A Life Overseas | http://www.alifeoverseas.com the missions conversation Fri, 26 Aug 2016 06:00:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Mother of Modern Missions? http://www.alifeoverseas.com/the-mother-of-modern-missions/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/the-mother-of-modern-missions/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 06:00:06 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8837 imageIt was a Sunday morning. Sunshine filtered through the rose trellis by Lake Balaton. I stilled my heart and reflected upon the message I had just heard. Three pioneers of the faith were highlighted. One of them was William Carey, considered ‘the father of modern missions’. When talking about his home life, it was said […]]]>

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It was a Sunday morning. Sunshine filtered through the rose trellis by Lake Balaton. I stilled my heart and reflected upon the message I had just heard.

Three pioneers of the faith were highlighted. One of them was William Carey, considered ‘the father of modern missions’. When talking about his home life, it was said that his first wife went crazy then died.

Under the crimson buds of summer opening to the full light of day, it was this lost story, Dorothy Carey’s story, that pricked my heart. I grieved and shed a few tears. I asked God to show me more lost stories of women. I pleaded for their stories to be recovered.

And when I read more about William Carey’s behavior towards Dorothy, particularly how he left her pregnant with two small children in his first attempt to go to India, I wanted to tell him a thing or two.

I could not have known that a mere seven months later, I would be in the mental ward of a Hungarian hospital, my own story on the verge of extinction.

‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own self?’

Traditionally ‘the whole world’ has been interpreted as all one could want of the secular world. Things like fame, fortune, success, an entourage of servants, etc.

But what if ‘the whole world’ were the world of missions? In this way it can be said that William Carey gained the whole world, especially regarding his legacy and esteem. But did he lose his soul in the process, even for a season?

He lost the story of his wife. The wife of his youth. The one he had vowed to love, and according to the book of Ephesians, the one for whom he was called to lay down his life.

Then, the whole world lost her story. She was seen as unfit or selfish or crazy.*

But what if he waited, and she was won by his love and sacrifice?

William Carey was the product of his culture. At the time, it was assumed that a good wife would follow him. It was also assumed he would ask her to do so. Her status in society was considerably inferior to his. This left Dorothy with an impossible choice as she struggled to embrace the pioneer mission.

It is important to remember these factors.

But we are not living in his time. We live here and now. And women are considered equal to men. Marriage is a partnership. Yet our stories, especially those of wives, especially in the church and missions, can easily be lost.

When I reflect on these things, I know them intimately.

At the time of my hospital stay, we were living in a country for which we had endured a six year process just so we could be there. Our work with students was thriving. We had labored towards fluency in a very hard language. Our children were virtually bilingual. We were excited about the future.

And then, the unthinkable. I had what psychologists call a manic episode caused by lack of sleep and a later diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Essentially, I went crazy for a time.

I was in the hospital two weeks including three days in the ICU. As I recovered, many were saying we needed to return home to Pennsylvania for my healing and long-term care. It seemed like a death to all we had fought to keep, in other words, ‘the whole world’. Children pulled out of school. Loss of relationships that were just beginning and held so much promise. Leaving this life we had built through blood, sweat and tears.

But then, my husband came to the hospital one evening and said he thought we did need to return to the States. He had been listening to the song Lay Me Down and said that’s what he felt God was calling him to do.

In the year and a half that has followed, God has picked up both of our stories and is writing things beyond imagining. We miss our overseas ‘home’ and always will. But we are in the palm of God’s hand, safe in his clasp.

My husband has walked a road where he could easily have succumbed to bitterness for what my mental illness has cost him. But instead, he has let his own story be nearly lost in order to find this new, or redeemed, story with me. I have no doubt he will be honored for all eternity for his love and faithfulness to me.

We need to remember the lost stories. In particular, husbands, I speak clearly to you — yet with compassion. You must be the protectors, the guardians, of your wives’ stories. It is the greater part of all you will do, in close relationship to your love for God. And, in the end, what is gained will far outweigh the sacrifice.

For many a story will be found and lifted up as the crowning jewel of your life unto the glory of God.

 

*I do not know the true state of Dorothy Carey’s heart, but I do know she hasn’t been remembered kindly.

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What does a missionary look like? http://www.alifeoverseas.com/what-does-a-missionary-look-like/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/what-does-a-missionary-look-like/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 04:35:49 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8826 The_Reception_of_the_Rev._J._Williams,_at_Tanna,_in_the_South_Seas,_the_Day_Before_He_Was_Massacred,_1841_(B-088-015)  “The white guy with a van.” That’s how my Kenyan friend answered my question, “what does a missionary look like?”  To this day it may be my favorite definition. A teenage girl sitting in the same room had a different answer. “My dad.” She said.  It was a very sweet moment . . . […]]]>

The_Reception_of_the_Rev._J._Williams,_at_Tanna,_in_the_South_Seas,_the_Day_Before_He_Was_Massacred,_1841_(B-088-015)

photo credit: wikimedia commons

 

“The white guy with a van.”

