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TCK 3 By The TCK's

This is the latest family photo we have. Interesting thing, since this article is on topic. Joy's husband is an MK. Hope just got engaged this guessed it, an MK. The research shows MK's relate to MK's more than to any cultural connection. Here is little field data to support that.

This blog is written by my children. I asked them to send me five positive things and five negative things about growing up as a TCK/MK. I compiled them because of overlap and did a little editing to make different sentences from different kids flow together. It might seem a little 'chunky' to read because as much as possible I just did a copy/paste.

It was interesting to read their responses because they did it without collaborating with each other or me. There are more than five benefits listed because they did not have total overlap. On the plus side, there was almost total overlap on the negatives and we did not hit the five mark. I guess I should feel good about that.

It is funny how this hit me. I wrote a message to the kids telling them thank you and I was proud of them. I knew life was tough, and I literally started to cry. I know we did/do what God called us to do. I know every one of them tell me the good far outweighs the bad. However, so often I feel like my calling hurt them. I think it is just evil forces trying to discourage. That is one reason I wrote these blogs. Encourage your missionaries!

Benefits of growing up as a TCK/MK.

Seeing the faith of my parents. One of the biggest reasons kids walk away from Christianity is because they see hypocrisy in the household. (i.e “If God is sooo real to my parents, how come my dad is a jerk?”). Growing up as a missionary I saw that my parents took their faith with utmost seriousness. They truly believe having a good life isn’t why we’re here. They willingly and happily gave it all up to serve others. Seeing that God was legitimate to them, and they would do anything for Him, made me look deeper into my own faith. Turns out God is pretty great!

Growing up bilingual. Who doesn’t want to be able to speak multiple languages? It looks cool at parties, gets the ladies, and has opened doors within my career that would otherwise be closed. As an adult now I learned to be more grateful and able to speak Spanish to those who don’t speak English. I will often translate for people in public places just because I remember what it was like to not speak the language. These people are not ignorant. They just don’t need English in their home. I feel like it helps me show love. I currently disciple a couple of teenagers from work in Spanish. I only know to speak Spanish, but hearing Chumani and Quechua kinda tie back into my first benefit of having a large worldview. Speaking Spanish really has benefited my life in so many crazy awesome ways. It has been one of the best skills in my life.

Possessing a bigger worldview than one country gives you. I have a deep understanding that the USA is not the only country in the world. Most people somehow don’t realize this. I’ve recognized that the North American way of living is not the only way, and frequently not the best way. Additionally, North American policies don’t impact other countries as much as many people believe. Don’t get me wrong, there is a trickle down effect for major decisions, but turns out the day to day operations of South American residents is not really affected at all by the sitting Speaker of the House. For me just the experience of living among people who have different cultures was awesome. I did not realize it until I became immersed in a single culture mindset of my friends. I can understand things differently. It also allowed me a bigger worldview. There’s a different way to see everything and being a TCK made that so much easier. As a TCK I have a broader understanding of how some countries outside of the US do things and know their way is not wrong, our way is not right. They are simply different. As a MK, I met people from different cultures, not just the two ones of my own life. I knew missionaries from six countries in my teenage years. I’m confident I could get a free night or two in Canada, Egypt, Paris, South Korea, Ghana, Bolivia, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, or Switzerland. Plus all over the USA. It’s always good to have a global network of friends. I am even a dual citizen. I am a Bolivian American (dual citizenship) living in Ghana. That is worth some street cred! It’s crazy sometimes to meet people who have never been to other countries, let alone lived in one. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Growing up doing awesome things. How many people get to carve/burn a canoe out of a 40 ft tree, take said canoe 3 days down the Amazon River, hike into the jungle, and make contact with an unreached people group? How about holding a flashlight during an emergency surgery and translating for the doctors? What about flying an airplane the size of a Volkswagen? How about going spelunking in some super sketchy places that tourists would never go? Being a TCK also allowed me to have experiences that no one my age even dreamed about. It’s so great to watch an adventure movie with my friends now where the protagonist is making a path through the jungle, or someone is standing on a mountaintop, or riding in a bus with a goat, and getting to think: “Hey, I’ve done that!” It is also cool to be able to travel a lot. I had more passport stamps before I turned 10 than most people will ever have. In my two year old passport right now there are 24 stamps in it. I learned so many skills my USA friends never did, especially girls. I know how to wire electricity, put in a water heater, lay bricks, pull teeth and build a house.

