Archive for February, 2013

February 23, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: on hoarding and other stuff…

by mendibpng

jacob and cargo

(above) Jacob helps add to the cargo pile after we landed at Lumi on a Kodiak airplane, and waited for the helicopter to take us in three shuttles to our village. Note that only part of our cargo is pictured here!

What do malaria (and other) medicines, mosquito nets, school books, cameras, computers, clothes, food and toiletries all have in common? These are the things we pack to take to the village every time we go.

We have no stores out there and no way to replenish cargo if we run out. So I spend a great deal of time planning ahead to make sure that we don’t run out of something essential, like toilet paper!  It means that for our family of eight (including an intern this year) I ask Ben to book at least 200 or more kilos (440 pounds) of space on the airplane and helicopter if we are using it.

Here is a small sample of the list I use: (this is based on my next village stay of 6 weeks) As you can imagine, the list is fairly extensive although I do save a lot of space by dehydrating vegetables, meat and beans from the market here.

Item: Needed per week Total

Flour

11 lb

66 lb

Rice

8 lb

48 lb

Canned tomatoes

6

48

Canned corn

3

18

Cases of 2 minute noodles

.5

3 cases

Oatmeal

2 lb

12 lb

Peanut butter

1 medium jar

6

Packets of Tang

14

84

Rolls of TP

4

24

Although I always make a effort to take just the Essential Items, I inevitably end up feeling like I am going overboard when I see the GIANT pile of boxes and other cargo ready to be picked up by aviation. Once I’m in the village, however, I am always glad for the things I brought out with me. This happens every single time, even though I’ve been going to and from the village for 10 years.  Ben, bless him, doesn’t complain about how much food I pack for our family so that helps tremendously.

Which leads me to the wonderful passage that I learned as a child:

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

There have been times when we’ve gotten to the end of a village stay with very little food left but we’ve never gone hungry! I do have a tendency to ‘hoard’ items when we are out in the village (HIDE the chocolate everybody!) just because I want to make them last the whole time…but if I run out of specialty items, it’s really not the end of the world. Our heavenly father has always provided everything we need.

I won’t lie, I do obsess about food items sometimes, especially when an item I like is either not available or too expensive for me to buy. Or when a village trip is looming ahead. But I am resolved to keep the “do not worry” in the forefront of my mind, as seeking first His kingdom is really where I want to put my focus.

 

February 21, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: homesick

by mendibpng

joe and noah

I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven lately. At least once a day and sometimes more, I feel the ache of missing someone I love. It doesn’t matter that I live in Papua New Guinea. I would feel the same way if I were back in the U.S. because I would be missing family in other parts of the world. I wish I could share in the greatest joys, like when my cousins got married (and we couldn’t attend) or when loved ones celebrate the birth of new babies. Oh how I wish I could give little Katie (and other babies that I haven’t met) a cuddle! I wish I could see her mama laughing at her antics and share in those moments.

Added to that, it’s also really hard to be here when our loved ones are struggling with a great difficulty or dealing with the grief and loss. I wish I could physically be present for them during those times. Instead, I resign myself to saying a prayer and sending them a quick email or Facebook message.

When I think about heaven, I think about how much I long to see Jesus finally face to face. I wonder if He will look like the friend I’ve pictured all these years of knowing him.

I also think about all the friends and family who are dear to me, and how we will have such great reunions once we get There. I know I can’t sit down and have a cuppa with those of you on the other side of the world right now, or my sisters, who are in the same time zone but who live miles away…but if I can just keep my gaze on eternity, I know there will be so many opportunities to be together AND there will be no more goodbyes!

Some days the sadness starts to creep up on me, (it happens often when I see status updates or pictures on Facebook)  I work at being thankful for the people I DO see every day. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on what is NOT rather than what IS. And even though I can’t see Him, Jesus is right here. He knows the grief and pain of what we humans go through, although ours pales in light of what he went through. I often try to escape the feelings but I have found that they just weigh me down. Soooo…for me, I have to stop and embrace the loneliness for a bit, tell Jesus about it and let it go.