That’s how my Kenyan friend answered my question, “what does a missionary look like?”  To this day it may be my favorite definition.

A teenage girl sitting in the same room had a different answer.

“My dad.” She said.  It was a very sweet moment . . .

“My dad with a tie on, standing in the foyer of a church in America showing pictures and handing out chopsticks.”

I knew her dad.  He was THAT guy.  Literally always pleasant.  Absolutely impossible not to like.  He just oozed all ten fruits of the Spirit and got more accomplished every day before breakfast than most people do in a decade.  He was a doctor who could have been  living the high life but gave it all up to move his family across the planet and help the hurting unreached.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Pfft – there are only 9 fruits of the Spirit . . . idiot.”

Yeah, maybe for you – but this guy was a level above in every way.  If ever I have met someone who epitomized and embodied the best possible definitions of the word “missionary”, it was him.

And yet . . . his own daughter only saw him in that light once every two years, when he was OFF the “field”, on home turf, speaking his native language, to other believers.

It’s interesting isn’t it?  How loaded this word is.

I’ve got my definition too but I’m too embarrassed to share it in front of the whole internet and everyone.  It’s not my good theologically polished, globally aware, ethnically inclusive, 21st century definition that I would pull out in a small group conversation just to stir the pot and challenge someone’s dusty old Western stereotype.

Nope – I’ve got my own dusty stereotype . . . planted deep down in there . . . and as much as I like to fancy myself a little more  . . . what are those words?. . . “in touch with reality” . . . I have to confess — when you say the word “missionary” — there is a picture that pops into my head.

I’m not going to tell you exactly what the person in that picture looks like but I will say this . . .  he’s got a van.

My picture is rooted in my formative years.

I loved it when the missionaries came.  It tweaked something inside of me and made me dream of far off places like the ones in National Geographic. They always showed their slides and told stories about rats and snakes and people who didn’t seem to know very much about Jesus or silverware.  Then they shared how we could support them (financially AND through prayer).  The ushers came and we passed the plate (for a second time that service) and gave whatever God laid on our hearts.  There was a formula to the whole thing and it always ended with the same tagline.

“You don’t have to move to another country to be a missionary.  We’re all missionaries.”

So I left confused.

What a great thought – but the only ones who ever said it were the ones who had, in fact, moved to another country — unless it was just missions Sunday – then the preacher said it on behalf of the ones who had moved to another country.

The message was clear like mud – YOU TOO are a missionary wherever you are but we won’t call you one out loud until you go somewhere else — except when the people who have gone somewhere else come back to visit.  Then we’re all missionaries . . . just like them . . . only different.

The parameters were never clearly laid out so I built my understanding based on the compilation of people that other people called missionaries.

And so did you.

So what does your picture look like?

Be honest.  Where are they from?  What do they look like?  What are they wearing?  How old are they? What do they do?  What color is their skin?  (can I ask that on the internet?)

Don’t worry – this is not a shaming post.

(“Shame on you for thinking missionaries look like the ones you have seen before.”)

On the contrary – I’ve grown to love my stereotype.  It gives me a place to start – and when I work up the nerve to throw it out there (as a confession) I discover something shocking.  My assumption is that EVERYONE shares my stereotype (and should also be ashamed of themselves) . . . they really don’t.

They’ve got their own picture.

You . . . have your own picture.

And when we lay them all out on the table next to each other the bigger picture gets clearer.  Paradigms start shifting.  Assumptions get challenged.  Stereotypes get broken.  Minds get blown.

Far more than any uber polished, perfectly worded Bible scholar’s definition of a word which (ironically) makes zero appearances in the Bible, it’s the conversation that changes the missionary picture.

The conversation is where you start to see God doing things that only God does.

  • Things like sending Filipino housekeepers to raise Middle Eastern royal children
  • and Chinese educators to love on North Korean orphans
  • and Panamanian teachers to teach at a Christian international school in Jordan
  • and Dutch teachers to teach at a Christian school in Suriname
  • and Korean pastors to plant churches in Brazil
  • and Brazilian business people to run Christian companies in Vietnam
  • and Ugandan students to start university Bible studies in Thailand
  • and ten-fruit doctors to pass out chopsticks in America

and of course white guys in Kenya . . . with vans.

It’s a pretty cool mosaic of a billion stereotypes and the conversation brings it to life.

It’s also there that we find out the hard stuff — like we disagree — about pretty much everything.  Things like missionary theology and philosophy and strategy and semantics and definitions.

