Is It Possible to Parent Well?

Somewhere between the 1,100-mile move and the wheels falling off (not literally, but figuratively) of our family’s parenting vehicle, I asked the question:

‘Is it possible for me, as a career missionary, to parent well?’

It seems I crucify myself between two thieves: Fear and Self-Doubt. And there are probably a million other places I can go which defeat me as a parent.

But, fellow cross-cultural parent, I am not writing this for any of us to stay in places of shame or defeat. I believe God has a fresh word for all of us amid the uncharted waters of loving our kids in new spaces, both figurative and literal.

When we were first considering a dramatic ministry change, I called a friend to pray over me and my family. She saw a picture of me trying to protect my kids from what this new call and accompanying relocation could do to them. As I released them, they were in scary places I had no control over, and they were shaken. Yet, my friend’s word of encouragement was that without this ‘shaking up’ they would never establish themselves in their own unique relationships with God.

Whether you are in transition, or simply in the throes of what missionary journeys can do to us as very human parents who still struggle, may I offer this same word to you for your children?

It is easy to chastise ourselves for what the calls to ministry in new places and often countries and always cultures can do to our kids. And while we consider their desires and preferences, sometimes a transition happens despite our children’s deep desire to remain in a specific place.

A little over a year ago, this was my story.

This is not a post about knowing all the answers. I am far from a place of confidence along the parenting journey. We have walked through some excruciating experiences in the past year.

However, I’m choosing to be vulnerable and share some universal parenting truths that are currently keeping me and guarding me as a parent. Perhaps there is some daily bread for you too, in this offering.

  1. There Is Divine Strength to Parent: Missionary or not, it is a hard thing, at times desperately hard, to be a parent. From the moment our children come to us so needy for our love and care, we feel out of our depth to meet those needs. What starts as the newborn phase of physical exhaustion moves rapidly to the deepening emotional and spiritual needs of growing people. This past year has felt like the most exhausting in my fifteen years of parenting, yet the promises of God remain, ready for me to grasp and embrace. These three Biblical promises alone, remind me of the truth of sufficient strength for my every need:

“But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11, NIV)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV)

2. Comparison Leads Us to Futile Places: We can learn much from parents further along the road, as well as from our peers. But, when our ‘learning’ becomes construction of standards by which we compare, there is only the wilderness of dry rivers and dust-eating attempts to find nourishment. This is true primarily because there is a whole story that goes with each family. There are places we cannot see — especially those places that are far from social media — that tell a different story than the external. This is not to dampen the joy of those who are experiencing places of genuine flourishing as parents, but there is not a parent on this earth who has never struggled. We are all co-journeyers on this long road home, none of us having it all together.

3. As You Press into the Heart of God, He Will Teach You How to Parent Well: Truly, the best thing we can ever do is to learn the manifest heart of our Abba Father. As we learn His heart, this is the place from which we learn to parent. His love is infinite, always seeking us, pursuing us. We see how he has loved his covenant people though they strayed time and again. This gives us the grace to continue to love our kids when they do not love us back and ultimately when our hearts break in big and little ways. We remember that yes,

“The Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:12, NIV)

But, He also is a God whose kindness is intended to lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4, NIV)

God never stops being our Abba, for we are in Christ Jesus. Therefore, He gives us the strength to know His heart FOR US in our brokenness, mistakes, and sin. Then, we too, can give that same heart to our children.

4. He Who Has Called Us Is Faithful: As I have felt the guilt of following God and therefore causing my children to enter hard places, I have had to remember God’s faithfulness. Just as he called me to be a parent, so he calls me to do this as I am His child, surrendering my life to Him. My oldest son just began high school. It is his ninth school. I would not have chosen this for his story. Yet, God. He is the ultimate Author, and He chose our journey as missionaries to shape our children’s lives too. I think of all of the ways my son has needed to trust God in new things. I trust our journey as his parents has been for his good. And I can trust that for my other two children. No matter their current struggles or strengths, it is God who owns them and the entirety of their stories. The final chapter of completion is His to write. I could desire nothing more than that their journey would lead them to His arms and that we would dance together in that great and Final Day at the Wedding Feast of God.

There is much more that could be said as parenting is incredibly profound. What I offer here is meant to encourage the brokenhearted, the struggling, the doubting, the fearing among us. If my own journey is any indication, that will undoubtedly be you in one or many parenting seasons.

And the truth is that, though we are deeply imperfect, we can parent our children from the strength, hope, and heart of God. This is the promise of Christ in us.

Our Brokenness Is Our Beauty

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” II Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

Recently, I had the chance to hear from a missionary couple. As they shared about their truly beautiful work in a foreign land, instead of rejoicing, I felt things I didn’t want to feel about my own journey and about my own worth as a missionary. Failure. Inadequacy. Shame. Although the thoughts were not of God and His Holy Spirit, they came marching into my heart and mind. This experience gave me much to think about as I continue to heal and make sense of my overseas journey.

Although it’s been more than seven years since we had to leave our home in Budapest, Hungary, I still feel the sting of crushed dreams and the wounding of how I was viewed by others as we left. And I wonder if you, friend, have felt this in your journey overseas, whether current or past.

I love how II Corinthians 4 frames the entire journey of our calling to live this life with a treasure, the light of the risen Christ shining in our hearts. And we have this beautiful reality of Christ in us as clay vessels, which means that the light is in our very selves.

In the truth of our shared humanity, I believe on some level, no matter how ‘successful’ any of us may appear to others as a missionary, we can still feel the same things as we look truth in the face and know we are clay, know we can be broken. Therefore, I know so many of us need the words of healing and promise over our lives which God offers through His Word to us, the ones made of clay.

So, looking at this image of clay vessels, what kinds of things can we see about ourselves?

