Missionary Marriage Issues: Wounds, Scabs, and Scars

  • Approximate Time Commitment: 20 minutes

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.”

The booklets found in this series cover many issues that married couples struggle with in the mission field. Each booklet has been read and edited by Bob & Norma Jean Erny who have read each chapter as it was written. They were each married more than 40 years to their first spouses, and after those spouses died, they married each other giving them more than century of marriage in three marriages.

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Resource Description


For thousands of years cross-cultural workers have had to cope in their marriages with baggage from the past as well as hurts from the present, and they have had to do so in the context of an unfamiliar culture. As we saw in the introduction, William Carey lived for a dozen years with Dorothy while she was insane, a time of repeated wounds and scabs that never fully healed.

Joseph was a Third Culture Kid (TCK) who married a national and spent most of his married life in Egypt, his host country. However he had come from a family which had been dysfunctional for several generations.

  •  His father and his grandmother tricked his grandfather into giving his father his uncle’s inheritance (Genesis 27:1-40).
  •  His uncle was so angry that he planned to kill his father. Therefore his grandmother sent his father to live with her own brother (Genesis 27:41-45).
  •  His father then deceived his mother’s brother (Genesis 31:1-32).
  •  His own brothers hated him so much that they wouldn’t even speak nicely to him (Genesis 37:3-4).
  •  Later, as a teenager, his brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery in Africa (Genesis 37:12-28).

Ruth married a TCK who was living in her country. Though we do not know about her family of origin, we do know that she faced difficult situations and tragedy after her first marriage.

  •  Within a decade her husband died, as did her brother-in-law (Ruth 1:4-5).
  •  Ruth and her sister-in-law then lived with their widowed mother-in-law (Ruth 1:5-7).
  •  Against her mother-in-law’s wishes, Ruth emigrated to her husband’s passport country (Ruth 1:8-19).
  •  There in her own culture Ruth’s mother-in-law became bitter (Ruth 1:20-21).
  •  Ruth was so poor that she had to search for food the harvesters missed (Ruth 2:2).
  •  When she met an eligible bachelor, Ruth did not know the culturally appropriate action to take (Ruth 2-4).

Both Joseph and Ruth had very difficult times in their lives resulting in psychological wounds, scabs, and scars. In spite of these, their marriages in their host countries flourished, and their lives were filled with success. Joseph became second in command in his host country, and in hers Ruth became great-grandmother to a king. Now let us consider wounds, scabs and scars—and how to overcome them.


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