BY A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER IN MISSION
As we made our way through the airport on a long journey recently – those endless hours on planes and in transit lounges – my daughter, K, commented: “I feel so at home in airports.”
This is part of the legacy of growing up in a missionary family – and as K now has the benefit of some distance to reflect on what growing up in mission has meant to her, we asked her to share her thoughts:
K: Being a child of people in mission has given me a very fertile environment in which to grow and mature. I’ve had to learn to relate to and engage with people who aren’t my age.
I have grown in my cultural understanding of this world. I feel mission has taught me how to honour other people of different cultures, languages and beliefs.
I also have had the amazing privilege of travelling to over 25 countries, all in 18 years.
Mum: Another big plus of this life in mission is the way it opens up the kids’ understanding of church.
For them, having met with believers in all sorts of places and contexts, being the church will never be about being in a particular building.
Without us needing to actually tell them, they have absorbed a valuable truth – that we followers of Jesus from all over the world are together the people of God.
K: Being a missionary kid hasn’t always been easy. At times, I have felt ripped from my closest friends and plunged into the depths of the uncomfortable.
However, I am eternally grateful for this beautiful life that I get to call mine, with friends all over the world.
I have been taught what to value in life – relationships and communication, close and intimate moments with family, traditions and rhythms, culture and language and people of all kinds of backgrounds.
I have been taught to make my home wherever we plant our feet and have learned to find beauty in all kinds of mysterious places.
Mum: Being a family in mission has certainly caused us to form extremely close bonds as a family.
We have created family traditions and carried them with us from one location to another. Since they stay the same when the environment changes, these rhythms and traditions become especially important anchor points for us all.
K: While challenging, being a missionary kid also leaves me with a sense of pride. Pride in knowing I am different. Pride in knowing that I have lived such a colourful and vibrant life. Pride in myself and my family for our ability to adapt and change and adjust to new ways of living with new traditions, new languages and new food.
I am so proud of us for sticking out the tough times and for constantly supporting each other.
Because we have moved to different places, we have had to grow closer so that we are knitted together.
Mum: What are some of the challenges? K has touched on some of them here. Not knowing where “home” is has never been easy, and it becomes increasingly difficult to satisfactorily answer the question “where are you from?”.
K: I wasn’t aware that I was a “missionary kid” until well into my teens when people at church or a conference would ask “so what’s it really like being a missionary kid?”
It never really occurred to me that my life wasn’t especially normal until we moved to the UK for two years. Now I really know what being a missionary kid is like – it is painful, it is messy and it leaves you feeling on the outside of things: a bit strange and quite misunderstood.
Having to engage with so many people who aren’t my age has left me at a disadvantage. I find it a bit uncomfortable to relate to others my age and find it hard to fit in.
Living on two continents and in three different countries has meant that I have been to six schools, not including preschools. This has meant my life has been a more or less continual process of adjustment and readjustment.
I have struggled with the fact that I don’t live in the same country as my closest friends, and that my family live in a different country to those people too.
I have felt on the edge. Always having my feet in two places, standing across seas, bridging the gap.
Mum: Truly, this call to a missionary life is not one that is just for the parents.
It invites every family member into a journey that is sometimes uncomfortable, often complicated, and yet deeply enriching.