Losses of a Missionary Kid (and more)

By Josephine Loh

It’s hard to be human in this season we’re all living in.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a lot of loss: plans have been changed, loved ones are separated, and political conflict has increased. Our communities are facing financial collapse, terminated traditional education and life as we know it has been taken away in the blink of an eye.

The majority of the world is facing these losses but if you are an MK, TCK, international student, working abroad or a missionary serving abroad, with our lives already being so fluid and changing, this global crisis comes with added layers of loss. The communities, relationships, ministries, and homes we’ve worked so hard to create in a new place or a place outside of our ‘hometowns’ seem to have disappeared almost instantaneously.

I’d like to create a space to name these losses, and point out that the emotions you are feeling–they are valid. I grieve with you in these losses that must be named.

To all the Missionary Kids in school:

Your community and place of belonging is something that you’ve invested so much time and energy into, and having it taken away for the next month or semester is an immense loss. That basketball tournament or school play you’ve been working so hard towards is now canceled or postponed. You are having to learn AP Physics in the confines of your bedroom instead of a classroom with peers. Even those summer plans you were looking forward to, are now put on hold. There are many things that may be deemed as unimportant but are indeed a big deal and worth naming the loss of.

To the College TCKs and International students living abroad for school:

College is such a special time and where you have hopefully found a home away from family, a community that has welcomed you in, mentors who have become like your parents. Your literal physical residence now taken away as you frantically pack up and search for temporary housing. It’s no small thing that you’re going through this. Every little frustration is a big deal and not to be disregarded. It’s hard to have family far away in such a time as this, and all the plans made for the next few months are unsure now. You’re not alone in this and there are people who want to help you through this confusing time.

To Seniors:

This was your last semester and you were ready to graduate, all your hard work to be celebrated with a degree you have so faithfully earned. You have been waiting to celebrate one last time with those you entered into school with, to laugh and cry as your family and your roommate’s family sit together for a meal, to collect your diploma and feel that sense of relief, joy mixed in with sadness. Your anger and disappointment are valid and despite the distance, I hope you get the celebration you deserve in May.

To missionaries serving abroad, those with or without kids:

Those away from their family. Watching CNN’s headlines by the minute, debating flying home or staying put. Weighing the pros and cons. It’s exhausting. International missions and even local ministry put on hold makes us wonder what God is trying to do during this time.

With our mixed sense of home and confused identity, with visa issues and a passport preventing us from returning to what we call home we carry unique burdens. We are having to make big decisions that may determine the rest of this season and beyond. If you identify with any of these things, if you feel a sense of loss every way you turn, you’re not alone and the emotions you’re feeling now are real and valid. As we all navigate this pandemic, there is already a multitude of anxieties that society is feeling but as an MK, TCK, Senior, working or serving abroad, you have an added layer of loss. Name these losses, share these losses with others who are likely experiencing the same thing.

Within these losses, I hope you’ll still be able to see God in all of this. He grieves with you, but He is also above all of this. He isn’t surprised by this pandemic.

Despite the distance, as the Body of Christ, we were still made for community so name these losses and share these losses with friends and family. We were made to carry these burdens together.

Community in an Hourglass

Part 2

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

By Lizzy Goddard

When I graduated college and started teaching at an MK school, it all came back to me. Students’ struggles had me crying at my desk over my own, I heard the same lies spoken aloud and settling in the air, sensed unspoken hurts because I knew where to look, and my own old classmates were as ghosts in the hallways. As time passed, though, it just became going to work. Now I start different kinds of fires, grade a lot of essays (late), open more than 30 Google files a day, and talk too much in meetings. Here are…

Three Challenges the Adults Have Forgotten

Time feels like sand through the fingers.

High school is so short. Now that I’ve settled into a career and am the sole mortal arbitrator of when I move and where to, I’ve lost my sense of urgency. We teachers cut programs and classes and offer new ones, say goodbye to a student here and change our ministry focus there, little knowing the impact. When I transferred to the US for eleventh grade, I traded goals, changed my personality, made short-term friendships and stumbled out with the most frenetic, patchwork transcript. Fear of change drives TCKs to try to protect what we believe is ours, and to make the most of the time. Whether it’s time to build enough of something to leave a legacy—we know from watching other leavers how quickly we’ll be forgotten—or time to take that AP class while there’s still a teacher to teach it, high school TCKs know that they’re running out.

In the bubble, you can hardly know your own faith.

Many MKs have asked me, “How do I know if I’m really a Christian? It’s all I’ve known.” For myself, I didn’t realize how hard it was until I got out. In the bubble, I felt like I always had to prove something. Outside the bubble, ministry opportunities were all around me, my convictions were distinct from my peers,’ and all I had to do was listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, which was suddenly loud and clear. Adults always say it’s natural to “go through a doubt phase,” and that our insecurities and anxieties are just part of being a teenager, but it felt so hard.