Does a missionary raise support? Plant churches? Make tents? Run a business? Go the the 2/3 world? The Global South? The 10/40 Window? Back to Jerusalem? To the less reached? The least reached? The unreached? Do short termers count? What about teachers?  Or professionals? Or servants?  Or refugees? Or slaves?

And what about people who never leave their hometown?

Are they missionaries?

Careful.  It’s a loaded question.

But the anwers are where we see God doing things that only God does.

So what does a missionary look like to you?

Don’t think just answer.  When you see the word “MISSIONARY” what is the picture that pops into your head and where does it come from?

No judgement here.  Wait — that’s probably not true but go ahead and take a chance.

It’s a rich mosaic when we do.

 

Jerry lives in China and blogs at The Culture Blend.

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Sorry: Another Difficult, but Necessary, Word http://www.alifeoverseas.com/sorry-another-difficult-but-necessary-word/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/sorry-another-difficult-but-necessary-word/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 11:30:31 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8805 Sorry!Last month, I wrote about the difficulties of saying goodbye, something faced over again by those living overseas. Today I’d like to discuss another word that can come up during times of transition: Sorry. It, too, is hard to say, at least in the right way. (The following is adapted from “Sorry: No Ifs, Sos, or Buts,” originally […]]]>

Sorry!

Last month, I wrote about the difficulties of saying goodbye, something faced over again by those living overseas. Today I’d like to discuss another word that can come up during times of transition: Sorry. It, too, is hard to say, at least in the right way.

(The following is adapted from “Sorry: No Ifs, Sos, or Buts,” originally posted at ClearingCustoms.net.)

R is for Reconciliation

When it comes to transitions between countries, it can be easy to feel as if we’re drowning in all the emotions, responsibilities, and stressors. That’s why David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, in their well-known book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, talk about building a “RAFT” to keep your head above water. The four parts of that raft are

  • Reconciliation
  • Affirmation
  • Farewells, and
  • Think Destination

“Reconciliation,” say the authors, “includes both the need to forgive and to be forgiven.” And this forgiveness is especially important preceding a move across time zones and oceans.

When transitions approach, those leaving—and those staying—have a small window of opportunity for a face-to-face healing of wounded relationships, a window that gets smaller as the departure gets closer. That’s why apologies become more and more necessary, even at a time when they may seem more and more difficult.

But simply deciding to say “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, because not all apologies are created equal. In fact, we live in the age of the “non-apology apology.” When you say, “I’m sorry,” do you add on any qualifiers? Do extra words reveal your true feelings?

Or do your words of remorse stand on their own? Do you say Sorry, with no ifs, sos, or buts?

No Ifs

The “If” apology is probably the most popular way to get out of a full confession. It goes something like this: “I’m sorry if my choice of words offended you.” What that says is “If my words offended you, then you must be very thin skinned. You should not be offended by what I said, because it wasn’t really offensive. But because you are upset, I would like you to know that had I known I was dealing with someone as sensitive as you, I would not have said what I said . . in your presence.” When this kind of apology is given, is there any real doubt in the speaker’s mind that someone is offended, hurt, etc.?

No Sos

Sos aren’t usually spoken—unless we’re particularly brazen—but they appear when we require something in return for our apologies. If they were actually to emerge from the recesses of our hidden motives and be vocalized, we might say, “I’m sorry . . . so now I’ll listen while you tell me there’s nothing to apologize for,” or “I’m sorry . . . so you need to stop blaming me,” or “I’m sorry . . . so you’re sorry too, right? (I’m more than willing to meet you halfway. That is the way it works, isn’t it?)”

No Buts

By definition, but means that what comes second is going to contrast with what came first. Sometimes the I’m sorry is just a way to softly introduce the “truth”: “I’m sorry, but you had it coming to you.” The but can also announce excuses: “I’m sorry, but I was really tired.” It can spread around the blame: “I’m sorry, but I’m not the only guilty party here.” Or it can even pass the buck on to all of humanity: “I’m sorry, but anyone else in my situation would have done the same thing. (And any reasonable person would agree.)”

It Ain’t Easy

It’s difficult to apologize without tacking on a weasel word or two, to just let our “I’m sorry” resonate in silence. I should know, as I’m guilty of using every kind of disclaimer above myself, several times. I’ve also left apologies unsaid.

So what keeps the words from coming out the right way? Maybe it’s habit. It’s easy to fall into old patterns, in particular when we’re under stress. And few things are more stressful than voicing an apology that’s been a long time coming. If you don’t want it to come out wrong, you might need to practice beforehand.

Maybe it’s self preservation. A real apology leaves us truly vulnerable. We have to drop our guard and be willing to take our licks.

