While First Church is blessed to partner with many missionaries around the globe, it is important to remember that many of these missionaries consist of a family unit. What is it like to raise a child on the mission field? What legacy do our missionaries hope to leave to their children?
I think it is important to define what a missionary kid (MK) is and how this role plays into their life. MKs are the children of missionary parents who are born and/or raised on the mission field, usually abroad. When MKs have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside their parent’s culture, they are also part of a subset called Third Culture Kids or TCKs. This term is typically applied to them when they return to the country of their citizenship (passport country).
Missionary kids often identify more with the culture or country in which they are raised than with their country of citizenship, or where their parents were raised. Yet as they live on the mission field, they feel the stigma of being different from their indigenous peers. When MKs return to their passport country, there is often a cultural disconnect. They find themselves looking and acting like their family and friends, but they have developed a much broader worldview that sets them apart. Often years are spent feeling homesick for their foreign home.
Missionary parents grapple with a wide range of emotions, challenges, and decisions as they navigate family life. While serving in areas which may be dangerous, additional challenges come into play regarding the safety and education of these children. Some Christian boarding schools specifically serve MKs. Recently I visited Rift Valley Academy in central Kenya, with an attendance of about 500 missionary children representing 30 nationalities and 80 mission organizations and churches. President Teddy Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of its main building in 1909.
First Church asked a few of our supported missionary families three key questions about raising their children on the mission field. As they share their hopes and concerns, please pray for them—that they may flourish where they are, and receive God’s guidance in the legacy of faith and ministry they leave their children.
by Trusha Barner, Director of Missions
Raising Our Children on the Mission Field
What are the biggest challenges your kids face while living on the missionary field?
A Missionary Couple in London:
Belonging. My kids have grown up overseas, and they don’t identify as American. They also are not accepted by the country in which we live because they are known as American. So, they are classic third-culture kids (TCK).
Kyle and Stacia Christensen in Thailand:
Not getting to grow up next to their immediate family. I grew up spending my summers at the lake with my grandparents and cousins. There is a part of me that feels sad that our children will not have this same experience, because they are growing up halfway across the world.
What can First Church do to partner with you in parenting?
Heather and Habtom Kebede in Ethiopia:
The biggest partnership would be to pray for our kids to know God, to know Jesus as their Savior, and to be confident and content in who they are and where they are growing up.
Rachael & Brian Montei, served many years in Papua New Guinea:
If a church wanted to help missionary children, sending a care package with notes from the Sunday school stu- dents would let the children know they have friends and are loved. The church could also give kids or parents special gift cards to buy resources like educational books from Christian Book Distributors.
What do you hope your children learn about God growing up in the missionary field?
Kyle and Stacia:
I hope they will learn that God loves everyone from every culture–whether they are rich or poor, no matter what language they speak or the color of their skin; He wants everyone to come into His family.
Rachael & Brian:
I want my kids to learn that God has a plan. I want my boys to know that despite the challenges, poverty, de- pravity, sickness, and sadness in the world, a relationship with Jesus is the answer to every human condition.
Heather & Habtom:
I pray my kids learn to love and serve others, confident in who they are and in Jesus’ love for them. I also pray that they would know they are a big part of our mission work, and that we are ministering to people as a family.
A Missionary Couple in London:
I hope my children learn to see that God is Lord of the nations and that His church is global. I pray that they will be able to point their unbelieving friends to their God and share with them the gospel.