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

by Abby Alleman on December 15, 2019

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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!

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About Abby Alleman

A farm girl at heart, Abigail (Abby) loves the surprising stories God writes. Since her first plane trip at the age of twenty landed her in Barcelona, Spain, Abby knew her life would never be the same. She holds degrees in both Math and Spanish and is a former high school teacher. She has served as a translator and short-term missionary in Latin America and inner city Philadelphia. But her most treasured journey is when her big dreams came crashing to the ground, when heartbreak and humility brought her home to her family, God and eventually right to her husband, Jared. They have worked with the student ministry of CRU for over ten years in both the U.S. and Hungary. She has three small kids and blogs her life and love of story at Abigail Alleman ( www.abigailalleman.com ).

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