Or maybe it’s because of the word sorry itself, coming from the Old English sarig, meaning “full of sorrow.” Today, sorry can range from a deep, sorrowful regret over something said or done to a simple usage that means “excuse me,” such as when we’re walking through a crowded hallway. And we also use it to express our sympathy for someone else’s sorrow, as in “I’m sorry for your loss.” I think it’s this last usage, in the context of an apology, that often get’s us in trouble. As with several examples above, our words sound less like “I’m sorry that I wronged you” and more like “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Regardless of why it’s hard, it’s worth the effort. We need to mend relationships. We need to bring healing to our own hearts. We need to do it as soon as possible, so we don’t have to try to work it in at the airport.

And one more thing. There’s no guarantee that the person on the other end of an apology will forgive us. In fact, the deepest apologies come when we don’t think we deserve to be forgiven. And the greatest relief comes when we receive forgiveness anyway.

What’s love got to do with it?

Seeking reconciliation is an act of love. Jesus, the greatest example of love, tells us that harmony with our brothers and sisters is so important that we should leave an offering on the altar to go and make things right. It’s one of the ways to show our love for each other and to show our love for God.

Of course, there are two sides to full reconciliation—the apology and the forgiveness—and before your goodbyes, you may be called on to express both. In the same sermon, Jesus tells his followers just how necessary forgiveness is, saying, “[I]f you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NIV)

This is not the way of the world, nor is it popular in many, if any, of the cultures we may find ourselves in.

When the American Film Institute came out with its list of “100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time,” number 13 was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” (right between “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “The stuff that dreams are made of”). The line is spoken at the end of Love Story by Ryan O’Neal, playing the part of Oliver Barrett. In another movie, two years later, Barbara Streisand says the same thing to O’Neal in the comedy “What’s Up, Doc?” O’Neal’s character, Howard Bannister, answers drily, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

I agree, Dr. Bannister. I agree.

(David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, Boston: Nicholas Brealey, 2009

[photo: “More Fun with Sorry,” by Erin Kohlenberg, used under a Creative Commons license]

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Don’t Ignore Your Passport Country http://www.alifeoverseas.com/dont-ignore-your-passport-country/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/dont-ignore-your-passport-country/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 11:21:34 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8811 homeI have a confession to make. I don’t pay much attention to news from the United States. I’m much more likely to click on the BBC or Al-Jazeera than on CNN or my more local, Minneapolis Star Tribune. I sort of follow election news, trying to keep my cynicism in check. And I follow the […]]]>

I have a confession to make. I don’t pay much attention to news from the United States. I’m much more likely to click on the BBC or Al-Jazeera than on CNN or my more local, Minneapolis Star Tribune. I sort of follow election news, trying to keep my cynicism in check. And I follow the big stories, like the shooting at the night club in Florida, albeit mostly only reading headlines as I can’t bear the horror and grief of faraway places and close by places anymore.

Minneapolis

July forced me to reconsider this policy of simply scanning. Children with guns. Police officers slaughtered. Trump and Clinton. The shooting of a black man by a police officer after being stopped for a broken taillight with his girlfriend and a child in the car and caught on videotape that happened ten minutes from my childhood home. I can picture the intersection.

Something is happening in the country of my birth, something massive and important and heartbreaking and, I hope, something that will force the country to change. And even though the struggle and pain cut deeply, on top of cuts that are already deep and caused by more local and physically close hardships, I don’t want to miss this moment in history.

People living abroad talk about how September 11, 2001 carried a different kind of weight for them than it did for those living in the US. People abroad aren’t inundated with a constant onslaught of news, we have to search for it and people around us aren’t necessarily talking about it. So we can tune it out.

What is happening right now in terms of race in the United States seems to bear a similar weight to what happened on September 11. I don’t mean to draw a one-to-one comparison, that would be ludicrous, but I mean in the sense that this is a period of time in which my nation is being shaken to its very core, as it should be, when it comes to race and injustice.

And I don’t want to miss it.

Fellow expats, how many of us (myself included) shout out to the world when our host nations face crises, “Pay attention to us! Look outside your picket fence and see the world!”

But how many of us (myself included) are guilty of not looking outside of our own walls, outside of our own neighborhood crises?

home

When it comes to race (and sexual orientation, politics, gay marriage, gendered use of toilets, economics…) it seems easier to stick my head in the sand, to claim distance as an excuse, to say, “I am dealing with enough pain and injustice nearby,” than to get involved, educated, or upset about issues that are happening where I’m from.

It is true that there is a lot of pain in the world. But it is also true that ignoring it can be selfish and lazy. The trouble with being expats is that we have two neighbors: our nearby ones and our faraway ones, the ones we live among and the ones we used to live among and in all likelihood, will live among again one day. We need to engage with both. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is heartbreaking. No, we won’t solve anything. Not here and not there.