  • Simplicity: Jars of clay are used to hold valuable things but are made simply and of the earth. In the beauty of their simple creation, they can do great things, as can we through the hands of the Great Potter.
  • Fragility: Jars of clay are susceptible to breaking easily. It is part of the nature of their material. There is a specific correlation between this and our own hearts and minds, which break all too easily.
  • Ability to be put back together: While they are fragile, earthen vessels of clay can be re-bonded, although their appearance is forever changed. Our Great Potter is also the Great Mender of broken things. He especially delights in mending us, His children.
  • Cracks mean a continual pouring out: The process of putting the pieces back together creates a vessel which will be continuously poured out. Even if it’s from a leak, what is released through us into our environment reveals our vulnerability and is a type of pouring out of the truth of our brokenness. The undeniable nature of how we are redeemed to bear our unique, broken, and mended selves, is both a natural pouring out and an encouragement to all the broken ones.
  • A never-ending supply for our vessels: Because we are made by the Infinite One, even though there are cracks and leaks in our brokenness, God promises continually to fill us with all we need to be useful in His service.
  • Light comes through our brokenness: Not only do broken vessels pour out through the cracks, but that’s also where the light breaks through. As we put ourselves before that Light which shines in and overcomes the darkness, the light refracts and streams through in a beautiful design unique to our brokenness.

II Corinthians 4 goes on to say that beyond our brokenness, there is the reality of living in a fallen world and following Jesus amidst it. Though we are pressed, we are not crushed. We possess a resilience in our earthen vessels which cannot be destroyed. Even if the mending of the cracks happens a million times, it will only provide more opportunities to be vessels of pouring out, of light streaming through.

Friend, I pray this truth finds you today in the brokenness of this journey of entering other cultures and knowing great trials, of being pressed in mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take heart, our God is the mender and no matter how your journey or my journey has looked, He is putting us back together, healing our brokenness in beautiful ways that only make Him more beautiful in us.

My Story: From Tragedy to Triumph

It’s been seven years now since the tragic days when I had to enter the mental ward and later the ICU of a Budapest hospital. It is nearly six years since my second hospitalization. Both were for manic episodes related to bipolar disorder.

Although the tragedy I experienced led to a necessary surrender of our lives as overseas missionaries, I came to understand that my story was far from over. God wove new callings into my life, new ways to touch immigrants and refugees while maintaining the stability of a life in my passport country.

And I want you to know that my story of tragedy to triumph can be yours too. Whether your tragedy is from mental illness, like me, or the debilitating effects of chronic illness, or broken relationships, or any other thing, you can live as an overcomer. Whether your tragedy has led you to leave your overseas dream, as I had to, or you are fighting the battle while still overseas, or your dream of a missionary life has never gotten off of the ground because of your struggle, you can know real, holistic, victory.

I know this can be true for you because God has healed and renewed my strength, giving me a resilience I never knew possible.

In sharing my story, each chapter of my new book makes a perspective shift from something defeating towards something that leads to triumph. I move from weakness to strength, despair to hope, endings to beginnings, exile to homecoming, isolation to intimacy, shame to freedom, fear to love, sorrow to joy, war to peace, suffering to redemption, closed to open and finally, defeat to triumph. While there remains a tension within each of these movements, I have seen real victory in my mind, heart, spirit and soul through shifting my perspective — my skies — toward the truth and love of God.

The following is an excerpt from my book which releases today: A Million Skies: Secure in God’s Strength When Your Mind Can’t Rest. This passage is from the Second Chapter entitled Learning to See: From Despair to Hope.

Songs of Promise

As I pondered the meaning of the light of that Sunday morning, I was abruptly moved out of ICU and back to the mental ward. I breathed a sigh of relief as we moved past the eight-bed room where I had been before the ICU. I was wheeled to a smaller room with two beds, and I was the only inhabitant. The old, dusty linoleum and white walls began to blunt the hope of that morning. I was beginning to sense a heaviness around me and in me.

Questions haunted me. What next? How will I get through this? How much damage did I cause my family?

The clock ticked and tocked as I tried to endure the day, eagerly anticipating the gift of my husband’s daily visit. Jared brought my favorite cookies, Csoki Zab Falatok, oatmeal cookies with one side covered in chocolate. He brought my favorite meal, too, a pita filled with the fresh goodness of cabbage, cucumbers, a good sign that I wanted to eat again. I had lost my appetite in the sleepless nights of my episode.

Even more welcome than the food was the hope my husband ushered in to my mental wardroom in a heavenly way. After I ate, I lay on my bed and listened to the calm cadence of Jared’s voice as he read from the Psalms. His voice reached my ears as a rich, poetic lyric with a profound melody I could feel in my bones.

As he read, the promises lifted from the page and anchored me in a faith I had cherished for nearly all my forty years of life. Each word felt weighty, beautiful. His voice stilled me as he read from Psalm 84, a passage beloved by my grandparents:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
(Ps. 84:1–7 ESV)

When he read of the “highways to Zion” and traveling from “strength to strength,” I felt the tiniest hint of courage to trust for more. Then, I closed my eyes and I rested. As Jared continued to read, I felt sweet repose wrapping around me, and I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. I slept for only a few minutes, but oh, when I awoke! There was something solid in me. It filled me with emotion—substantive and real. It also gave me its name, sweetly, yet stronger than gold. It said, “I am hope.”

And I knew. I just knew everything would be okay. There was yet a grand plan and purpose for my life. For Jared and me together. The knowledge called to me, told me to cling to this gorgeous, full-bodied thing: hope. It came to me so beautifully in that anything-but-beautiful Hungarian hospital. It came with its defiant nature, a resolute champion of my story. It came in my size and shape, a reminder that the God of hope could be trusted as he had made me and knew me intimately, fully. It stood tall, telling me I could stand tall in the face of the tattered pieces that my life had become.

Before my manic episode, I had so many dreams that I believed I was ready to achieve. In the consuming despair, those dreams had looked like a tiny pile of ash. But here in a Hungarian mental ward, through his beloved Word, God spoke resilience and purifying fire and a victory in hope.

Later in this same chapter, I show the continued movement from despair to hope:

When we struggle with mental illness, or any hardship, we struggle to keep hope alive in our thoughts, and the battle is often close. In ordinary moments of life, my insecurity bubbles up as I worry about the possibility of imminent attack. Then I hear a lie: “You are not enough to live your life.” Or “You don’t deserve love.” Or a thousand other wretched calls that threaten to darken my thinking.

What do we do?

