WHEN HOME ISN’T
It was the last night of the conference, when Jim Cook noticed a young boy in tears.
“He was banging his hand down on the pavement,” the ABWE missionary described.
“He told us, ‘I don’t want to learn a new language. I don’t want to make new friends. I don’t want to go to a new school. I don’t want to leave my home…’”
This fear of the unknown, found in many children headed to the mission field with their parents, is why ABWE makes supporting missionaries a family affair.
“These kids are leaving everything they’ve known. They don’t know what this new life will look like,” Jim said. “That adjustment phase is hard for both the parent and the child.”
ABWE’s MK Ministries was created to support families through their journey to missions, offering educational and parenting resources, and training and services for missionary kids.
Through a specialized training program created by the Cooks, ABWE teaches missionary children (MKs) how to live cross-culturally. An MK education consultant helps families serving abroad with their children’s educational needs—from homeschooling curriculums, to resources for kids with learning challenges. Ron and Zina Allen serve older MK’s returning to a “home” that could seems foreign to them, and whose parents might be half a world away.
CAUGHT IN THE IN-BETWEEN
I wrote a poem as a bitter 14-year-old missionary kid. It was about a flower that never got solid roots, because it kept getting ripped out and re-planted in new places. Since then, I’ve often struggled to feel like I have a home or a certain place I belong.
But being in [New York] this summer has made me realize something: God has blessed me so much... I get to have four homes, not just one.
I get to meet so many amazing people in every place that I go. I get to have three different church families, and a family bond among the missionaries that will never be broken.
[It hurts] to have the “roots ripped out” when I leave each place, but I am so blessed to have people that I will/do miss this much.
I absolutely can’t wait for the day when there will be no more goodbyes.
- Annoymous MK
For parents, knowing that there is someone there who understands their child, who is watching out for them, gives them the peace of mind. It also gives the MK a “safe person” they can go to when they’re homesick, need encouragement and prayer, or even just a hug.
These simple things have opened the door to many discipleship relationships and ministry opportunities.
Ron and Zina are located near Liberty University, which is home to many ABWE MKs. After serving for 11 years in Mexico, the Allens returned to the U.S. and found themselves missing the food and culture they had grown to love. They realized this loss was something shared by many who left their own mission fields—and an outreach was born—as the Allen’s host MKs for homecooked meals to create a sense of community and connection.
“We feel privileged to share life and minister to these amazing kids,” the Allens said.
When an MK who has spent most of his or her life overseas comes back to the U.S. for college, they often struggle to find a sense of belonging. Although many of them “look American and speak English,” Ron said, “they don’t speak ‘American’ and really don’t know the U.S.”
As one MK said, “I am American in my skin, but Brazilian in my heart.”
The transition from home to school can also bring different challenges as MKs try to juggle the stress of college and being away from home, with the stress of trying to learn a new culture and feeling like they “belong”. Learning to navigate things like driving, not being overwhelmed by all the choices in the cereal aisle, or answering the difficult question, “Where are you from?,” can range from humorous to frustrating.
Experience living on the field has given Ron and Zina some insight into the MK world that encourages MKs to open up more to them.
“We have met many adult MKs who are excited and thankful for our mentoring and discipleship ministry to their MK peers who are [moving] to the U.S. for college.” Ron said. “Most all have said they wished someone had been there for them.”
MK Ministries works to help MKs understand that it’s totally normal to feel the way they do, but to also take advantage of where they’re at—whether they are a kid leaving home to move to a strange new country, or an MK venturing back to a strange new “home.”
You can help support our MK Care team as they minister to MKs, with a gift to MK Care through the Global Gospel Fund.FEATURE
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