But I, for one, want to be part of seeking justice and pursuing mercy all over the place and if I am going to be so bold as to ask people to care about my little corner of the world, I need to be willing to care about theirs.

How do you keep up with or engage in issues in your passport country? Do you think it is important, or no?

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Parallel Lives: TCKs, Parents, and the Culture Gap http://www.alifeoverseas.com/parallel-lives-tcks-parents-and-the-culture-gap/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/parallel-lives-tcks-parents-and-the-culture-gap/#comments Mon, 15 Aug 2016 09:00:43 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8725 plSomething I’ve heard a lot of expat parents say is that their whole family is “in it together” or that they are “called” together. The basic assumption is that all members of the family go abroad and live overseas together – they are bonded by the same experience. When I hear this, however, I think […]]]>

pl

Something I’ve heard a lot of expat parents say is that their whole family is “in it together” or that they are “called” together. The basic assumption is that all members of the family go abroad and live overseas together – they are bonded by the same experience. When I hear this, however, I think two things:

First, I am so glad you and your kids are on the same team!

But, are you aware that you aren’t sharing the same experience?

To explain what I mean, I need to define some confusingly similar acronyms: TCK, ATCK, and TCA.

TCK stands for Third Culture Kid – a young person who has spent a significant part of childhood outside her passport country.

ATCK is Adult Third Culture Kid – an adult who had a TCK childhood.

TCA is Third Culture Adult – an adult who has lived outside his passport country, but only as an adult.

An important thing to grasp is that TCKs (who become ATCKs) begin their expat journey as children, while TCAs do not live abroad until adulthood.

It might sound subtle, but the difference is actually very significant. The children of expat families are TCKs – but the parents are usually TCAs. They are living in the same country, but while parents experience and process the challenge of cross-cultural living as adults, TCKs grow up and form identity in the middle of it.

Expat parents have parallel experiences to their children – in the same places, but qualitatively different.

You live in the same countries.

But it affects you differently.

Overseas life is different for TCAs/TCKs in a few ways. These differences do not mean the TCK has a better (or worse) experience. If these differences go unnoticed, however, they lead to misunderstandings between parents and children. This leaves many parents feeling frustrated and many children feeling unheard.

I’ve worked with TCKs for 11 years (I lived in China for most of that time). And I’ve spent the last three and a half years working on a book that explains the TCK experience of life to those who care about them. I interviewed nearly 300 TCKs about their experiences (and surveyed 750 TCKs). Most were aware that they experienced their host countries and passport countries differently to their parents; many felt their parents were far less aware of the differences. In fact, one third of the 750 TCKs I surveyed said they felt misunderstood by their parents.

I am going to outline three of the differences between what a TCA and a TCK experience overseas: connection, identity, and choice.

 

Connection

A TCA moves abroad having experienced comprehensive connection to one country as a child. A TCA has deep emotional connections to her passport country because a large percentage of her life was spent there. These emotional connections are experiential – memories of lived life there.

A TCK, however, experiences multiple countries/cultures during childhood. Two-thirds of the TCKs I surveyed first moved abroad before age five, 58% spent more than half their childhoods abroad, and a 30% spent less than three years in their passport countries. Most TCKs have more time in their host countries than in their passport countries, so that is where most of their emotional connections are made.

Why does this matter?

Your TCK children will not have the same emotional connection to the people, places and activities of your country (and your childhood) that you do. Things that mean the world to you may not mean much to them. They may dislike your comfort foods, find your favourite sport boring, or be unmoved by things which bring you to tears. They may intellectually understand that these things are supposed to matter, but not feel a connection to them. If they fear disapproval, they may learn to “fake it”. Giving your TCKs space to feel differently, even if it is sad or disappointing to you, is vital to maintaining open communication and strong understanding between you.

 

Identity

A TCA comes abroad with a fully formed sense of self, connected to a particular country – the place that is “home”. A TCK grows up caught between two places that are both “home”. Most TCKs develop personal identity against a backdrop of frequent change. TCKs are not just experiencing life overseas, they are trying to make sense of the world (and themselves) while doing so.

The events of international life certainly affect TCAs, but they affect TCKs much more deeply – becoming part of the bedrock of their emotional worlds. For example, many TCKs I interviewed spoke of learning that “everyone leaves”. Watching friends leave, or moving on themselves, affected how they saw the world. Woven into their sense of self was the knowledge that nothing is permanent.

Why does this matter?