Age isn’t just a number.

Maybe you realized how you wanted to live out your faith in 8th grade, or maybe you caught the fire in 12th grade, with one semester left to know the people around you and serve them. Because of the cultures present at my international school now, leadership expectations are incredibly high for seniors and oldest siblings, and low for everyone else. The result is that students shoulder responsibility, begin to care—or most importantly, begin to believe in themselves—too late to make a lasting difference. I’m sure I perpetuate it in the way I interact with them, too. In a healthy community, though, students aren’t considered foolish or weird for trying to serve others at any age. Maybe I’m being too harsh on the students at my school, because I’ve forgotten how different it feels to be in year ten versus year nine. With my adult’s perspective, I barely remember which grades my students are in, much less observe the sets of unspoken peer expectations that accompany being a student at each grade.

How do we move forward with all this? Healthy community depends on individuals making choices, which depends solely on God working in hearts. As an adult, I know my responsibility is to empathize with my students, and not to procrastinate, write them off, or belittle their ideas. I must listen. I must have faith, because God can certainly build things that last more than four years. I must pray heavenon this tiny campus, and never stop.

Photo by James Baldwin on Unsplash

Students, what can you do?

I started by asking one of my teams these questions:

What is community to you? How would you describe it?

What is one thing you want to be true of spiritual life at your school?

What is your role as a believer at your school?

Who are your partners? Who agrees with you and can work with you to effect change?

We want to hear from you! Leave a comment, get in touch with MK2MK, or better yet—get in touch with your friend in your location or far away, the one you need to talk about this with.

Community in an Hourglass

Part 1

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

By Lizzy Goddard

The upperclassmen are getting frustrated. It’s spring semester, and what do they have to show for it? What happened to the openness we promised to practice, during our retreat in the fall? Why do I find it so hard to talk with my classmates about our spiritual lives? Why am I just starting to get to know this person before we both graduate? How can I leave this country still knowing so little about it? Why do we sit in meeting after meeting without taking action?

I’ve done my fair share of chafing against these invisible barriers, too, but lately I just rock back my chair and smile. “The fact that you’re even asking these questions is progress,” I say. Then I stop. I think it probably feels the same way—when a teacher tells them, “it’s so mature of you to be aware of these things at your age and want to change them” and when a coworker tells me, “Lizzy, it’s so good you’re here because at least you have a vision for what MK community can be.” We both still feel powerless to change our school.

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Conference Season pt. 2:

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Previously we shared about our time in NAME and Spain serving kids in the region. In addition to that, we had teams in three other locations serving MKs there. At these conferences we served a mix of younger kids and teens. We had conversations around being a TCK and how that affects our stories. You can check out stories from our leaders below!

I had the chance to be a part of the team serving MKs in the Middle East, both through serving at a conference and caretrip to an international school. With the group of students we had, our leadership team enjoyed a balanced amount of both fun games and intentional conversations about our faith. During the conference, we were able to hear different parts of the students’ testimonies in discussing topics surrounding being an MK, conflict, anxiety, growth and the Bible. One thing that I would personally take away from this conference is the value of intentional Christian community. The way we were able to sit and listen to each other, encourage and pray, as well as laugh and have fun was a great reminder of how important it is to be in fellowship with each other in a spiritual community. 

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Conference Season Pt. 1: Our One True God!

By Josephine Loh

Julie teaches the kids a lesson about Daniel

Last month, we had MK2MK teams serving at conferences & care trips spanning 5 countries and 4 different continents! It’s been a full and busy month but truly a fruitful season of ministry and community building. We started January with the NAME and Spain conferences. At these conferences, we prepared a kids program learning about the life of Daniel and our One True God. Here are some stories and experiences from our leaders who staffed these conferences.

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That is who You are

Milagroso, abres camino
Cumples promesas
Luz en tinieblas
Mi Dios, así eres Tú

The past few weeks I have been taking classes with CRU and participating in their New Staff Orientation because I’m joining staff! It’s so exciting! Actually its a little terrifying and been a long journey to get here, but that’s a story for a different time.

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Recounting God’s Faithfulness from Season to Season

By Gina Butz

Leaving East Asia was devastating for our son, Ethan. We left behind what felt like an almost idyllic community setting. Our last year there, we knew about 60 school age kids, most of them homeschooled like ours, who lived within a two-mile radius of us. Scarcely a day went by that our kids weren’t outside with friends they’d known all their lives.

Several nights that first year here, Ethan cried himself to sleep. “It was so perfect!” he would say as he recalled our previous experience.

It was over two years before he surprised us one day by announcing that he was joining the archery team at school. When he came home from the first practice and declared, “Mom, I finally feel like I’m part of a group again,” I breathed a sigh of relief. That group became an enviable squad of guys and girls who stuck close by him through the rest of high school and graduation.

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