We must cling to our hope. Let it be that warm ember within our heart. Let it meet the promises of God calling it forth. Let the melody of song raise it to new heights. We don’t combat the darkness with our mental fists, punching out the would-be attackers of lying thoughts. No. We fill ourselves with the substance of our hope—Jesus. He is the all-sufficient one, the light in all the darkness, and he cannot be overcome.

~ Excerpt from A Million Skies: Secure in God’s Strength When Your Mind Can’t Rest. Releasing TODAY, March 15, 2022

The Cross-Cultural Journey of Jesus

Desert, Sand, Travel, Dune, Sand Dune, Landscape

As Advent begins, I think about my current cross-cultural work of loving refugees from all over the world. I think about you loving the peoples and cultures of your host country. I think about all of us loving our neighbors wherever we are in the world.

But mostly, I think about Jesus.

He bridged the chasm between heaven and earth. In him, there is every bit of the fullness of what we need to love across cultures.

Here are some of the most beautiful ways Jesus teaches us about Boundless Love:

  1. Love Requires Emptying: For the journey to even begin we must empty ourselves of all of the riches of our own competency, at times our material wealth, and most of all, our desire to control our lives. We must become vulnerable. But here we see the beauty of how Christ models this perfectly. As Philippians 2:1-11 so clearly states, he became as nothing in order to love this world. With supreme grace, He endured the culture shock of the ages. Yet, the great secret is that we find in Him more than an example: we find the once-and-for-all incarnation of God alive in us to live as He did.
  2. Love Looks into the Eyes: Can you imagine even one interaction which Jesus had that wasn’t eye-to-eye? His words were firm in truth and rich in grace, but his eyes sealed all the love of Heaven to each person who beheld him. Whether healing the sick, teaching his disciples, preaching to the masses, or delivering the hard word, He met the eyes of others with the intensity of Immanuel, God with us.
  3. Love Honors Our Shared Humanity: When I think of honoring humanity, I think of the marginal whom Jesus touched. The lepers. The blind. The outcast. The stranger. In each of these situations, he did not patronize. No, He advocated with his very life, aligning himself with the uttermost of humanity, becoming one of us in all the fullness of which that means. Whether a demon-possessed person, a prostitute, or a member of the religious elite who visited in the night, he humanized and equalized each image-bearer. And through this, each one was forever changed.
  4. Love Never Gives Up on Anyone: There were the Pharisees over whose city he wept, longing to carry them tenderly in his arms. There was the bottom rung of society that the whole town had relegated to filth. There were the earthy fisherman, deemed unworthy of status. And there were more. In each impossible case, Jesus said, ‘No more lies of unworthiness! You are valued and loved just as you are, and you are tenderly held by God.’ His was and is that tenacious love that will not let go, wishing none to perish, but ALL to come to the saving knowledge of what his coming was all about.
  5. Love Walks in Stride: At the end of our lives, it will likely not be the spiritual highs or lows which define us. Rather, it will be the everyday living out of our faith. Jesus took the posture of a servant, and that dictated his interactions with everyone. He was the one who learned how to walk in this world by laying down his power, his full right to be worshipped by all. So we walk like him. We lay down things like our privilege to live comfortably, whether materially or within our native culture. We walk among other lands and peoples, showing them that Love walks more than it talks. Love’s scope is universal, and at the proper time it will call all the children of God, of every people, tongue, tribe and nation, Home.

Be encouraged, dear friend. There is no uncomfortable, alien circumstance of being the foreigner where Jesus has not gone before. He was tried in all things and all ways, yet without the sin of ethnocentrism — or any other sin.

And He’s holding out those enveloping arms. He’s saying, ‘Beloved, rest here in Me for a while. I love your heart for the nations, for it sings that ancient song of Love, the one I created over all humankind. Well done, faithful one, I delight in your surrender and sacrifice for My Name. Now, you, rest in my love beloved.’

Amen and Amen.

photo courtesy of Pixabay

On Leaving Home: Embracing the Sojourner Spirit

It’s been six and a half years now since we moved back to the States from living overseas. I know many who read the articles here have been on a similar journey to us, of finding ‘normal’ back in the States.

But is there really, truly a ‘normal’ once we have invested our hearts overseas? Just this past summer I lost my father and almost twenty years ago, my mother. I know a piece of me left this world with each of them, and I will not get it back until I am with them forever.

It is similar when we grieve the ending of our time in another country. We will no longer be living amidst its beauty — mostly its people but also its culture. Whether God calls us to another country or place overseas, or we return to the States, we must acknowledge that a piece of ourselves will remain in that ‘lost home.’ It will be lost to us until we experience full healing and the new life of the new heaven and the new earth.

So what do we do with the pain of this separation? How do we deal with this cutting away, this stripping bare of a place we have so deeply loved? Amidst other things, we learn to enter this pain as we embrace our lives as sojourners.

Because of my mental illness journey, we left long before we were ready. And there was an appalling lack of closure in our relationships. The door closed to returning long-term, and a visit has not even been possible.

But even if we could go back, it wouldn’t be the same. Our beloved flat would no longer be ours. Many of our friends would be gone, and the life missed together could not be returned to us. The reality of that place no longer being our home is an aching thing, a gaping wound, and we have to embrace this truth.

This processing our grief is one which involves much grace given to ourselves, as much grace as is needed. We cry when we need to, we ache inside without stuffing the discomfort of this, we ask the ‘why’ question to our God. And we learn to live with the silence.

We are sojourners who are forever cut off from our first home–Eden. All of humanity either remains hopelessly lost to home or learns to embrace the life of a sojourner headed to our true Home. I love C.S. Lewis’ reflections of this in The Weight of Glory, available in its entirety here. He says:

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

The people we have loved, the place which has been our home, reveals our longing for a perfect world which we will never leave. And if held incorrectly, our longing for this home or any home we have known can shatter our hearts, our very selves. Thus, we must learn to embrace the sojourners that we are.

There isn’t a step-by-step blueprint marked out for us. We each must learn to chart our own way, even as we reach out to other grieving sojourners — spouses, children, brothers and sisters of all kinds. In so doing, we find our way to great visions of life forever sharing in the stories of all the saints. It is the life we missed, redeemed and regained.