TCKs are individuals, and they deal with international life differently. But regardless of how they process the experience, living overseas will impact how they see the world, and the people in it – leading to what may be very different worldview to your own. When your child’s view clashes with your own, take time to understand why they think what they do, rather than trying to “correct” their perspective.

 

Choice

Being an adult, a TCA has far more control over the decision to live abroad. No one becomes a TCK by choice. Not that it’s a bad thing (quite the opposite – 92% of MKs surveyed were thankful for their experience) but it happens because a decision has been made on the child’s behalf. Even when a child (especially an older child) is consulted about moving abroad, it is still the parent who has the power to actually make the decision.

While a few MKs I interviewed said they felt they as children were missionaries alongside their parents, that living abroad was their own “calling” as well as their parents, most did not share this feeling. A few expressed strong resentment that these choices were made on their behalf (12% of MKs surveyed felt resentment about their childhoods).

Why does this matter?

All parents make decisions on behalf of their children, but the decision to take a child overseas means giving them a very different childhood. It is important for parents to understand their choices have created a culture gap. That gap is not evidence of a bad decision – it is a natural consequence of a different cultural upbringing. Denying it or trying to “fix” it does not change the situation. What does make a difference is recognising the gap and taking steps to listen to the child’s point of view.

You live abroad together.

But the impact of that life is different.

 

My book is called Misunderstood because that is how many young TCKs feel. Having spent years helping expat parents understand their children, I wrote a book to do what I do – give insights into the perspective of TCKs.

When parents (and other adults) recognise the difference between an adult’s experience of life overseas and a child’s experience, it is a huge step toward the sort of understanding that encourages and comforts TCKs.

You are on the same team.

You do experience life abroad differently.

But with awareness and care, you can still understand each other deeply.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TC_headshot-sqTanya Crossman went to China to study for a year and ended up there 11 years, working for international churches and mentoring Third Culture Kids (her book about TCKs releases this week). She currently lives in Australia studying toward a Master of Divinity degree at SMBC. She enjoys stories, sunshine, Chinese food and Australian chocolate. |www.misunderstood-book.com | facebook: misunderstoodTCK | twitter: tanyaTCK

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A Holy Disturbance http://www.alifeoverseas.com/a-holy-disturbance/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/a-holy-disturbance/#comments Sat, 13 Aug 2016 12:36:09 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8802 This picture obviously wasnThis was written several years ago, two nights before I left the country I had called home for nearly 20 years. /// I texted her You want to go for a walk? It had been a day of defrosting and sorting while the rain poured cleaning out the air. Still full from lunch, I wanted to walk […]]]>

This was written several years ago, two nights before I left the country I had called home for nearly 20 years.

///

I texted her You want to go for a walk? It had been a day of defrosting and sorting while the rain poured cleaning out the air. Still full from lunch, I wanted to walk before doing yet another round of dishes.

Sure. Let me finish bathing the kids and hubster will put them down. (That’s not really how she talks, that’s an Amy translation.)

And so we walked into the cool of the night, headed first for the local park (pictures at that link from a morning walk in the spring). It’s alive at night! Turns out there is a “dancing with big ribbons” club. Who knew?! Maybe I can bring that back to America. Maybe not.

We exited the park onto a street that’s under massive construction and has become a bit of a migrant village alive with village activities. A man getting his hair cut under a single light. Stores spread on blankets. Food vendors selling freshly cut fruit.

This picture obviously wasn't taken at night. Picture a single slight bulb hanging above, same guy, same chair.

This picture obviously wasn’t taken at night. Picture a single slight bulb hanging above, same guy, same chair.

Years ago, to the left of this picture, a massive four lane bridge was built going over a canal. On either side of the bridge small hutong/alley neighborhoods existed. But that bridge meant that the City had other plans and come one day, those alley communities would be replaced. Both sides now look like the background of this picture. But every night, that abandoned bridge becomes a local community setting with vendors and restaurants and snake oil.

On nearly my last night, my heart broke afresh.

Going up the stairs to the “bridge” we heard a loudspeaker and if you’ve been in China, thought nothing of it. Loudspeakers are a dime a dozen. But there were flashing lights and a ginormous crowd gathered around. This, this in a country where you need a permit to gather in public spaces, was not a dime a dozen.

In a poignant juxtaposition as the tall buildings of Beijing lit up in the background, we had stumbled onto a countryside superstitious blessing ceremony. We joined the crowd standing on tippy toe to see  — at the far end, the truck that acted as stage and sound system with flashing lights, there were two statutes that one of the “sponsors” kowtowed to and then the announcer said for anyone to come forward and for only 20 kuai (about $3.25) you too could be blessed and given a golden chain.

Where was I? What was happening? Were there plants in the audience? Is this what the shaddy medicine men of the wild west did, but with a Chinese twist?

