m honest, this looks no different than my college cross-country meets. It’s just us girls; there are no guys in this race.
Why are there no single men serving, or why is our body so unbalanced? It’s hard to pinpoint. Don’t get me wrong, I know well the pioneering single women who have gone before me. Women like Betty Greene and Lottie Moon, who left an eternal footprint on this world. I also know what it’s like to spend days preparing a message for a visiting team from a sending church, and at the end of the hour, to be asked by an older gentleman in the back, “Would it be okay if we gathered around and prayed that God would send you a husband?”
All in for God
If God asks me to serve him forever as a single woman, I’m all in. My concern is not my personal singleness. My concern is why are there no single men serving alongside us? Perhaps this account I read by Elisabeth Elliot sums it up best. Sharing a conversation she had with Gladys Aylward, an early pioneering missionary to China, about her desire for a helpmate, she recalled the following:
‘Being a woman of prayer, she prayed a straight forward request that God would call a man from England, send him straight out to China, and have him propose. She leaned toward me on the sofa on which we were sitting, her black eyes snapping, her bony little forefinger jabbing at my face. “Elisabeth,” she said, “I believe God answers prayer! He called him,” then, in a whisper of keen intensity, “but he never came.”’