This embracing of a sojourning life also paves the way for the life yet before us. For my husband and myself, we have been led to uproot our comfortable, re-settled lives to join a ministry that resettles refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. In now choosing this life, we did not settle for a “sort-of overseas experience” since we are working with those from overseas. No. It is the pure gift of our sojourning identity. We have learned to see the imprint of our own journey as strangers in another land, and through it we welcome the strangers to the country in which we now live.

In speaking of this embracing, I know I have not arrived yet at my destination, at the perfect knowing of my forever home. As long as I draw breath here, I never will.

And neither will you. The deep pain of loss is with us until our every tear is wiped away in the arms of the Redeemer of All. Yet we enter those arms bit by bit and step by step, as we release our white knuckling of home here. And in this, we receive the light of perfect love which will overcome the darkness of our grief, every time.

Friend, I pray God breathes hope into your sojourning life right now. I am asking our God of grace to shine his face upon you and comfort you in the pain of loss from any home you have known in this world. I am listening to the quietness of an Eden, a perfection, and its promise to be fully restored. Even more, I hold onto the deeper promise that this perfection will never be lost again.

Your fellow sojourner and friend,
Abby

Does Change Ever Get Easier?

As I drove around in my very new neighborhood, I recognized a few things. I was a minority ethnically. As I shared with people about where we’d come from, they couldn’t warn me enough about the change in weather we’d experience between Orlando and Chicago. (Many of our neighbors in Florida had called us ‘crazy’ for making such a change.) And I desperately missed ‘normal’.

I know this blog is about living overseas and I’ve lived that life, making a couple of those transitions. It was hard, so hard. And it is hitting tough places again as I come to this place of a thousand mile domestic transition to somewhere I have never lived. The reality is that our surrender to change costs us, and in many ways, it doesn’t get easier no matter where we are. Although, I am not learning a new language and completely new culture, in some ways, this change is harder. My kids are older and hurting in ways they didn’t when they were little. I am not as young or resilient as I was before. The sense of adventure is less, and the hard times of the past can haunt.

But, I am here, showing up afresh in the midst of great upheaval. Because no matter where we are in our lives, we can experience the solidarity of our common humanity and the nature of change. We can reach out and remember we are not alone in feeling how we feel. And together, we can remember the truth that we are deeply, truly, fully loved in all of the ups and downs of tumultuous times.

The following are some of the most basic truths to remember in the midst of change. They are not earth-shattering principles. However, maybe, just maybe if we remember them together we will make that collective jump in a stuck elevator. We can, this time, see the doors open as we all walk into a new world.

  1. Changes come and go but God never changes: As I am right in the middle of fresh change, this means more than ever. Not only am I navigating a major transition, my father–a rock to me–is gravely ill. I am also knee-deep in edits for a coming book. Often these days I struggle for that anchor. And I am led right back to the God who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. There is nothing better for the storm-tossed waters of change, than this anchor, this hope in an unchanging God.
  2. Grace must be abundant: If I were given the chance to re-do my overseas transitions, I would add lots and lots of grace. I realize in a certain sense I have been given another chance to walk a major life overhaul and I know that I know that I know I need grace like the air I breathe. Grace for me, my husband, my precious children. Grace for new colleagues, friends and neighbors who will surely disappoint me in their inability to completely meet my needs. Grace to meet each day and receive its new, sunrise-laden mercies.
  3. Kindness is the great equalizer: Amid other cultures whether in the U.S. or abroad, nothing replaces the simple kindnesses we can give to others. Patience with the logistics of living a new life and the attendant at the window who is helping us complete this never-ending task. A smile for a stranger of another race no matter how awkward it feels. A helping hand for a new neighbor even if we hoped they would be the first to reach out. The kindness of God is ever leading a broken world to repentance, a turning back to his goodness which heals.
  4. Humility is an ever-present guide: Whether we are entering another culture of have been present in our current one for many, many years, we are called to be lifelong learners. There is no substitute for humility. There is no joy-killer more potent than complaint about the way things are different in a new country, city or workplace. God has a plan to make us like himself. This buffing out, uncovering the glory, far outshines the seeming glow of perfection in our most competent, comfortable ways of doing life. And most poignantly, he is ever close to the meek and lowly of heart. We are called to learn his rhythm, his way of navigating the constant change. He knows transition like no other ever has for he experienced it all in his journey from heaven to earth and among the earth.
  5. Learn how to be yourself again: This one can be so hard for me. Right now I feel very, very white in my current context. And I can overthink all of my actions towards those of other ethnicities. I become someone stifled, and completely other. I am experiencing this in a humbling way in a great new friendship. In keeping with all of the above, I must trust an unchanging God who gives abundant grace and calls me to kindness and humility. But, the results of each interaction, and the depth of each relationship, are God’s to hold and not mine. The best I can do is live out my unique personality for his glory. In whichever situation I am in, living out the Gospel as his special beloved child, will make a beautiful way for me to simply be myself.

I hope you don’t hear me saying this is easy, without pain or somehow formulaic. Rather, I hope you hear that you are not alone in your struggles with transition. It is a part of our legacy this side of Eden. A fallen world is not a welcome place to go through many of the changes we experience. But, a good God is ever with us, upholding us and this whole vast universe. In all of the shifting ways of this life, he is calling us home to his unchanging heart for us and his plan to hold us and hold us forever.

With you in the journey,

Abigail

Sometimes It’s OK to Not Fit In

It was a balmy Fall day in Budapest, Hungary. Cars whizzed by my kitchen window, up and down the hill in the neighborhood known as Gazdagret. My youngest son, nearly two, napped in the early afternoon.

My phone rang. It was my oldest son’s iskola teacher, Aniko. She told me that they were getting ready to go to their, regular, jégkorcsolyázás, or ice skating, class and my son did not have his necessary winter clothes. My heart skipped a beat as I thought of the fleece-lined pants, coat, hat and gloves sitting in our entry way.

All I could think about was how brave my son had been since starting Hungarian primary school in early September. He spent long days completely immersed in Hungarian while having the courage to try new foods at lunch, play foci, or soccer, after school, learn cursive writing, and do his homework with his teachers after class.

He had been so so brave and now, so must I be brave.

I had no time to change, do make-up or hair. They were leaving. I had to get to his school at the top of the hill and I had to get there now.