Too many people went forward for them to be plants. Too many longed for blessing — to be touched by something holy, something that would heal them, bring them fortune– for the desires to be fake.

We were in the presence of raw longing.

It was disturbing.

To see people with so little gave so much to something so empty.

The organizers had drawn a line around the perimeter and asked us, the crowd, to step back outside the line. Only two of us did, you can guess who. The crowd couldn’t help but to press in, to see others blessed, to see if a miracle was going to happen.

I thought of other crowds and of the One who had compassion on those gathered and longed to bless them. Blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek and those who mourn. On he went saying “I see you, I know your condition and the longing of your heart and I want to bless you.” Really bless you, not with a gold chain necklace that looked like carnival fare, but with blessings that will last.

We turned and walked away, sobered again by the remembrance that though great, great changes have come, too many hearts that long for blessing, are listening to charlatans. “How can I leave?” I asked. But I will, and it will be OK, because the work here has never been about me or about foreigners, the work here is the Good Shepherd’s and he loves his sheep. He does.

But every now and then, the Good Shepherd lifts the curtain, allowing us a behind-the-scene-glance of the fields yet to be harvested and reminds us — the harvest is great, keep praying, keep investing, there are are still too many who long for blessing.

Will you join me afresh in praying for China? My dishes still need doing and I hadn’t planned on writing today. But I am disturbed in the best, most holy way.

Have you seen something similar to what we did that night?

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This is Missions http://www.alifeoverseas.com/this-is-missions/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/this-is-missions/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 07:00:31 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8694 hands-600497_960_720bIt’s cockroaches and invading ants. It’s weird croaking lizards that wake you up in the middle of the night, night after night because you don’t know how to catch them or even what they would look like if you tried. It’s rats eating the garbage at night because people don’t own trash cans but throw […]]]>

hands-600497_960_720b

It’s cockroaches and invading ants. It’s weird croaking lizards that wake you up in the middle of the night, night after night because you don’t know how to catch them or even what they would look like if you tried. It’s rats eating the garbage at night because people don’t own trash cans but throw their rubbish into a big heap.

It’s burning rice and taking 45 minutes to finish one meal because it takes you so long to get all of the rice in your mouth using chopsticks. It’s peeing on your shoes multiple times a day, for months on end because you can’t master the squatty potty.

It’s covering your babies’ cribs with nets to protect them from mosquitoes and hoping that none with malaria sneak in. It’s getting sick and going to the hospital only to have to report to the nurse in front of a room full of people all of your symptoms.

It’s driving in traffic where the only rule of thumb is to “go with the flow.” It’s hitting a man in that traffic and feeling totally justified in saying that it was his fault (which it was, and he agreed and walked off!). It’s crossing the road with cars coming at you full speed in total confidence that they will either stop or weave around you.

It’s having every person and their grandma (especially their grandma) tell you the best way to dress your child, discipline your child, feed your child, play with your child, socialize your child, educate your child, guard your child. It’s not letting your child ever splash in rain puddles because there is a whole universe of nasty on its surface.

It’s eating intestine and brain and bowel and not even knowing what it is except for the texture and your Chinese teacher filling you in. It’s running for the squatty potties again.

It’s constantly being an outsider. Even after you learn the language, you are never one of them. You are always foreign. It’s developing a complex because everyone tells you how “tall” your nose is and you wonder if they are all correct and you were oblivious to your huge honker your whole life.

It’s moving at least once a year. It’s living on the 18th, 21st, 24th floor. It’s being able to see the whole city from your balcony (and being able to see what color your neighbor’s underwear is because his balcony is only 20 feet from yours and everyone hangs their laundry out to dry on their balconies). It’s being grateful that this neighbor actually wears underwear unlike previous neighbors that you would have preferred not to see.

It’s wanting to explain to the grocer that even though you sound like a 2-year-old, you are actually fairly intelligent and can even have real conversations in your mother tongue. It’s wanting to bring a copy of your degree next time you go grocery shopping to prove it.

It’s daily being pushed out of the bus line by old ladies, toddlers, and grown men. It’s learning how to make yourself as big as possible so as to assure your place in the line.

It’s missing Christmases and Easter and birthdays and anniversaries and graduations and weddings and births because you just live so dang far away. It’s spending half of your vacation trying to recover from jet lag. It’s spending the other half raising support so that you can return to the field. It’s spending ALL of your vacations with extended family because it’s the only time you get to see them.

It’s traveling for days with newborns and toddlers to visit family or return to your “home” (wherever that is — both places feel like some version of the word). It’s trying to explain to your grandpa in Iowa what China is really like and feeling like you might as well have antennas and be speaking Martian.

It’s having to ask people for money. Enough said.

