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.
For part one of this article, click here.
– 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
4. If you remember moving to the field, what did you think when you first learned about it?
Emily: I think it helped that my parents took a trip before we officially said we would move over. So when they came back, they would show us pictures, and tell us how the greeting is the “wai,” instead of shaking hands, and some of the do’s and don’ts. And I remember thinking, “How stupid is that, there’s no way!” But it was mostly exciting, from what I remember.
Juliana: I don’t really remember anything. Traveling, a little bit; I remember hopping in my Dad’s t-shirt, because I was cold in the airport. That’s about it.
Vincent: I remember Mom and Dad going to the map and being like, “Hey guys, we’re moving here.” And I was like, “Cool!” [I] just remember airports and fun: I really like meeting new people…. I think moving there when you’re like 12, or 13, or 14, would be super hard, but I was 5, so it was a blessing. It was fun, it was easy, it was an adventure; I’m glad it happened when I was younger. I have a respect for those kids that had to move there when they were like 14 or 15.
5. What was done (by others, by your parents, by yourselves) that’s helped you and your family in preparing to go/ actually going/ returning?
Kedric: For me, on the way down, I was really young, but my grandma or aunt or someone had these little present/package things to open every day on our trip down to Mexico. And that’s like one of the only things I remember from going down. My siblings and extended family definitely helped, [in that they] weren’t making it seem real daunting. It was just a big adventure for me. And then coming back… I was like 18, right, but I wasn’t as independent as an 18-year-old when I came back. You don’t have a job, you don’t have a car, you don’t know how to set up a bank account or get an American license or anything like that, that most people figure out. It was a big help that my older sister was here; when I came back I actually stayed with her and my brother-in-law. She’s definitely one person who completely understood both sides of it and had already done it, so that helped a lot.
Kristen: Just having people not forget about you after the first year, two years, three years. I think the first month, two months, maybe up to the first year after a long-term missionary moves, everyone’s like, “Oh, how are you doing” and all that. But [after] five years, everyone’s kinda moved on with life and they forget- “Oh yeah, they actually are like part-members here…” I think it’s good to be reminded, especially for the long-term workers, [to] still message them, pray for them, tell them that you’re praying for them, and support them financially and emotionally. And fun little packages are always so great for the kids. I love little gifts, and every time we got a package it was the coolest thing.
Cheyenne: About the returning part… I think there really is a lack of support for missionary kids if they move back as adults without their families. I know for me, the transition back to the states was really, really hard. And I know other MK’s who have struggled with really serious depression and stuff, coming back, and not feeling like there’s any place for them here, and especially within the church. It’s definitely something that I would love to see more work put into: how can we support these kids when they come back, so that we don’t become bitter or bury everything, but so that we can really become “productive members of society?” And, [so that we can] use the gifts that we have because of growing up on the field. But things that have been really good… It was helpful to have a friend’s family that me and my sister lived with when we came back; just to be able to still be part of a family, and have them help us out with figuring out how to do life in America. I think I [also] had a few other friends who were willing to hear about my life in Asia, and that was huge, because not everybody is.
6. How do you see the influence of growing up in another culture on your life now?
Kedric: For me, language is probably the biggest thing. I live in Reading, and probably 80% of the people here, their first language is Spanish. Just to be able to talk Spanish to people without thinking about it is kinda cool. And normally it surprises them a little bit cause they’re not used to it. On construction sites, [with] a lot of Mexican crews, I’ll say something in Spanish and then they’ll kinda look at you twice, like, “Why are you talking Spanish?” Probably the biggest thing that throws me the most, is I never know how to “laugh” in text, like: “Jaja” or “Haha.” ‘Cause I’ll “laugh” in Spanish to someone who I’m not supposed to, and they’ll try to figure out what I’m saying.
Emily: There’s definitely a few things like that that I still think about. Like, you never walk through somebody’s conversation. If there’s two people talking, you go around them; or if you can’t go around them, then duck. Or, like propping your feet up on the couch and having your feet stick out in the middle of the room; just random things like that- it’s just… so weird!
7. How do you think that being an MK shaped your view of God?
Juliana: I think the word that I kind of associate with God through my upbringing is probably “dynamic.” I was able to see Him in so many different lights. The faithfulness that He has shown… on the field, but also coming back from it, and the struggles that I’ve gone through. I don’t feel very deserving, but He’s been incredibly faithful. I mean, living in Mongolia, life was normal. And then coming back here, is when it felt different. And so that’s when I felt the most challenged, and felt the most spiritual conflict, I guess, because now I was outside of my comfort zone. I felt the most spiritual growth and difficulty once I came back, but He was faithful.
Kedric: One thing I guess I’ve learned is how God desires us to have a dependence on Him. When I came back, it’s so easy to start becoming independent, which in our Western civilization is seen as something good… You’ve got your job, you’re paying for your own food, you’re buying [things], and supporting yourself. It’s so easy to, not that we would admit it, but kind of [get to] the point where, “I got this.” It takes more effort almost, in America, to actually have that dependence on God. It’s much easier, I think, growing up on the mission field where you see that you do need God. And that’s something I don’t want to lose, because God desires us to be dependent on Him.
Vincent: I guess for me, I think my relationship with God was a lot different in Mongolia. And then moving to America challenged me in so many different ways; and I think like what Juliana said; I think I was more challenged and grew spiritually in the last two years, than being on the missions field. I think it’s helped me to see that, God was there with me then and He’s still with me now. There’ve been times when I’ve neglected God, but He’s still right there; and in all those different situations, and in moving and stuff like that, He’s still right there.
This interview has been abbreviated for this publication. If you are interested in reading the unabbreviated version, 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.