“Where are you from?” A seemingly simple question and yet for an MK (missionary kid) it’s a complex one that may not have a definitive answer.
Do you mean my passport country? (Which may or may not be my country of birth and in fact, I may hardly have visited.) Do you mean the town/country in which I currently reside? (Which may or may not be where I have spent the majority of my life.) My parents might even have different passport countries to each other and both call their country of birth “home” but that might confuse me even more. Many MKs have grown up never really knowing where to call home and are a mix of acquired friends, customs and world views from a variety of sources.
When on Home Assignment, an MK can be taken from one church or family gathering to another. “Are you glad to be home?” is a much repeated question and yet home for the MK is a country far away. MKs can often be treated as VIPs, and gushed over by church or family members who claim to have known them since they were born and yet to them are total strangers or at best faces on a screen. There is a pressure to “perform”, to be on best behaviour and to not let their parents (or God) down. Visiting a different church every week, being out of routine and away from the familiar can be a disorientating experience for children. Yet the country in which an MK resides may not feel totally like home either. They may be the only family of their ethnicity/nationality in the street (or town). They may struggle with language or cultural barriers and there are constant reminders that they don’t fit in, which wears down confidence and self esteem.
The life of an MK is not all hardship and difficulty!
Growing up in a cross cultural situation develops an expanded worldview with the advantage of opportunities to travel, additional languages and the development of life skills such as empathy, adaptability, and resilience. They will have the chance to see God at work in different contexts and have the privilege of being part of that work.
So how can we help our MKs to flourish?
When we pray for our mission partners, don’t forget to pray for the children. Pray for their spiritual, physical and mental wellbeing. Treat them as individuals. If you can, get to know them (or about them) so that you can be specific in your praying. Pray that whilst the question of their home may be a difficult one, they may be assured of a heavenly passport and an eternal home with Jesus.
Don’t forget that in this time of global uncertainty, things may be difficult for our MKs.
They may have been suddenly uprooted and brought back to their passport country without the usual preparation and anticipation. They might not have said goodbye to friends and are possibly missing school or church family. They have no idea when they will return. Alternatively, their parents may have decided to remain in their host country and they could be experiencing great anxiety as they hear of huge numbers of deaths in places that close family members reside. There might be limited access to information or good health facilities and our MKs may pick up on the anxiety that this brings. For younger children, they may be too young to understand what is going on and why they are not allowed outside. (In at least one Central Asian country, everyone under the age of twenty is banned from leaving home even for a short amount of time). Many live in apartments and not everyone has a balcony. One young MK was heard to say that he wanted to grow up quickly so that he could go outside. Ask your mission partners how best to pray for their kids at this time and ask if there are any practical ways that you may be able to help.
Children mattered to Jesus and as such should matter to us. Why not make it a priority to pray for any MKs that you know?
Gill Simms – People International