It’s hearing the same questions from locals so many times that you contemplate printing a business card that reads like this: I am American. I am 27-years-old. I am not married. I am a student here. I pay around $120 USD for rent in this apartment. Yes, I like Chinese food. No, I do not know Obama.

It’s considering Pizza Hut the nicest place that you can take your spouse for his birthday. It’s going there for all significant celebrations.

And then — it’s sharing Jesus with someone who has never even heard His name. It’s responding to your dear friend’s question with, “Yes, God can speak Mandarin!”

It’s answering the old lady in the town square that you are fostering the little blind girl because you chose her and you wanted her and she is valuable.

It’s being invited into a family’s home to share their most important holiday with them. (And then it’s trying to pretend that you like chicken feet so that they feel honored.)

It’s watching a young woman come alive with the Holy Spirit. It’s listening to her recount to you what God showed her as she was reading the Bible.

It’s telling the elderly countryside man that it was Jesus who healed him. It’s walking alongside of a girl who was abused as a child until she is whole. It’s seeing her learn what a good Father is like.

It’s sharing in just a taste of His sufferings so that you can share in His fellowship. It’s knowing Him in the sweetness of the dry and lonely place and learning that He is truly enough.

It’s knowing you would do it all again if He asked you to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

IMG_2913_2Brooke Grangard has a heart for people to know Jesus and grow in Him. She and her husband spent the last 10 years on the mission field in East Asia with their two young children. They recently returned to the States and continue as full-time volunteers in Missions with CMM. She is currently based out of the Carolinas. You can find her writing about life and faith at theVinePress.org or connect with her and her husband on Facebook.

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The Gift of Saudade http://www.alifeoverseas.com/the-gift-of-saudade/ http://www.alifeoverseas.com/the-gift-of-saudade/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 07:21:57 +0000 http://www.alifeoverseas.com/?p=8778 MarseaWe returned to our apartment in Cambridge yesterday after a long weekend away, and I felt a familiar longing. I turned to my husband and asked him if he felt like our home in Cambridge, was indeed ‘home’. Because I don’t. Not always. Despite my work and church and friends and general life being here, the sense […]]]>

Marsea

We returned to our apartment in Cambridge yesterday after a long weekend away, and I felt a familiar longing. I turned to my husband and asked him if he felt like our home in Cambridge, was indeed ‘home’.

Because I don’t. Not always. Despite my work and church and friends and general life being here, the sense of ‘home’, of ‘belonging’ still seems to be just out of reach. I don’t feel this daily – I feel this when I return from being away. Because usually when I’ve been away, I realize no one knew I was gone.

Home is a place that when you return, people knew you were gone. They welcome you back. But in Cambridge, no one ever knows we’re gone. 

Almost two years ago I was introduced to the word ‘Saudade‘. I learned of the word from my husband, who in turn learned it from a Brazilian friend. I immediately came to love and rely on this word to express that peculiar longing that I never had words to express. I used it in writing. I used it in speaking. I particularly used it when connecting with immigrants and refugees through my job.

Saudade is described as “a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.” – In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell

This is what I felt yesterday as we returned. Once again I had saudade. 

Ute Limacher, in a beautiful piece written for the series Painting Pictures, says that we can have ‘saudade’ for people, for places, and for moments. I’ve felt all three of these, sometimes all at the same time. 

I have come to realize that this saudade, this ‘indolent wistfulness’ will never be completely gone, and I’ve also come to be okay with this. It is a longing that nothing on this earth will ever fully meet. I have my moments of feeling completely at home, feeling like I belong, even as I ache for what I can no longer have, places I can no longer live, people I will no longer see. In a beautiful piece called “Saudade – a Song for the Modern Soul” Rachel Pieh Jones writes: “There is a peace and joy in belonging and an ache for what is not, for what can no longer be.”

As a Christian, perhaps the biggest mistake I could ever make is being too at home in this world, all my longings met, wrapped up in the temporal.

For beyond the reminders of worlds and lives past, saudade is the reminder of another world, another longing not yet realized. A reminder of a world where there will be no more sadness,where tears will be wiped from our eyes, where a lion and a lamb, earthly enemies, will lie down in peace.

So I’m coming to delight in this saudade, to recognize it for the gift that it is. I don’t want to fill it with something false, a shadow comfort of what is real. I want to live each day, accepting the inevitable saudade that comes — sometimes forcefully, sometimes quietly. C.S. Lewis says that if we “find in [ourselves] desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that [we] were made for another world.”

In saudade I recognize that I was made for another world.

Today is a new day. I am back to a routine and grateful for this routine. I feel at home in my skin and surroundings, and it is all the more precious because of saudade.

What about you? Do you find yourself with longings that will never be met in this world? 

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