Getting to see God work and be a part of it. You get to see and experience the frontlines of Christianity and watch God change lives. The sheer joy of it is indescribable. Just last month we were in a village who had no water. The women and children walked fourteen, yes, fourteen miles a day round trip to get water. We were there when the ministry we worked with opened up a faucet in the village center and clean water came out in the name of Jesus. Grown men and women had tears in their eyes. I can truly sat it helped strengthen my faith being on the mission field most of my life. I got to see in real time what the money supporters gave us would do to expand the kingdom. I experienced the giving and receiving and it is neat. There’s a difference between living with those in need vs hearing about those in need. I got to experience that difference. I understand how God loves them and meets their physical and spiritual needs through missionaries. Do you know I was five years old the first time I explained the gospel to someone! I grew up sharing the gospel. My dad told us by the time we were 15 we led more people to Christ than most Christians ever will. I met people in desperate need and watched God meet their needs through me. I have translated during surgery and pulled teeth. In the name of Jesus we bathed children, brushed hair with lice in it, fed thousands, drilled wells and built homes. We helped orphans and shared Jesus with drug addicts and prisoners. Who gets to do that? As a MK, I knew people skills on a whole new level. I met people and tribes that most if not all of my friends of never heard of. I was able to be hands on with helping build the kingdom of God. Even though there are a lot of scary and stressful things that come with being an MK I would never ever take it back. God is good! He has shown me first hand his amazing works! I have been a part of building His Kingdom in so many different ways!! I have seen His mercy, His love, His peace, His joy! I am beyond blessed to have been a missionary kid.

It enables me to adapt to changing circumstances. I think this is a big one for me. My coworkers at the office can get so easily stressed out at the smallest new variable or unforeseen circumstance. I believe my being a TCK made me so flexible I can have a “go with the flow was long as you have a goal” attitude that mom taught us. It doesn’t matter what is going on around you, as a TCK you will be able to adjust, flex, and go with it in a way most stable people cannot. Dad always told short term teams it was important for them to be flexible and not stress over plans changing. That is just part of our lives because plans always changed in a country with poor infrastructure and political instability. It has giving me a since of peace with whatever I have. I can rejoice in little and lot. I have learned to use anything and everything that I have to help others. I just feel way more well rounded and educated overall. There’s something about being bilingual and bicultural that I will never be able to explain, but it has benefited my life so incredibly

Being a MK strengthened my family. Dad says many times the opposite happens, but in our case, MK life drew us closer. We had each other’s back since no one else did. We did ministry together and in doing that it was US serving THEM. In the market, the only other white skin visible among ten thousand people was my brother. It is not racist. I am just saying the identity we shared in our family and ethnicity strengthened us. We were brothers/sisters in arms, in ministry, in unity, and spiritually. This is stronger now as adults. I didn’t really have many friends growing up, and so I made them with my family. My siblings have always been some of the dearest and most intense friendships I’ve ever had. Even now as adults I’m still reaping the benefits of being friends with my siblings. I have great relationships with all the boys, calling Jake and Jessie just to talk all the time, spending afternoons and double dates with Ben and Kara, playing video games with Caleb…but the girls in particular warm my heart. Hope and I doing wedding planning together and I’m currently spending tons of money putting together her bridal shower and loving every minute of it. Joy will come over with her baby and just sit on my couch for hours while we talk and enjoy each other, and Coy is in both of Tim’s dnd groups. Patience and I text all the time and laugh about dumb teen drama, funny embarrassing stories and even have tearful conversations over the phone. Mercy and I will always have a special type of twin bond that’s unique to us. She is like my baby girl. My sweetheart. I see so much of myself in her, and before I became a mother myself I don’t think I’d ever been prouder of a small (although she’s not so small anymore) human. My familial relationships mean so much more to me now because of everything that we as a family went through together

Negatives of growing up as a TCK/MK

It was difficult to make or maintain friendships. I’ve been blessed and welcomed in by an awesome community of believers. But all my closest friends have been a friend group for 20+ years. They grew up together; I didn’t. As close as we all are, I wasn’t at their proms, and I wasn’t in their weddings. Everyone I grew up with live everywhere but where I am now. I have little to no lifelong friends. Most, if not all, of the friends I have made are new or recent friendships. It’s because I moved so often that I did not have time to create bonds with people, and so all my friendships were shallow or ended too soon. On the mission field, this is what happens with your missionary friends. Your home assignments, furloughs, or whatever you want to call them overlap. My family lived in Bolivia and I became best friends with another missionary girl from the States. We took our home assignment and went to the USA for nine months of traveling to visit churches and donors plus down time. Two weeks before we returned, her family went to the States for their one year furlough. It ended up being a year and a half due to family circumstances. So, we were best friends and then did not see each other for over two years. A year after she returned, we went to the States for six months since had been three years on the field. Even though we were MK’s together, life kept us apart a large amount of time. In the States, no one wants to be our friend. Even if we are going to live there nine months, everyone knows, in my dad’s words, “This friendship has a short shelf life. It isn’t worth my investment.” We were in Bolivia for almost four years and returned for the first time to our home church. We lived in our own house! At our home church where my dad had been the pastor, no one in the youth group wanted to be our friend. We were there for one year, and not once did I get invited to an event. This is probably the biggest emotional negative of TCK. You grow up without real friends because they are stationary and you are not. One of my brothers summed it up once. He said, “My life is nothing more than one goodbye after another. Always having to say goodbye to someone sucks.” It’s hard to fit in because you are always different than everyone else you met. The lack of friends and loneliness is hard. Although I had my siblings, sometimes it felt like they were all I had..and in many ways they were. I often would see groups of other teens hanging out and laughing together and I’d instantly be insecure and sad. I felt like I’d never had that, and in many ways I never did.