And now I’m off to do some serious playdoughing with my three year old twins, who are with me every day. Some day they will go off to school like their big brothers and sister and I’m gonna (for sure!) remember how little they were, and how they seem to appear everywhere I go in the house. My best moment this morning was looking down at Jacob who had squeezed into a comfy chair with me this morning, just content to be close to me. That’s the way I want to think about Jesus every day.

February 8, 2013

What now: what I would say to you in our home countries and people who work with TCKs:

by mendibpng

J&N

I am certain that my particular thoughts may not apply all TCK’s so please feel free to disagree with me…better yet, please feel free to say so in the comments section!

  1. Please don’t put us in a box. I find it really difficult when people make statements like “Oh, you do ….. because you are a Missionary Kid.” or “All missionary kids feel …” or “All missionary kids hate….”  Perhaps it’s the tiny bit individualism in me that doesn’t like to be lumped into one category, but that makes me really frustrated, particularly if the statement isn’t true for me. If I try to argue, then it looks like I’m just in denial with that person’s perception of  ‘truth’. So, let TCK’s tell you about themselves, rather than making statements about them. I am not disturbed by all generalizations, it is more the emphatic ones that I find annoying.
  2. Don’t assume you know why TCKs did something. Depending on how questions are asked in their culture, they may not appreciate being asked directly why they did something a certain way or being asked “couldn’t you just…”  Instead, if you are saying something like “can you help me understand this…” it might come off a little better. (A side note here: my oldest son told me that wouldn’t mind being asked directly but he wouldn’t like it if he felt forced to answer the question!)
  3. If you don’t know TCKs well, please don’t force them to talk about their life. They may take some time to trust you, and asking too many questions initially before they have volunteered the information may not go over well, although I have noticed in some individualistic cultures that asking questions can be a way to show someone that you are interested in them.  This may not apply to all TCKs (see #1!) so you can take this or leave it. You will likely be able to tell by the person’s body language if they are uncomfortable; however, for a people pleaser like me, this is really hard to confront.
  4. Don’t walk on eggshells with your TCK friends. Just be yourself. If you notice your TCK friend lacks some things (like independence) in order to cope with life in your home country, you can provide opportunities to walk through those things with him/her. I guess what I’m trying to say is rather than being a ‘teacher’ the best approach with a TCK is ‘learner.’ One of my friends, who I have learned a great deal from, took that perspective with me early on, and I feel completely safe to say anything to her or ask her advice about things because I don’t feel threatened at all by our differences.
  5. If you have the resources, you can help college students whose families are still on the field. Take them to the grocery store and show them how to go through the self-checkout. ( I still get panic attacks thinking of this task!) Have some clothes ready for them when they arrive in their home country so they don’t feel ‘out of it.’ Take them out to eat.  Just remember, they may not have a lot of experience being ‘out’ or eating in a restaurant so keep that in mind if they step on your cultural norms of doing things. I had a lot of anxieties before I went to college but my sister took me shopping for all of the things I needed in my dorm room and it gave me some relief. At least when you go to college, all the freshmen (first year students) are new!  This is a tiny tangent, but I remember feeling really confused when a girl at college was crying because she left home, 20 minutes away. At the time it cost me $3 a minute to call my parents 1/2 a world away in Indonesia!
  6. This last suggestion is from my wise dad,

    Listen to the MK/TCK’s story and be really interested…how often do the MK/TCK and missionary start to talk about their life in the village or culture of where they have lived and in just a few minutes people drift away uninterested because it is not football or basketball or etc.?  A true friend of a MK/TCK will want to hear their stories.  I heard you gals say that you stopped talking about Indonesia because people were really not interested.”  

Again, my disclaimer: please feel free to disagree with me on any of the things I have written—I am only writing from my own point of view and know that I have a lot to learn. This post is very much my thoughts and not supported by any literature I’ve seen yet. (I’d like to read about it if anyone wants to suggest some!)

This is my last post on this series for now…time to take a break from blogging and rest a little bit! Thank you for joining me on this journey and thank you for your comments and emails! I have really enjoyed the interaction I’ve had with so many people–new friends and old ones!

