Sun March 16, 2014
Christian Missionaries 'Called Together' By Online Dating Site
ARUN RATH, HOST:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.
It seems these days, there's a dating site for everyone.
(SOUNDBITE OF BLACKPEOPLEMEET.COM COMMERCIAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: At the largest dating site for black singles, BlackPeopleMeet.com.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIANMINGLE.COM COMMERCIAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Joining is easy and free. Find God's match for you at ChristianMingle.com.
(SOUNDBITE OF OURTIME.COM COMMERCIAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: OurTime.com, the largest dating site for singles over 50...
(SOUNDBITE OF FARMERSONLY.COM COMMERCIAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: (Singing) You don't have to be lonely at FarmersOnly.com.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: City folks just don't get it.
RATH: Now, there's a new site for an even more niche audience: missionaries and other Christians moving abroad.
GERIN ST. CLAIRE: If they're overseas making the world a better place one way or another, we want to empower them to stay there.
RATH: Gerin St. Claire is one of the founders of the new dating site CalledTogether.us.
CLAIRE: It could be someone who's founding an orphanage or somebody who is working for an NGO, because a lot of them are coming back to America because of loneliness, because they don't have a spouse and they don't have hope of finding one overseas. And so they return.
RATH: You know, I don't know where I get this from, but I have this idea in my mind of what a missionary is like. And I imagine someone who is already married and settled with a family in a way.
CLAIRE: Yeah. You know, I think in America in general, about 50 percent of the population is single. But among missionaries, it's more like two-thirds is married, only one-third is single. You tend to be correct that usually, people don't go overseas unless they already have a spouse.
Moving overseas can be a lonely thing. You might be over there for five to eight years before you know the local language well enough to really converse and build meaningful community. And so for a lot of missionaries, it's difficult in general to have close connections. And then for singles, it's doubly hard because they also don't have a spouse to rely on and to have that support from.
RATH: So is the idea to link people up before they go on their missions, or could it happen so that somebody actually ends up getting pulled out of a life because they get connected to someone who's somewhere else?
We hope to link them up both before, during and after they go overseas. What oftentimes happens is someone would meet someone here in America and then kind of have to choose between, do I want to go overseas and chase my dream or do I want marriage? But we hope to be able to offer this resource so that they don't have to make that decision.
It's easy to understand how being in a place, especially if it's a very foreign place, by yourself can make one feel pretty lonely and cut off. But are there specific things about being a missionary, doing the Christian work out there that also make that harder?
CLAIRE: Yeah. I think that for missionaries, it's going to be extra isolating because a lot of the times they're in a culture that not only doesn't understand them but also might not approve of their faith. And so there's going to be an extra isolation from that.
RATH: Where do you see this - where do you want to see this in five years?
CLAIRE: We could definitely see it expanding to being a multinational effort for any Christian who wants to live in a culture other than their own. Because, I mean, if they use eHarmony or Match or one of those sites, probably 95 percent of the people that they get matched with will have no interest in relocating to a foreign country.
But with our site, they can answer that question from the beginning. They can know from the beginning that this person would be willing to come where I am. And that would hopefully make it a lot easier for them to find someone.
RATH: Gerin Sinclair is one of the founders of the new dating site CalledTogether.us. In the weeks since the site has gone up, they've added about 400 members. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.