I was privileged to lead a discussion with six MK’s (Missionary Kids) participating in the conversation. Though there is a large variety of potential responses between any two MK’s, as seen here among six, my hope is that you the reader can still get a clearer view of the impact of a childhood on the mission field.
– Emily Weaver lived in Thailand from ages 13-19
– Kedric Yoder lived in Mexico from ages 5-18
– Cheyenne lived in Asia from ages 5-18
– Vincent Ebersole lived in Mongolia from ages 5-17
– Juliana Ebersole lived in Mongolia from ages 4-17
– Kristen Yoder lived in Grenada until age 8, then from age 12 through the current, in NYC
1. How was church different on the field?
Emily: When we first moved, there were a lot of foreigners there in Chiang Mai at the time, so they all met together every Sunday. And when my family moved out from under GTO—we started the ministry with the students—we started going to a local Thai church. It was completely opposite of what the services were that we were used to… But in order for us to have relationships with the students, and get them into a church, my dad felt that we should be doing the same thing. It was good for us, and I really enjoyed making new friends. It was actually immersing into the Thai culture, if we could go to church with them and do things with the church family. It’s not necessarily like their services were different—the same praise and worship, and the message, and you know, sharing times and stuff, but they just did it in their own way.
Kristen: Having a church-planting mentality, whether you’re here in the states or overseas, you definitely go to church with a giving mentality, versus some other perspectives I’ve seen. Sometimes you almost go to church with a taking mentality, unless you’re a pastor or a deacon. So for our family, Sunday mornings were crazy because almost all of us would have different roles, and that also was because we’re a smaller church too. But you learn (for our family) to go to church as an outreach almost, or as a ministry—not necessarily as a time to be refreshed. And then you come back and you use other times then to be refreshed and to fellowship with other people.
Cheyenne: Our situation was a little different, I think, from a lot of missionaries because we didn’t actually meet with locals. Because most of the Christians [where we were living] are in house churches, we didn’t want to put them in danger by meeting with them, so we met with other missionaries. We just had a house church, like maybe four or five other families. And I think one of the really cool things about it—and one of the things that has made it hard for me to adjust to church here—was that we had people from all different backgrounds…. I don’t even know what denominations [the others] were from. But we were able to sit down and discuss the scriptures from all these different points of view, and fellowship together, and it was just really, really cool. We were all there for the same purpose, so there was a unity in that.
2. If you could go back and visit for a day, what people would you really want to visit, or things would you especially want to do?
Kedric: I’d definitely go visit my brother and sister-in-law, and two nephews (one I haven’t met yet, so that’d be fun)…. I’d go to [a local restaurant] and probably get a [local food]… it’s like, grilled meat on some sort of fat tortilla. And then I’d probably play soccer again. That’d be fun.
Juliana: I’d probably go… hike a mountain. (looks at Vincent) We’d go hike a mountain, apparently.
Vincent: It’s just so flat [there], and here there’s just trees and stuff. I just miss the wide view.
Cheyenne: I would love to see a little girl that we basically had as a part of our family; her mom was a single mom, and we babysat her since she was a baby, and she’s like 10 now. I haven’t seen her in a few years, and I would love, love to see her again. And I’d also love to just get on a bike—a pedal bike—and just cruise around the city at night when the streets are wide open. It’s so fun, and I miss it a lot.
3. What were the best and worst things that short-term guests did when they visited you there?
Emily: The worst that I experienced, was that some of the teams that would come were so young and just there for the party. And it made me kind of expect that most of the youth in America are just partying, and they don’t really know what they’re doing with their lives. But for the most part, the young people that came really made an impact and helped some way or another; built a school, or painted, or taught English, things like that.
Cheyenne: There were a lot of short-term teams that came through, but we didn’t really interact a whole lot with them because of security concerns. One of the worst things that teams did was to jeopardize the long-termers as far as security; [like] carelessness about talking about missions, and the company that we were with, and all that stuff. One of the things that I thought was really cool that short-termers could do that we couldn’t do, was passing out literature. We couldn’t do that, because we wanted to stay there. And they could get kicked out and it wouldn’t matter. Also, the short-termers that came with a learners attitude and didn’t feel like they had to accomplish a million and one things while they were there to go back and tell their churches about.
Kristen: I would say the best thing that short-termers did was take an interest in the lives of the staff kids…. Being willing to sit down and talk with them [or] invite them along with a big group of friends, and not letting them feel left out. We remember people who did that. Then also the worst thing people did, kinda of what you said Cheyenne—not necessarily with security, but doing things that harmed the reputation of the long-term people. They were told, “Hey, we [missionaries] are in the neighborhood: when people see you, they see our church.” But yet, they would still do very stupid things sometimes…they didn’t really have a respect for the long-term interest.
For part two of this article, click here.
Rachel Brubaker is a pseudonym, because she prefers to remain anonymous for security reasons. She is frequently shocked at her journey towards missions, which God has led her on throughout the past several years. She loves her dear family, a good pun, anything artsy or musical, real-life God stories, people who expect an honest answer to “how are you”, and of course, coffee and chocolate. Oh, and she also really wants to go skydiving someday.