As a TCK who returned to my home country, I felt behind. Most of my peers at this time had been driving and working for years. Also, several peers, (my wife included), graduated high school with their AA or at least college credits. I was brand new to everything and felt like I was trying to catch up to everyone else. This is a rule with few exceptions: every single TCK I know say the hardest year of their life was the first year off the field. It’s your passport country, so you should be in the know, but you’re not. The simple things are overwhelming and hard. I almost cried the first time I filled up my gas tank. I didn’t know how the pump worked. I went into the 7-11 twice and told the attendant it wasn’t working. The third time they yelled at me. I walked out and fiddled with it for several more minutes before someone came over to help, they probably thought I was high as a kite. (Side note: I’m not an idiot). 700 chip options at the grocery store don’t help.

You always feel like the outsider. When I was in the USA, I was an outsider. When I was in Bolivia, I was an outsider. Not belonging anywhere is an awful feeling as a kid/teenager. It really wasn’t until I was 22+ that I felt at home in the USA. Even now, I’m fully aware that my childhood experiences were vastly different than most people. When I moved back to the USA, I did not know how to fit in to the group. I did not know how to talk to people. I did not know perceptions or norms. This is hard enough to navigate in your own culture as you go through puberty, but to feel different and to actually be different is harsh. Even though my childhood was much more exciting than most of my friends, there’s an isolation in the experience. I can’t relate to my friends talking about childhood memories or camp experiences because I never got them. I do not relate to their history, nor do they understand mine. Sometimes you feel stupid for not knowing things. Normal, everyday things need to be interpreted to you. My best friend had to show me how to use a vending machine, and my fiancé walked me through how to use a chip reader at a self checkout. No matter how much you try to teach yourself, there is always something you don’t understand. Here is my perspective. “I am lonely.” That is how I feel a lot of the time. There are so many times where you will just feel lonely. Not for any one reason…just a feeling that will randomly come. I do not have a sense of “home”. Where is my home? As a MK, I learned and worry about things that my friends don’t even think about. Do we have enough money? Do I really need this many things? How fast and effective can I be to defend myself I if someone tries to take me? These are things I learned about at a really young age. I didn’t even realize most, if not all of my friends don’t even think about it. They never thought about avoiding a kidnapping. Dad taught us how to. We are different. It’s hard for me to make friends sometimes now because I am still living in the “dive deep and dive quick” mindset and adults aren’t as receptive to that as teens and kids are. I’m labeled an “over sharer” a lot and people don’t understand why I’m so open so quickly on things. On top of that, my life experiences have made me different than your typical 23 year old and It’s hard to feel so different all the time. Making connections with people is definitely a lot harder on me. I don’t feel like I was ever really just a teenager. I feel like I never really got to just go out with my friends at night and hang out for hours on end, especially once Josh and David moved out (I lost my bodyguards) and it was way more dangerous for me to be out.

It stinks being so far away from people you love. I really see this in my parents as they cry from time to time because of missing life with my siblings in the States. They will just say, “I am okay, just sad today. I miss your siblings. Today was a holiday and we weren’t there.” That is the M view. The MK view is the same. I want to be with my brothers and sisters. I want to be with my nieces and nephews. I want to babysit and play with them. I want us to do things together. Talking on the phone helps and hurts. Also, it cost so much money to travel, it doesn’t make sense for us to go back. Every time one of my siblings stays behind it hurts. Now that I live in the States, I hate being away from my parents. It is hard to try and schedule a chat so they can see their grandkids, only to have the internet go out in their home. I want to just call them and I can’t. I think this is one of the greatest sacrifices missionary’s make. Although there as SO MANY things that you can experience that most people can’t…there’s also so many things that you miss out on wherever you aren’t there. When I was in Bolivia, I saw my friends and family get together in the States without me and do amazing things. When I’m in the USA, I see my friends get together in Bolivia without me and do amazing things. It feels like you are missing out on something almost all the time. I live with a sense of FOMO. Traveling all over can really get stressful. Packing and going over and over again can take it’s toll on you. I have had a really hard time being away from Bolivia now that I’m an adult. I spent my whole life with that as my home and once I became an adult I had to leave it behind. I feel like it’s a lot different than leaving your hometown to go to college. I left everything. The culture, the people, the environment, the climate…it is all so different and I won’t ever have it again. It’s a really hard part of growing up…knowing I’ll never go back.

There you have it. Eyewitness and firsthand testimony of some of the good, bad and ugly of life as a TCK/MK.

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