I grabbed his ice skating clothes and left our flat, carefully locking the door. Thankfully, my youngest had about two more hours of his nap and couldn’t yet climb out of the crib if he did awake. At the rate I planned to truck up the hill, I’d be gone only a short amount of time.

“Truck up the hill” is a good way to describe what ensued. My husband had our car so driving wasn’t an option. There was a bus that went up the hill, but it wouldn’t come soon enough. I looked at my fluorescent t-shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops and realized I just needed to go for it.

I crossed the street and found the inner walkway which went almost directly to my son’s school. I began to run on this warmish, yet still, fall day. I ran by pedestrians with dark colors, dressed as ‘normal’ people dress in Budapest on fall days, with their coats and scarves.

I ran and I ran. I ignored the looks at my bizarre attire and wild running ways. I had to get my son what he needed, and by golly, I would!

Finally, completely out of breath, I made it to the school. I ran to the entrance, spoke something in broken Hungarian to the security guard and reached the receptionist. Thankfully, his classroom was close. But when I got there, they were gone. Gone! Noooo!

I frantically asked where they were, finding out they were in the bus outside. So I hurriedly began to run again, locating the huge passenger bus leaving the parking lot. Leaving the parking lot!

Having lost all sense at this point, I started to run straight toward the moving bus, waving my arms up and down, up and down like rapid windshield wipers. Thankfully, I got the driver’s attention. I came to the door of the bus and saw my son’s teacher coming down the steps. I handed her the priceless flimsy grocery bag full of clothes and remembered to step aside as the bus continued its intended exit of the parking lot.

The ensuing sigh of relief was both real and comical and inspiring? Yes, that’s exactly how I felt. Inspired. I had just done twenty things or more I had been timid to do before, in my life in Budapest. I’d stuck out like a fluorescent chirping canary all up the streets of Gazadgret and in Csikihegy Iskola. And I’d done it without a second thought, because my son needed me.

I don’t need to tell anyone who has lived overseas, how hard it can be. I, especially, struggled to fit in, or at least appear competent, as a mother. But, on this day, fitting in was the least of my thoughts. My son needed something, and that something was me. He needed me to be brave for him, and, for once, it was the most natural thing to be.

So, I am offering you that same bravery today. You can do this life you are called to. You can be comfortable in your own skin and live the kind of way that uniquely meets the needs of another. You can be like Jesus, and not fit into the crowd, because you are infinitely loved and there is a whole, wide, broken world in need of that same love.

Why Is Following God So Messy?

photo credit

I will never forget the moment I pulled away from the hotel entrance. I had just met new friends of my husband, and now they were mine. Kat* looked so frail, bone-thin, with dark circles under her eyes. Ron* had a champion smile on his face as he secured their belongings in the back of my gold van. They had been able to afford a hotel for a few days, but now it was back to the streets. So we were keeping their duffle bags of things.

My heart sank, hot and heavy, with the weight of their situation. My husband had met them outside of our local library, a couple committed fiercely to each other. Kat’s seizure disorder, hypertension, multiple sclerosis and other health concerns, made it impossible for Ron to leave her alone. Thus, he had given up working. Their veteran’s and disability benefits only took them so far.

It felt heartbreaking and wrong as I left the hotel, amid a torrential downpour. It felt heartbreaking and wrong as I left them to find shelter. I asked myself, ‘how can I go back to my large house with its guest bedroom and leave them on the streets?’

So, I decided that I wouldn’t.

I told my husband how I felt. He knew my heart, but still, it was such a big undertaking to bring in virtual strangers to our house with three young children. (Kat and Ron had raised five children, and loved kids. We never believed they would hurt one of our children.)

We didn’t know what to do.

But when Kat was on the verge of another seizure, which could be lethal as a homeless person, we did what, in that moment, we could not not do. We invited them into our home.

What followed was a major lack of boundaries and nearly a year of sheltering Kat and Ron. It was one of the hardest seasons of our lives, yet it was keeping them off the streets. That had to mean something, right?

It wasn’t only hard because of the inconvenience. It was hard because of others’ responses. They didn’t understand us and questioned what we were doing. In their protectiveness of us, they often thought the worst of Kat and Ron. It was hard, so hard to hear these concerns and still try to do the right thing.

I don’t fault our friends and family for loving us, how could I? But, the desire to care for ‘the poor’ is a good, God-given desire, isn’t it?

So how could obedience to God’s heart bring so much strain and struggle. I thought it would bring joy. And, at first, it did. It did, also, in moments along the way. But, the joy was often overshadowed by worry, doubt and a strong sense of being out of control.

As we sheltered Kat and Ron, I often felt the words of Isaiah 58:7 course through my mind. ‘Bring the homeless, poor into your house…’ as part of acceptable guidelines for a holy ‘fast’ and the kind of worship God wants. And again, I absolutely believe that to be true.

However, after almost a year, we finally had to give a very clear date when they needed to leave our home. It was hard, so hard, because they hadn’t found anywhere else to live. But, we knew we had done what we could.

So again, the questions. ‘How could a year of having them in our home, make seemingly so little difference in their situation?’ And yes, in guilt, I would ask too. ‘How could we let them back onto the streets?’

Yet, there was a measure of peace, because it was okay, and important, to let them go, surrendering them fully to God. My husband and I would often remind ourselves that what we did in caring for them, we ultimately did for the Lord. And we had to trust Him for the results of that caring.

At times I wondered if I operated out of guilt of not doing more when we lived in Hungary. Homeless people lined the parks and downtown streets and it all became so overwhelming. And I felt it. That callousness, of needing to not do anything because each of their stories, their needs, could easily pull me in, in tangled-up, caring-too-much ways.

In the end, I was so humbled in the journey with Kat and Ron. And I have so little to say, but that it is so very messy. Not only caring for the poor or homeless, but knowing how to truly be obedient and follow Jesus in hard places. The only true sin in the journey is to let ourselves become callous and closed to the needs of others. (And, I want to be clear that much spiritual wisdom and discernment is needed in any steps we take.)

My sweet husband helps me so much in this. He is often reaching out, not to every person in need, but to the ones put especially on his heart. Since Kat and Ron, we learned it is too much for our family to house those in need long-term. But, he is often approaching someone in need to ask if he can get them a meal. Just recently, he took a homeless friend to get warmer clothes for the cooler nights coming.

