Ten years ago when we set off on our missionary journey I was very naive to the struggles that children raised overseas develop in returning to their passport country.
While there are advantages to being a TCK (Third-culture kid), there are many struggles too, and as a mom, watching two of my children, young adults now, struggle, it breaks my heart. Our kids are truly TCK's. This nomenclature is a mix of advantages and challenges. But in this post I want to honor my children by telling them some things from my momma's heart.
We set foot in Davao as a family of 5. One year and six weeks later our family grew by two.
Years of joys and struggles prevailed. Jerard died in 2012. A grief to my momma's heart.
But in all our joys and journeys, dark times and happy times, God has been faithful. I've seen each of you grow in your relationships with each other, friends, and God in deep, abiding ways.
Be encouraged that no matter what the struggle or trial being walked, God is ever faithful. He will never abandon you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5, Deut. 4:31 and 2 Cor. 4:8-10).
You are His workmanship, created in Him for good works (Ephesians 2:10). And you are cool kids! You've whacked through jungles, fed homeless in the city park, visited squatter areas to pass out Christmas gifts, climbed up and down a volcano, learned a band instrument, flown internationally and domestically many times, killed your own chicken, tried bat, durian, jack fruit, balut. You've visited WWII battle sights, slept under stars, used all sorts of toilets, climbed part of the Banau Rice Terraces, have many international friends. Those are rich experiences.
I know it is hard. I watched you, my heart happy for you and my eyes teary, as you started school and I no longer had you home with me all day for homeschooling. I've seen your moments of hesitation when people are talking about something you don't understand, the puzzled looks on your faces when Dad or I use an American idiom that we need to explain to you. I hear your reservations about going to the USA and living in the USA – life there is a different pace; fashion may be a bit different, it's a big unknown. But together and with God's grace we will work through that transition.
I don't know what it is like for you I know what it is like to parent a TCK but I do not know what it is like to be a TCK. I have read books and listened to talks and attended seminars but you are forging a path I have not walked. I have your back, lots of Kleenex, and joy in my heart from our shared laughter. I do not know what your particular journey is like but I will hold your hand, fierce, until the very end.
I am sorry for the things this life has taken from you. The names of all the friends you have said good-bye to are branded in my mind. Grandparents and cousins at your birthday parties and school events. The feeling of belonging to a specific place, house, culture, language. Sports, art, musical and academic activities at which you naturally excel but will never fully experience.
I am thrilled for the things this life has given you. Adventure and a wide-cracked-open worldview. The opportunity to trust God when nothing around makes sense or when everything around makes sense. Friends all over the world of diverse faith and languages and skin colors and food preferences and economic levels. Creativity and the intrinsic ability to look outside the box, to see from another person's perspective. Real gratitude, stemming from an understanding that things are fleeting, gratitude for relationships and for time spent in togetherness. Adaptability. Courage. Courage.
I want to hear from you. Tell me how hard it is, tell me the things you love, the things you wish were different, the things you would never change. I need to hear from you what it is like, I need you to be honest with me about the goods and the bads and then I need you to let me hold you. And I need you to hold me.
I cry for the choices we have made. And then I defend them with passion. It is not easy to parent a TCK, or any kid, I have wept tears to fill lakes. It is amazing that our Abba God stores our tears (Psalm 56:8). Sometimes I wonder if we have been crazy or irresponsible. But then I look at you and I cry again, good tears, because you are beautiful and complicated and deep and these choices have been part of forming you into you.
You are strong. You have been through international moves and medical crises and hellos and goodbyes. You have tried new and scary things. You have laughed and cried but I haven’t heard much complaining or fussing.
You have more than embraced life.
You are unique. No one else in the world has your story. And yet, you are part of an amazing community of people with stories similar to yours and stories different from yours, whom you can listen to and learn from. You have built awesome memories. Remember all the OE trips you've taken? The outreaches you've participated in? Taking items to the flood victims at the church? Walking the Banau Rice Terraces?
You have grief. And that is okay, mom and dad are not afraid of it and we want carry it with you.
You are creative. You are empathetic. You are wise. I love you beyond words and am so blessed by each of you.
The struggles each of us face can ameliorate (make or become better, more bearable, or more satisfactory; improve) as we face the transitions, express the griefs, work through the depression, and embrace a theology of suffering.
As your mom, it's hard to have one of you half a world away. I do give thanks to my Abba who knows each of our needs and struggles, does not break the bruised reed, and is our Abba of hope and encouragement (Hebrews 4: 14 - 16, Isaiah 42:3, Romans 15: 5, 13).
Michael Card, a favorite singer and composer of mine, wrote a song that expresses it well.... "there is a joy in the journey, there's a light we can love on the way. There is a wonder and wildness to life; and freedom for those who obey"
Andrews, L. A. (2004). The family in mission: Understanding and caring for those who serve. Palmer Lake, CO: Mission Training International.
Bowers, J. M. (1998). Raising resilient MK's: Resources for caregivers, parents, and teachers. Colorado Springs, CO: Association of Christian Schools International.