My journey as an MK mum
By AfriGO Team
My husband and I have two girls, Blessing and Joy. At the time we were preparing to follow God’s call into cross-cultural missions in Thailand, our agency informed us that our assigned location had a homeschool teacher for the children of two families already serving there. We were encouraged that Blessing, eight years old at the time, would accompany us to the field and join this homeschool group. After seeking counsel and prayer, we determined that our older daughter, Joy, would stay with a relative in our home country to begin university. Although there was university education in Thailand, it was in the local language.
We arrived full of energy and soon became settled in the remote location. Within several weeks of arrival, the homeschool teacher left. No other teachers were in the pipeline.
The two families soon chose to re-locate to the capital city where there was high quality schooling. My husband and I, both filling urgent leadership roles in the ministry location, prayerfully sought out all the educational options we could imagine. Eventually another West African missionary family arrived in a town about four hours away. We arranged for Blessing to live with them and attend a homeschool group there, at an affordable rate and at a closer distance than the capital city.
I can tell you that while we earnestly sought the Lord in prayer, the two scenarios for our girls were not ideal.
God’s grace has been abundant to us, and I can testify that both girls are doing well today. However, it was not a journey free of challenges.
Our oldest, Joy, felt that our mission had “stolen” us from her. Living with our relative became quite strained to the point that my husband returned home to help sort it out. The season of a teenager’s life when they are launching out of the home into early adulthood is full of bumps, even in the best of circumstances. About two years later during a time of crisis in our home country, our mission went to great lengths to care for and protect our daughter. Through the mission’s response in this dangerous episode, Joy experienced their great love for her. Today we praise God that Joy is thriving young woman.
The arrangement for Blessing was quite positive, yet not without challenges. We gave her a phone to call us as often as needed. Her host family was truly hospitable and attentive to all her needs. But how should a host family discipline another person’s child to do schoolwork? Her academic performance was affected. Some discomfort or shyness is inevitable for a child living with another family. Even the warmest welcome could not help Blessing from sometimes thinking that maybe my parents to do not want me, a feeling that could not be further from the truth!
As parents, especially parents of MKs, we are always learning. Let me share some principles we gathered along the way:
1. Include your children in discussion about the changes ahead, what will happen, how it will happen. Even the very young have feelings, thoughts and opinions. Let them voice them.
2. Help your children through transitions. Not only your positive attitude, but also allowing them to take an object that is special or comforting to them, gives a sense of security wherever they are.
3. Plan, plan, plan… then be prepared for surprises. In spite of the best plans, mission teams and mission resources can fluctuate from year to year. Your options one year may not be the same the next year.
4. The mission agency and sending church must be well informed of the schooling options. No matter how urgent or strategic a certain assignment is, the needs of the children are just as important.
5. Living across cultures will shape, enrich and confuse your children. Help them to understand cultural differences and help them to respond confidently to comments from your family, local people, and missionaries of other nationalities. A verse for my children was I Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Do not be so fearful you avoid God’s call to missions. Parenting is a challenge even if you stay home. Following God’s will for you and your family is always the best place to be. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
If we seek God’s wisdom, plan well, and make ourselves present to our children during the challenges, then we have every hope they will grow into well-rounded and understanding individuals. And God will lead them into roles for which their unique cross-cultural upbringing has prepared them. As one writer has said, “the bumps are what [they] climb on.” With your help, may your children climb high for God.
Unique challenges for African MKs
- Within Africa, African MKs are often “hidden” because they blend in. Other missionaries and local people may not think they are MKs because they are not used to seeing Africans in that role.
- In African contexts, it’s typical for any adult present to intervene if a child is being naughty. In a mission context of predominantly Westerners, one should not discipline another family’s child.
- The family of origin may not know how to fully accept your MK who has become different than their cousins and friends at home. Comments that mildly mock your child for not speaking their parents’ language well, not eating like them, and calling out other differences. Even in jest, these words can convey a subtle message to the MK about their differences.
*Names and locations are changed to protect privacy