In the end, though the journey with Kat and Ron was really hard, God brought so much life from it. He grew our family, making Kat and Ron a part of it. I will never forget their all-day cooking, on the Thanksgiving Day they were with us. They made a feast for us.

Eventually, they found an apartment, and we were all thrilled. We helped them with the move, gave them some furniture and did what family would do.

But more, we have come to feel for them what family should feel–a deep, abiding, indestructible love.

I don’t know what needs are around you, but I want to encourage you beyond the callousness which can so subtly creep in. If you desire to do something close to God’s heart, no matter the journey, you will find just that, His heart.

*Names changed to protect identity.

How to Overcome Shame: The Potency of Story

photo credit

 “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelations 12:11 (ESV)

There are many ways to die of shame. But, there are even more ways to live without it. It’s my heart to help you choose life today.

A little over five years ago I nearly, truly died in a Hungarian mental ward. I was as weak as I’d ever been in my forty years of life. Although technically a wife and mother, I was not able to fulfill either of these treasured callings.

As I managed side effects of medicines for my newly diagnosed bipolar disorder, I heard God say, ‘I want you to share your story. The one you are living now.’

I was absolutely terrified. How could I be so vulnerable about this life with mental illness which seemed so shameful? In His kindness, God made sure I knew I had all of the time I needed. But he didn’t change His mind about what He wanted from me.

He wanted me to die to the secret, inward shame, so that, I could truly live. Because I was completely perfect in His eyes, through Jesus, I could find the courage to die to what others thought of me. With the telling of my story, God was redeeming the unbelievable levels of pain I had endured.

Not only was there no shame in the telling, as I remained completely perfect in His eyes, but I also gained a golden resilience which made me more and more ready to speak life and light into the darkness of shame itself.

Now, five years later, I recently signed a book contract to write my story, my journey with mental illness. Tens of thousands of words of my story bound and made for anyone to purchase. At times, I am still border-line or full-blown terrified, but when I feel afraid, I just keep writing, keep telling.

I love this verse in Psalm 34:5 (ESV):

“Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

The shame the Enemy wanted to use to keep me in fear, crumbling in the corner of life, barely hanging on, has been defeated through looking to the God of my story. Thus, I declare to the darkness that it cannot have me!

Shame goes back as far as that first fallen choice. Therefore, as God sets about to redeem this broken world, shame is one of the last enemies to be fought. If we, the people of God, can deal with our hidden shame by the honest, vulnerable telling of our stories, then this enemy doesn’t stand a chance.

We utterly overcome through the blood of the Lamb, that perfect one who stands in every gaping whole of our shame, both personal and collective, resolutely declaring, ‘No more!’ He holds us tenderly at any point when we are weary from the fight, and through that love, we find the strength to keep overcoming.

Friend, I don’t know where my words find you today. Are you dying of that awful cloaking shame, standing in the corner, broken, in the space of your life? Are a million seeming failures towering before you, leaving you cowering?

I offer you life, free of shame, through the God who treasures you and loves you beyond all description. No matter what place in the world you are, His love is right there along with His abiding presence. He has come to give you life and wants to bring all of your struggles into his healing light.

I know your struggles could be so deep, you see no way to fix them. I know there are things which could, at least for now, take you out of ministry as a missionary. And yes, that shame, it may be speaking the most perverse lies to you constantly, declaring itself king of your story.

But, He is ever greater. He is the light of the world, covering this whole planet with indestructible light, ‘upholding the universe by the word of His power.’ He is searching for you, wherever you are, to give you true life–the overcoming life.

Trust in Him in fresh ways today. He wants to take the full truth of your story and change the world through it, as he heals your shame. Let him, my friend, let Him.

You don’t have to put your story out there for the whole world to read and dissect. But, if you want the overcoming life, you need to find that one safe person and become vulnerable with them. There is barely a pain greater than the one of silent shame. Ask me how I know.

You are made for so much more.

And I am coming to you, from a rare dreary day in Florida, as someone who has both hidden in shame and overcome it through the telling of my story.

There is only one true choice. Choose the shame-free life today. I am cheering you on.

Don’t Lose Heart

photo credit

These are days of upheaval, vulnerability for ourselves and those we love all over the world, repatriating or extended leaves. It can be difficult to feel God’s love in action for ourselves and those who we see who need it most.

These are days of a wondering begging to be voiced, ‘Where are you, God?’ Or “Do you really intimately care about this world?”

As I was reading Zechariah 8, one of those hopeful, desire-of-your-heart visions the prophets of the Bible sometimes get to share, it seemed like fresh rain on dry and weary land. It offered me great hope.

And I knew this message was for you, my expat friend, who loves people and places so much, it pulses with every beat of your heart. Who doesn’t know where your ‘safe place’ is right now. Who longs for days of healing and restoration this world over.

(all quotes are from the Message paraphrase of the Bible, unless noted otherwise)

Zechariah 8: 1-2

“A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

I am zealous for Zion–I care! I am angry about Zion–I’m involved!” (emphasis mine)

Sometimes, especially amid global crisis and a world rife with tension, it can be easy to believe God isn’t intimate with the affairs of the people and places we love. Yet, He, the GOD-of-Angel-Armies, the strong one, is saying that He is. It is our imperative to anchor deeper and deeper into this and not forget.

Zechariah 8:3

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“I’ve come back to Zion, I’ve moved back to Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s New names will be Truth City, and Mountain of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.”

Wherever we are, we are Zion and God is coming back to us. We are being raised up in Truth as the Mountain of our God. He is building His Kingdom and the gates of Hell itself will not prevail against her!

Zechariah 8:6

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“Do the problems of returning and rebuilding by just a few survivors seem too much? But is anything too much for me? Not if I have my say.”

This speaks to a central lie with which the Enemy taunts those God would use. Are we too few? Can God really move in powerful ways when we feel alone? Here, He is staking His words on who He is, not who we are or the circumstances we are in. And friends, this stands true when you are far physically from a place and people you love and are left to fight as an intercessor. Nothing can thwart His ultimate will for His people.