February 7, 2013

Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Why would you do this to your kids?

by mendibpng

ellie

A while ago, when we were discussing transition and loss that we as a family have experienced, a newcomer to PNG asked me why anyone would chose to raise their kids overseas if we knew our kids would experience so much hardship. I replied that although it’s painful to see my kids suffer (oh how I wish I could shield them from it!), I can see how God can use it in their lives to make them stronger, more compassionate people. One of my kids told me a while ago that a new kid had come to the school and was having trouble relating to the other kids. He said “I think he’s just in transition stress right now, Mom. He’ll be okay in a few weeks.” This is the kind of thing my TCK/missionary mom heart really enjoys hearing…because it means that they are internalizing some of the things that we value as a family: being real and also having compassion for those who are struggling.

Sometimes we are the cause of our kids’ struggles. We fight. We sin. We struggle with boundaries.  I don’t think this is too different from any other family. But the unique challenge is to be a healthy family while living cross culturally and dealing with transition all the time. I am certain my kids are going to need counseling because of how we have raised them and because of the life we have been called to. I’m just going to put that out there so that what I’m about to say can be balanced with the reality of our sinful natures!

I see my kids gaining a wide perspective of culture as they search for the Truth . Understanding truth within the context of culture is something that takes a great deal of maturity, I think. One time our boys were riding down our hill on a skateboard in the rain making a mess of our grass. At first, Ben went out and told them to stop. They were getting muddy from head to toe and in particular were creating a huge mud pit under the laundry line. His concern was mainly for me and what I was going to deal with later. However, when he came inside to talk to me, he realized I didn’t care about the grass, and he went back and told the boys they could play out there again. Later, one of my cheeky boys said something like, “Mom,  it’s not important in your culture to have a clean and neat lawn but it is to Daddy’s .”  We all had a good chuckle because Ben has often joked about the biggest sin in his hometown being  ‘lawn envy’ whereas here, it is not as much of an issue at all.

Dealing with adversity from time to time has given Ben and I the opportunity to point our kids to Jesus. The two kids I’m homeschooling this year during village stays would rather go to school in Ukarumpa with their friends. They find it hard, to be honest, which is in direct contrast to their older brother who would be done with school by 10 am most mornings (and who didn’t require a lesson plan!)  Sometimes when Ben comes home at his 10:00 am break, he sees one or more of us crying in frustration. He and I try to take the opportunity to encourage the kids to pray because Jesus can help us when we have to do things we don’t like or enjoy. He walks through it with us. We’ve seen them grow significantly in this area this year. We’re all grateful, like right now

A final observation I’d like to make is that being a TCK gives my kids the daily opportunity to interact with people from different cultures. Not only do we have Papua New Guinean friends and family who we love and respect in Ukarumpa and in Arop village, but we have many nationalities represented here in our mission community. Countries like the United States, Korea, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Japan, Finland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Papua New Guinea (and others!)  are represented at my kids’ school in both teachers and students. It sometimes leaves the kids confused…for instance, when one of my kids had a lesson on Culture, he was supposed to bring in a couple of things that represented the culture he is from. He showed a dollar bill, saying “I’m bringing an American dollar because I’m from America.” Next he held up a Thai cookbook, saying “I’m also Asian because my mom grew up in Asia and cooks a lot of Asian food!” The other day he told me how much he enjoys using Commonwealth terms for things because he is more Commonwealth now than American. Heh heh, I didn’t even know the term “Commonwealth” until I was in high school!

When asked if they would choose to be an MK here in Papua New Guinea or to live elsewhere, all of my kids would choose here. That is a relief but also a challenge.

February 6, 2013

Thoughts on being a Third Culture Kid: Separation from Parents

by mendibpng

joe noah raclette

(above) Noah and Josiah at a family ‘raclette’ dinner–we enjoy cooking our own food at the table together. Dinnertime is one of my favorite parts of the day because all of us are together!

On ‘separation’:

this is a hard subject to talk about, and after revising a few times, I am just going to push “send” and hope that my thoughts are coherent!

