(Photo: Reuters/Joseph Guyler Delva)
A new dating website was launched earlier this month to help missionaries and other Christians serving overseas to find a spouse who understands their global calling.
Thus far, more than 400 people have joined the online dating community, CalledTogether.us, in the two weeks the site has been active.
Gerin St. Claire, one of the founders of the dating site, told NPR's Arun Rath that they want to help Christians find their right match so they don't have to choose between serving overseas or staying in the United States to find a marriage partner.
"What oftentimes happens is someone would meet someone here in America and then would have to choose between two scenarios: 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," he said.
St. Claire added that while Christians are serving overseas to make the world a better place, his organization wants "to empower them to stay there," instead of returning home because they're lonely or want to find their soul mate.
"Moving overseas can be a lonely thing. You might be there for five to eight years before you really know the local language well enough to really converse and build a meaningful community. For a lot of missionaries it's difficult, in general, to have close connections. And for singles it's doubly hard, because they also don't have a spouse to rely on and get support from," St. Claire told NPR on Sunday.
While a majority of American missionaries (about two-thirds) are married, the one-third who are single generally leave the field and return to the U.S. to find a spouse, according to St. Claire.
"They don't have a spouse and they don't have hope of finding one overseas, so they return," he commented.
Even though the dating site caters primarily to missionaries who are currently serving overseas, it's also available for Christians who are living in the U.S., but would be open to relocating.
St. Claire added that his team developed the site because no other dating website caters to missionaries.
"If they use E-Harmony, Match.com 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," he explained. "But with our site, they can answer that from the beginning. They can know from the beginning that this person would be willing to come where I am. That would hopefully make it a lot easier for them to find someone."
St. Claire told The Christian Post in an emailed statement that while a majority of its members are Americans who live outside the U.S., the site will eventually grow to serve Christians from other countries.
"While the site only works for English speakers," he said, the team plans to "open up the dating website to other language speakers as well, beginning with Spanish."
Due to the security risks involved, St. Claire told CP that he can't list the countries where missioniaries are using the dating serivce.
"We don't want foreign governments taking note of the fact that missionaries in their country are using our site," he explained. "I can at least say that our users are fairly evenly distributed around the globe."