Zechariah 8: 9-12

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies

“Get a grip on things. Hold tight. you who are listening to what I say through the preaching of the prophets…We’ve come through a hard time…But things have changed.

Sowing and harvesting will resume,

Vines will grow grapes,

Gardens will flourish,

Dew and rain will make everything green.

Don’t lose heart. This is what I hear again and again for YOU today. God’s church remains in the world and while She does, there is a mission to accomplish. And, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies has put all of Himself into it.

I think of another chapter 8:

“If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing Himself to the worst by sending His own Son, is there anything else He wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?” Romans 8:32

These are days which are testing us, our own hope in our own lives. How much more do they test our hope for the people and places we love?

Yet, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.

Again and again He speaks after disaster will come times of renewal, gathering, fulfillment of promise. And One Day, dare I say ‘soon, so soon’ will come the ultimate gathering of all of God’s people through all time and history, from every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation. It is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Until the day we are face to face, when either we are called home or meet the Lord upon His return, beloved of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, don’t lose heart.

The Tempest of Shifting Identities

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.’ ~Henri Nouwen

My first cross-cultural experience was not overseas, but rather when I spent the summer in inner-city Kensington, Philadelphia. With a 90 percent Latino and African-American population combined, I was easily noticeable with my blonde hair and fair complexion. As I walked the streets, only in daylight, the burnt out cars and chain link fences seemed an infinite distance from the dairy farm where I lived as a child.

Yet my desire was strong to connect with the people, and especially the children, with whom I worked. I took on a ‘gregarious fun girl’ persona that summer. Although I left far too quickly, my insular identity of a white girl from the country forever shifted as my heart melded to the plight of urban youth.

Now, 26 years later, that restless identity from a summer of immersion in another culture still remains. I want to be known, accepted, trusted by all races, especially the children. I want them to almost instinctively know I am for them. This identity came on quickly and fiercely, and determined to stay.

Freshly changed by that summer, I went to Barcelona, Spain for a study abroad program. Still working through my first major shift of cultural thinking, I didn’t know what to do with the gorgeous architecture, and rich Spanish and Catalan heritage which many people dream to see and experience. I hiked the hills of the city and marveled at the compelling vista. Then I would pray for the precious children who had changed me forever. I’d feel the angst of the ‘here’ and ‘there’, as the world of my summer and fall seemed infinitely distant from one another.

Yet, I let Barcelona change me too. It was much harder to find a place in the hearts of those around me with their material, metropolitan lives. But, I did. And with it, as I returned home, I found myself in the tempest of yet another identity shift.

Each opportunity I had in the subsequent years, whether Mexico, Honduras, or a small, predominantly Dutch town in Massachusetts, whirled my various experiential identities a little more. There was no stopping it. Either I remained separate from the people, which was never a possibility for me, or I fully, deeply identified with them. Halfway was not an option.

If you’ve spent any significant time in another culture, you know it is impossible to maintain this level of identification. It is a quick recipe for burnout. Not to mention, the identity we are intended to have, is something that must go beyond all of the cultures and callings of the world, to the very heart of God.

The term ‘identity’ is used so often and in many different contexts that it can lose its meaning. But the overarching truth is we all have many layers of identity, or facets of who we are, which form over time. They are personal, cultural, and missional, just to name a few. Our journey is to learn how to walk out our identity with integrity, landing ultimately in the only place, or way of being, we are made to fit forever.

What I have shared of my own identity-shifting is from my single years. For me, these years screamed loudly, ‘You must save them all! Who else do you have to pour into? Give it all to them!’

Then, my Mom died and some of my heart went forever to Heaven. I had prayed earnestly for her healing. Now, I didn’t know who I could save. I felt withered of spirit. And yes, it was another tempest of changing identities.

Just one year after my mama died, I got married. Two years after this, my husband and I went to Hungary for a year internship. It was a beautiful year, but it was also confusing. I loved the Hungarian students we worked with, but not like those first kids in Philadelphia. And, now I was a wife, a newlywed. What on earth was my identity?

It is telling how I remember saying often at the end of our internship, as we pursued long-term staff with Cru: ‘Before God, I cannot let my husband get off this path!’ It was the passionate loyalty of a wife speaking, but it also showed how lost I was to my own calling. All I could acknowledge was his.

And this was a type of identity wilderness–the swirling about of all I had thought to be and now none of it fit. I wandered in this desert for many years. I became a Mom and was able to engage less and less in ministry. There was grace for this, as home is so very important. Yet, I had stopped seeking a robust identity–a soulful purpose for which I was made to live. I could have told you all of the right answers about my identity being in Christ, the importance of my role as a wife and mother, but the tempest raged.

When we moved overseas long-term, I was three months pregnant with our third child. I knew, even though we were going back to Hungary, it would be like we’d never been before. The skills I needed to be a successful mom were far different from those needed to reach high school students. There were victories, for sure, but, there was also much fumbling and gasping for air. My already nearly non-existent identity–or confidence and sense of self– whipped around me with much insecurity and striving grasping for it.

I couldn’t have predicted what would come next. I went crazy three years into our time. I spent two weeks in the mental ward of a Hungarian hospital. My lack of true identity, my burnt out heart, and a hereditary strain of mental illness all caught up with me.

As I have fought hard to put the pieces of myself back together, I am learning my true identity all over again. But somehow, now, it is in a much deeper way. I don’t want to discount my life before my mental breakdown, it is a large and significant part of my forever story. But, this time, after the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I am finding a whole new way of being, one I never really had before.

It’s an identity anchored fully in the love of God. 

It’s easier for me to surrender plans and dreams because I have found the embrace of God, the one thing I can’t live without, on the other side of losing nearly everything. So, it’s easier to come to that place where only God can hold me. It’s easier to gut out the insides, with their junky false identity pieces that remain, because of their stark contrast to the unconditional acceptance of God. And as I rest in God, it’s easier to feel the freedom to keep exploring the things God may have for me to do and be in this life.

So, I offer this encouragement. If you have struggled with the tempest of shifting identities, you are not alone. As you are stretched and looking for things to hold onto, hear my testimony.

At the beginning of all things is God, at the end of all things is God, in the midst of all things is God.