I attended school with my siblings, but I left my parents for four months at a time, twice a year. I had heard my parents talk about the difficulty they experienced when they sent us away and although I knew it cognitively, I didn’t understand their pain until I began to fall apart two years ago just before sending my oldest to the hostel for his first 2 week stay. The anticipatory grief was acute, and I struggled with the fear that our son would detach emotionally from us. It helped when Ben first validated my feelings (and explained it to Josiah for me!) and then pointed out that our son’s experience is completely different from mine—he is not six years old, he goes for 2-5 weeks at a time, and lives in a home setting, rather than an institutional one. And yet, Ben points out the hard part,

It’s still really difficult and not ideal for our children to be frequently separated from us for 2-5 weeks at a time starting at age 12. We thought that sending our kids to boarding school at grade 7 was a huge improvement from grade 1. But the fact remains that even 12th graders benefit a LOT from a good reliable relationship with their parents. And how much more, 7th and 8th and 9th graders. Also, every kid is different. So it’s not a matter of picking a grade or an age and then saying that it’s going to be okay.

Yes and yes!

We talk at least weekly with Josiah, sometimes more often, by cell phone, email, Facebook or even Skype chat in our village if we want to. I think the thing I miss the most when Josiah is in the hostel is hearing about daily happenings and in particular, if he has had a hard day, I wish we could be there for him.

I remember as a six year old writing letters (at first copying them out because I couldn’t do it myself yet) home each week. Of course I knew that our hostel parents could read them, so I didn’t always tell everything about what was happening. Although I did feel free to note how many spankings I got each week!! I didn’t want to distress my parents unnecessarily so I often left out the negative things. When I wrote about the week, I would focus on the main events, rather than the nitty gritty of the daily struggles. We had to wait until school breaks to debrief properly. (Can you imagine three girls with 4 months of debriefing to cover—I am sure my parents were exhausted!)

I remember the times I missed my parents the most  was at night, when I was in bed by myself, or walking home from school in the afternoon. I can’t remember too many specific things–even when a while back I did some specific memory exercises–it was too hard to go back there. I suspect that the dorm parents (who I was very attached to) kept us fairly busy the rest of the time, which helped distract us from missing our parents. I don’t remember hearing other kids talk about it at the time, and I suspect we might have considered it ‘weakness’ if someone had said they were missing their parents or crying a lot. (I feel badly about that!) I want to say that in those early years I had loving and kind dorm parents–the kind of people I still think of with fondness…I regret that some of my TCK friends did not have this luxury. (I did experience some hardship from other dorm parents when I got older, but I am thankful that at least when I was small, I didn’t have that concern.)

It’s important to mention too that although we were separated for long periods of time, my parents wrote us letters several times a week. I remember feeling the joy of seeing a letter in my mailbox after school! And, although money was tight, my parents saved up and sold things in order to visit us once a term.  They ate very simply while we were away so that when we came home, they could take us on vacations to the beach and mountains. They did the best they could in a difficult situation and I want to honor them for that.

One of the best articles I have read on the subject of separation is “Always Saying Goodbye: Separation as Experienced by MKs in Boarding Schools,” (James B. Gould, in The Family in Mission: Understanding and Caring for those who Serve.) If you are like me and are an MK who experienced boarding school at a young age, be prepared for some painful emotions while reading it.

February 5, 2013

Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Choice

by mendibpng

joe

(above) Josiah gets to sit in the ‘copilot’ seat on our way back to Ukarumpa, where he stays in a hostel for 2-5 weeks at a time during translation or literacy workshops.

As I explained in my background post: my parents had no other option but to send us to boarding school. However, if Ben and I felt like the hostel was becoming difficult for our son, we could always change our schedule or limit our village stays to only go when school was out of session.  I think it’s important to note Ben’s perspective here:

We are able to do this because my work is not always tied to a place. I can still get a lot of valuable work done remotely. Other mission jobs may not be this flexible, so we are blessed by new technology and new ways of working that put our national colleagues in the driver’s seat so that everything does not always depend on us.

 But this is also something that we were convinced of before we were even married and we knew that God was calling us to follow his will in his various callings on us, including Bible translation and parenting.

Sometimes our kids may feel like they have no choice when it comes to village life, but their thoughts and desires are important to us and we consider them carefully when we make plans to go to the village.

