Ever seen a baby lizard dressed in Polly Pocket clothing?

I have. I wish I had a picture… But I don’t. All I have is the memory.

And that memory often gets me thinking about this fact.


Sometimes, we missionary types take ourselves a little too seriously. We want to

  • be effective,
  •  impact lives,
  • not just do what we do well but very well – if not perfectly,
  • look good while doing it,
  • maybe garner a few more ministry partners, and
  • have at least a few great stories to share.

We sometimes forget we’re just ordinary folks serving an extraordinary God, often in not-your-run-of-the-mill locations.

My son is off for his freshman year of college. One of the things that so impressed us about the university he is attending was their rather extensive program and system of support in place to help international students and TCKs transition to this new phase of life. During his most recent trip home, I was asking him about his friends, and in particular, if he spent much time hanging out with his fellow TCK-types. His comment went something along the lines of, “Yeah, I do hang out with them sometimes. But sometimes I get tired of being part of a group of people that thinks they are more special and unique than everyone else. Sometimes, I think they’d be more fun if they’d just get over it.”


But back to my lizard story…

When we first moved to West Africa… with four children five and under, we had ONLY what we carried with us in our suitcases and carry-ons. Being young and inexperienced at international travel through developing world airports with a munchkin squad – we wanted to be prepared.

In other words, those were some pretty massive carry-ons.

Picturing scenes of endless airport waits and unrelenting customs lines with small, bored, beyond exhausted, jet-lagged and travel-fatigued children, we thought, “Distraction!” Therefore, we’d packed each child a brightly colored carry-on aimed to match exactly the maximum weight allowance… full of toys, new coloring books and crayons, picture books, snacks, a change of clothes and a last-minute extravagant and tear-stained gift from the grandparents.

I learned something that day. It doesn’t matter what sort of troopers kids may be – when their carryon weighs at best their own body weight and at worse, even more, little tykes aren’t going to be able to manhandle them through the airplane aisle to seat 46E… or drag them along on a mile hike through the airport up and down escalators only found in your nightmares. Adding insult to injury, our kids hardly even opened those carryons. Instead they played with the masks and socks the airline stewardess handed out once seated on the plane.

Just like once we’d unpacked the bags and moved into our new home…

There, they threw almost all of the fancy toy gadgets from their carryons into an action packer, fastened the lid tight and shoved it into the closet so they’d have more room on the floor to play. Only a few things remained out, visible and accessible. Those last minute gifts from grandparents sat near their pillows, ready for bed every night. The girls kept out a few of their Polly Pocket dolls and clothing. Our boy kept out his Fisher Price knights and horses. And they discovered baby lizards… everywhere!

They started catching them, dressing them in Polly Pocket clothing, making intricate mazes and dwellings out of branches, muddy sand and mango leaves. Squeals of delight erupted when they observed that gently rubbing a lizard’s chin “hypnotized” it; that made dressing without hurting… or losing part of a tail… a lot easier. Our son, wanting to get in on the fun but not wanting to demean himself by actually playing with Polly Pockets… even if it was just their clothing… sat lizards on tiny little medieval horses and began jousting competitions.


(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m pretty sure some lizards were mildly harmed, i.e. tails lost, in the carrying out of these particular activities…)

Hearing about my children and how they entertained themselves with lizards usually makes people laugh. But then their responses can head one of two general directions:

  1. “How unusual and exotic! Your family has so many unique experiences! What an amazing live you live!”
  2. “How like kids everywhere to find the fun and to creatively make do with what’s available as they play and do what kids do best.”

Both responses (and their many slight variations) are absolutely true!

Problems arrive when we forget the balancing part of this both/and equation, turning it into an either/or.

We take our own press too much to heart.

We start believing more in our different-ness than our common human conditions, victories, failures and struggles… And?

The result is neither winsome nor attractive. Instead of humility, people see arrogance; instead of approachability, they sense standoffishness; instead of transparency, they watch a performance.

Instead of creating a community that reaches around this globe, we craft a clique.

We walk a fine line balancing our good and right desires to help our TCKs – striving to prepare them, actively advocating for them, learning effective strategies and best practices for working with and encouraging them, knowing and then accessing the right resources to help them when they do struggle – with discipling them in the truth that they, too, are ordinary people. Unless we are careful, we can communicate entitlement… differences… disconnectedness…


 How do you intentionally remember and live out the truth that you’re an ordinary person serving an extraordinary God in uncommon locations?

How do you find this balance as you disciple the TCKs in your life?


– Richelle Wright, missionary on home assignment from Niger, W. Africa

blog:   Our Wright-ing Pad    ministry:   Wright’s Broadcasting Truth to Niger     facebook:  Richelle Wright

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Richelle Wright

Disciple of Jesus, lover of God's Word, wife to one great guy, and mama of eight, Richelle has spent the past 13 years in Niger, West Africa. She and her family are currently in the throes of transition as they begin life and ministry (teaching, audio-visual production) in the Canadian province of Québec. |ourwrightingpad.blogspot.com|

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