Crawl into his Abba Daddy lap, receive the embrace of the Son and let the Spirit envelop you. No matter how many swirling, hovering identities you have had in your life, this is the only true forever one. Find this place often and become truly identified, known, as the beloved of God.

How to Care Well for MK’s {An Interview With an Expert}

DSC_1084.jpg
Picture taken from the MK2MK website, Summer Missions page

I think of Donna Kushner as a hero. She is a champion of MK’s and TCK’S, their stories, journeys and life struggles. She was so moved by the need to care for MK’s better, she pioneered a ministry called MK2MK (Missionary Kid to Missionary Kid) under the umbrella of Cru, officially forming in 2000. Since then, she has touched the lives of thousands of MK’s making them feel seen, known and truly loved.

Donna was so kind to take the time to answer a few questions about her work as well as give insight into MK’s and their families. She is available to answer any question you might have about caring for MK’s. She would also be an outstanding mentor if you would like to begin a ministry like hers for your missions or ex-pat organization. Just comment here or e-mail her at donna.kushner@cru.org.

Could you tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you have served as a missionary?

I grew up in California and came to Christ as a freshman in high school, when a friend in PE class invited me to a Bible study for teenagers. I had never heard the gospel and was ripe fruit, having just experienced the painful divorce of my parents. This was in the Jesus people era, and we were passionate about sharing the gospel. So missions was a natural outflow of my early Christian experience.

My first mission trip was the summer after I graduated from high school, I went to Italy with Operation Mobilization which, back in the day, was rugged with a strong focus on prayer. It was there that God called me into full-time ministry. My husband and I later served in the Middle East and France working with Arab students for ten years. When we returned from overseas, we joined a team focused on training missionaries. I developed a program to train the kids/teenagers as well as sessions for parents about raising children cross-culturally. MK2MK grew out of that program. 

What is the purpose of MK2MK?

The core of all that MK2MK does is based on the idea that MK’s understand each other’s experiences. Therefore, they are able to connect and minister to each other in unique ways.  We want to empower young adult MK’s to come alongside younger MK’s in discipleship, as well as help them navigate the challenges of identity, transition and grief. 

Why did you begin the ministry of MK2MK?

When we returned from overseas, our oldest daughter was 13. At that point, Cru did not have any resources to help teenagers navigate this huge transition. It was a challenging time for her, as well as for us as parents. A year after our return, we were invited to organize a four day debrief for teenagers whose families were returning. We saw a need and said yes. At that time I would say the landscape of MK care was like a desert. My husband and I were given the opportunity to change that and knew God was calling us to do it. 

Would you briefly describe this ministry?

MK2MK is a ministry of Cru that focuses on providing, what we call, a ‘flow of care’ for MKs from the point when their parents decide to move overseas until they have completed their transition back to the US (or wherever their passport country is). This includes cross-cultural training (we have a team that runs children and teen programs at the venues where staff are trained), field visits, discipleship, conferences for kids and teens on the field, debrief conferences and mission trips.

MK2MK is able to achieve this flow of care, because our methodology of training college-aged MK’s through a summer internship program provides a strong volunteer base that is able to assist the long-term MK2MK team with the ministry. MK2MK serves not only Cru MK’s but also MK’s from many other organizations through our month-long mission trips. (learn more here: https://mk2mk.org/summerinternship)

What are the most important things you have learned about missionary kids over the years?

Missionary Kids are some of my absolute favorite people!  They have challenges that are unique to their life experiences and they have benefits as well. Sometimes these experiences have drawn them to Jesus and other times they have pushed them away. My heart has always been to be a person who will advocate for them and give them the opportunity to use their voice especially when that voice is being muted or ignored. I have found that when an MK has the opportunity to experience the community of Third Culture Kids it is usually transformational for them. It helps them integrate the parts of their world and provides a sense of belonging that is so important for us as human beings. 

What are the most important things you have learned about missionary families over the years?

Every family is unique, and most every missionary parent is doing the best they know how to raise their children. Missionary families have the same challenges as other families. Pretty much everything you see outside the missionary community you will also find within the missionary family context–except it may be more hidden because there is so much pressure living in the ‘fishbowl’. Working on having a healthy marriage and inviting your kids into the ministry you are doing are the most essential things for missionary parents to be thinking about. 

If you could sit down with every MK, what would you most want to tell them?

You ultimately own your MK experience. You can resent it or embrace it. God is crazy about you for who you ARE not for what you do. He understands every part of your MK experience, including the pressures you feel and the doubts you may wrestle with. He is OK with you bringing those to Him. In fact, He welcomes it. There are people, like the staff of MK2MK, who care deeply about you and desire to welcome you into MK community.  

If you could sit down with every parent of an MK, what would you most want to tell them?

Your child/teen needs time with you that is 100% focused, so put the phone down (as far away as possible, at the other end of the house!), put the work down and give them your time and attention. The ministry will always be there, but they are only with you for such a short time. I have had so many teens tell me that they wish their parents would put their phone down. They might not tell you this but they all feel it. Children are resilient but just like a rubber band, they CAN break. Be prayerful about how much you expect and how resilient you expect them to be. Your child’s story is their story. Just like you, as a parent, needed to find your own way, so they need to find theirs. They will make their own choices and some may be painful for you. But it is their story not yours. 

If anyone would want to start a ministry like MK2MK within their mission, how would you advise them?

First, I would say GO FOR IT! There are incredible needs and opportunities to minister to MK’s. if you want help feel free to e-mail me (donna.kushner@cru.org). As far as how to start, I think it is important to connect with leaders within your organization AND connect with parents and teenagers.  Engage leaders who have children and teenagers as they will likely have a felt need for ministry to their kids. Find a mentor from an organization that you respect. I reached out to David Pollock, author of Third Culture Kids. Get time with them to learn what they did. Read as much as you can and become an expert on MK’s and missionary family care. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the ALO community?

Our children are 100% of the future. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of every ministry to ensure that they have a robust MK care ministry. We can gain the whole world, but if we lose our kids it is all for nothing. 

Thank you Donna, for sharing your heart and passion. As Donna said, please don’t hesitate to reach out to her with any questions and/or the desire to develop MK/TCK and missionary family care in your sphere of influence!