My mom pointed out recently that mission agencies now are more aware of family needs. I agree! When my parents arrived in Indonesia in 1975, their mission personnel insisted that this was the only option for their children’s schooling. Their choice was limited: either follow the mandatory boarding school policy or leave their mission and life’s work. I am not certain, but I think home school materials were not as available or good back in those days.

As for me, it would have been hard to tell my parents that I couldn’t cope because that meant that they would have to leave their ministry. It was very complex! I like how one (adult) missionary kid put it to me, “I didn’t want to be the reason my parents had to leave the ministry that God called them to.” I am certain that if anyone had asked me directly, I would have said “I’m fine” even if I wasn’t. I would tell them that I had the best life in the world (and I believed it!) but I couldn’t acknowledge the other stuff.

For an interesting perspective on the subject of things [some] Preacher/Missionary Kids struggle with, I would recommend the book, “I have to be Perfect (and Other Parsonage Heresies),” by Timothy Sanford. I don’t think we all believe all 10 of these things, but perhaps some of these strike a chord with some of us.

From Sanford’s book listed above:

The Holy Heresies the PK/MK’s Often Develop

I have to be perfect.

I should already know.

I’m here for others.

I’m different.

I can’t trust anyone.

I can ruin my dad’s ministry.

Other people’s needs are more important than my own.

I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

God is disappointed with me.

I can relate to some of the lies listed above. For those lies I believed growing up, I don’t believe anyone actually spoke these out loud to me…somehow I absorbed them in boarding school and internalized them, thinking that if I was strong and independent enough, I should be able to cope with just about anything. The best coping mechanism for me was denial, and to ensure that everyone around me was happy.  I am thankful for how God used people in my life, including Ben and my parents, who have refuted them so that I could walk in truth.

 

February 3, 2013

Thoughts on being a Third Culture Kid: Grief and Loss

by mendibpng

hobbs

(above) My family, just before our first furlough. I am on the far left, Missy is in the middle, and Jenny on the right. My parents, George and Anne, served in Indonesia for over 25 years. It is rare these days that the five of us (and our families) are all in one place…the last time was 2008!

Being a TCK means that you spend your childhood saying “good bye” to friends and loved ones. I’ve already mentioned that relationships are important and this was true for me as a child, and it’s true for my kids. In a mission community, every year a good portion of your friends leave for furlough. Some leave ‘finish,’ as we say here, or “for good.”  Not only do you or your friends leave, but sometimes when you come back, your closest friends may have replaced you and you have to find your ‘place’ all over again. Ben adds, “or you may have changed in the intervening years (even if you have only been gone for a year, your best friends may take their furlough years in a different year), and your needs for friendship may be different.” We want our kids feel free to mourn the loss of their loved ones. Ben and I have talked a lot about emotions since we first met 17 years ago, particularly because we sense that a healthy expression of grief makes it easier to cope with it.

I still struggle in this area because of the learned behavior [denying my emotions and conforming to institutional expectations] helped me cope with years of boarding school. Back in those days, I could swallow any “goodbye” with a happy face and save the grieving for a solitary place. I am still very private about grief, but I’ve worked on letting my kids in on it sometimes so that they know there’s no shame in feeling sad. It’s not a ‘wallowing’ kind of grief, just acknowledging it and moving on.

I remember when we were on our first furlough and my parents visited us in Dallas where Ben was completing his M.A. in linguistics. They visited for a few weeks, and when it was time to go, one of my children ran away and hid. At a really young age, he knew that it was painful to say good-bye, and in his little way he tried to protect himself from it. I remember that one of us came up with the idea of singing a goodbye song in Tok Pisin, which we often sing at church while we shake everybody’s hands.

Sek han I go, (Go shake hands)
Sek han I kam (Come let’s shake hands)
Smail wantaim na amamas (smile together and be happy)
laikim narapela olsem laikim yu yet (love another like you love yourself)
dispela em I pasin b’long God (this is the way of God)

Our son peeked around the corner that day and joined us to sing the good-bye song and shake hands. I don’t think that he was old enough at the time to acknowledge verbally what was going on, but singing that familiar song gave him the chance to have a little closure.

Now that our three oldest are bigger, they have [some of] the verbal skills to talk about their grief and we walk through it together. There’s no easy fix, by the way, no set formula to helping your kid deal with the pain (I wish there was!) and everybody experiences it in his or her own way.

It’s interesting to go through it now as an adult, because I have an inkling of what my parents went through, leaving their parents and siblings behind in the U.S., knowing that they would miss out on first words, first steps, etc., for their grandchildren. I really miss being able to look over the heads of my children at one of my parents (or Ben’s) and smile at an antic or at something one of them said. I feel it acutely when my kids are small and doing so many cute things.

I wish I could say. “I have all the answers,” but even now, after all of these years of dealing with grief and loss, I can only say that it doesn’t get any easier. I think the difference is, I know where to go for help, and I believe it’s worth the pain of separation to have loved ones.

I love how Henri Nouwen puts it…

Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause.  and

The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your heart is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not depart from your heart, even when they depart from you.” (The Inner Voice of Love)

For articles which specifically talk about TCKs and dealing with many issues, including separation, I would recommend the book
“Raising Resilient MK’s,” by Joyce M. Bowers and Robertson McQuilkin.

February 2, 2013

Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: lack of sense of identity and belonging…

by mendibpng

N&E furlough
(above) my kids experienced snow for the first time in 3 years on our last furlough!

Have you ever asked a Missionary kid, “where are you from?” and gotten a blank look? I still hesitate with that question. Do I say “I am currently from…..” or do I say “I grew up in…..” or do I pee my pants because I don’t know what to say?

We are only 1.5 years away from furlough, where we will return to the U.S., our passport country, for a year. Already one of our kids is begging us to keep it at six months. He doesn’t want to leave his friends or miss out on important events because rites of passage occur all the way through high school here. We explain to him that he needs to learn how to live in the U.S. because in a few years he will be attending college. Six months wouldn’t give him the time he needs to learn those things. The other kids have expressed anxiety about going back to the U.S. because they remember how, over two years ago, they arrived in a strange place where they didn’t know anyone well.  I can relate to this because I felt it too as a child…and even now as an adult, I ask myself the same questions, “will I fit in?” “will I be able to function in the U.S. after all these years?”

Ben reminded me recently of our son’s fear of the unknown which he voiced before we left for our first furlough, that he wouldn’t remember his own grandparents. He couldn’t remember anything that his older brother was looking forward to returning to. Thankfully, someone in our home church connected him with another boy and they began to email before we left PNG, so that he knew he would have at least one friend upon arrival to the U.S.! I didn’t even know that this son was struggling until he started exhibiting antisocial behaviors at school (very unusual for him!) and we sat down and asked if he was worried about leaving for furlough. (yes!)

For me as an adult, driving an automatic car or just being in American supermarkets and stores was overwhelming!! I remember having a near panic attack at COSTCO and asking Ben to get me out of there quickly.

For those of you who are Lord of the Rings fans, I love the part where Frodo gets back from his extensive travels and walks into a pub. Everybody in the pub is the same as when he left months before, but Frodo is different after enduring all kinds of trials. When I saw that, I thought, that is what I feel like: who you are is different after all of the new experiences and you can never go back…how do you begin to explain that feeling to others who you left behind years ago?

I don’t generally struggle with jealousy or envy, except when it comes to furlough, and I think it relates to the sense of identity and answering the question, “who am I?” When I go home and see people living in the same house that they had when I left for Papua New Guinea 10 years ago,  I long for the stability of living in the same place. All it takes is a moment of acknowledgement to God and I can let it go. Ben tells me that he is similar, except that he struggles more with feeling envy over the nice beautiful houses, even though he is perfectly content with more basic housing overseas.

As parents, we hope to make our home a place where our kids feel free to express these things but also to give them a grounding in Christ, where their true identity resides. I could write a whole post about this and why Heaven is so appealing to me–no more airports, packing boxes and suitcases, no more saying goodbyes to loved ones! And, now that technology is better, our kids can stay in touch with family and friends more easily than when I was a child. For instance, my grandparents would send us cassette tapes, while these days, my kids can email and video skype (when the connection is good!) with their grandparents. In June when my parents showed up at the airport, our two year old twins went right into their arms (even though we hadn’t seen them since they were 6 months old!) because they had seen Oma and Pap Pap on Skype. It’s not easy to have long distance relationships with loved ones but we do it because we need it.

I will always be grateful to Kay who introduced me to Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning (Abba’s Child), spiritual writers who have significantly pointed me to Jesus in times of trouble…

A split between divinity and humanity has taken place in you. With your divinely endowed center you know God’s will, God’s way, God’s love. But your humanity is cut off from that. Your many human needs for affection, attention, and consolation are living apart from your divine sacred space. Your call is to let these two parts of yourself come together again.

You have to move gradually from crying outward–crying out for people who you think can fulfill your needs–to crying inward to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community. No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that can hold you and show you God’s faithful love. (The Inner Voice of Love, by Henri Nouwen)

I love that Nouwen makes the point about community, because that’s where God can meet us. I have really moved towards this in contrast with my ‘old’ self, which said that I needed to rely on ME because I was the only one who I could rely on. Having community that is centered on God’s love really does work and it makes a huge difference!

Here are some books I would recommend on the subject of identity and belonging to Christ:
“The Inner Voice of Love” Henri Nouwen
“Abba’s Child” Brennan Manning
“Tired of Trying to Measure Up” Jeff VanVonderen

February 1, 2013

Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Transition

by mendibpng

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Although transition happened very differently for me as a child (compared to how my kids experience it now) we share a lot of commonalities…the adjustment to living in different places is just one of them:

I experienced transition every time I left my parents and went to live at boarding school. Home and school were completely different environments for me.  During the school year, I lived at an institution where all the students were expected to follow a similar set of rules and schedules, and yet I felt fairly independent most of the time, responsible for myself. I learned very quickly at a young age to fend for my own physical and emotional ‘stuff,’ like buying my own toiletries, etc. In most of the dorms I lived in, there were 20 or more students looked after by one set of dorm parents. The number of roommates I had varied, usually it was two but one year we had all of the 8th grade girls in one room together!

At home I either shared with my little sister, or I had a room to myself. My parents had expectations for us girls but were able to give us individual attention, something I lacked at school except for a few trusted adult mentors and class sponsors. I had a lot of freedom at home as far as schedule because I was always on holiday there BUT I wasn’t used to my parents telling me what to do. I remember the huge suitcases my dad would pack for us girls, full of clothes and possessions that we needed (or wanted) for the school term. Often our field director would comment about the Hobbs girls huge suitcases under his breath. 🙂  For me, having my favorite things with me was comforting when faced with a big transition. Even now, I like to have my comfort objects with me when I travel!

Similarly to my experience with transition, my kids have two homes: one in the village and one in Ukarumpa . (Although every 3-4 years, there is the big transition of going back to Wheaton, IL, as well.)  Transition for the kids involves external things: packing, planning for weeks in advance, and storing things for our return, as it did with me. Just like my parents let me take things with me to school, our kids take a backpack with the things they will want with them for the village stay. Josiah takes nearly all of his possessions to the hostel as well. Our kids also have the internal adjustment of saying “good bye” to loved ones in both places. Since relationships are highly valuable to them, leaving is painful, particularly if they know when they get back from the village that a close friend might be gone for good.

On top of the emotional adjustment, they have to transition mentally to a completely different way of life in the two places. For instance, in the village, our kids are home schooled, while in Ukarumpa they go to school with their TCK friends. It’s a huge adjustment! They are also together 24-7, which means sibling rivalry (or the opposite, they learn to get along well!) happens a lot.

We have a lot of conversations about transition and how it affects each one of us. Sometimes transition makes relationships difficult, but we try to have grace for each other when we know we’re going through it. For the smallest ones, we expect a lot of tears and tantrums during the first week. The older ones might pull into themselves a bit before they are ready to go outside and play with their neighbors.

For a really good books about transition, I would highly recommend

“The Way of Transition, by William Bridges
“Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes” also by William Bridges


p.s. thank you all for your comments on my last post! I really enjoy hearing about your experiences and having the opportunity to discuss things further.

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