the gift of a voice

“I feel awful.  Something inside me is squeezing me so bad I can hardly breathe.”

With those first words of Letters Never Sent, Ruth Van Reken spoke straight to my TCK heart.  It was 1988, I was a senior in college, the book was brand-new, and for the first time in my life, somebody besides me was willing to say that being a TCK was not all about climbing up sunshine mountain.

By the time I read Letters, I was already married to another TCK and we were well on our way to our own overseas career in Bible translation.  My own experience, confirmed by Letters and by the quiet conversations I had with other TCK’s I met, made me absolutely determined to care for my children and their emotions carefully and attentively, to minimize the damage that previous generations of TCK’s had endured.

When that great revelation of research by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, Third Culture Kids, was published in 1999, I practically memorized chapter 13 on transition.  I could recite the RAFT model for family transition in my sleep.  Over a 15-year period, we RAFTed religiously from the Solomon Islands to Papua New Guinea to America and back again.  In one particularly hellish phase, we moved internationally 5 times in 3 years, and two of those were crisis moves, as in, “You have 15 minutes to leave the country.  Go.”

I was trying so hard to make it okay for my kids, to support Andy in the translation project, to be the teacher to four grade levels and four temperaments, to be the family doctor, therapist, Sunday school teacher and chief logistics officer for whatever happened to be happening.

Meanwhile, I was spiraling down, down, down into depression, feeling like I was the only one struggling, because everybody else looked so happy on their prayer cards.  I didn’t know that Andy was addictively looking at pornography while we all smiled for our prayer cards.

The Big Crash came in 2003, with two years of intensive recovery following.  We went back overseas for a while, then moved back to Dallas permanently in 2007.  I went off to grad school for a masters in counseling, and started a little blog to pass the time during the never ending story of my internship.

On the blog, I started to put out little bits and pieces of our story, and every single time I did, someone would write to me and say, “Thank you for saying that!  I thought I was the only one!”

I started to realize that there was not really a voice for this story:  a story about depression and despair and recovery in a mission setting.  It was, however, a story that resonated with a lot of people, even people who weren’t missionaries.


This past year, I got my story into book form and self-published.

My intention in writing this book was to pass along the gift that Ruth Van Reken gave to me:  the gift of a voice, of community, of hope on the long road Home. 

So, if depression and despair and healing and redemption sound like things you’d be up for reading about, it’s your lucky day!  As Soon As I Fell is available in Kindle format and in paperback at Amazon, and if you buy the paperback, you get the Kindle version for free.  That’s so you can share and still have a copy to keep.  (p.s Did you know that you don’t have to own a Kindle to read Kindle ebooks? Amazon has free apps for smartphones and computers.)

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Kay Bruner

Kay Bruner was born in Buffalo, New York and grew up in Brazil, Nigeria, and the wilds of Kentucky. She and her husband have raised their four children in Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and currently reside in the great state of Texas. Kay is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and divides her work days between counseling and writing. She is the author of As Soon As I Fell and blogs at She is available for counseling at her office in Dallas or via skype for a reduced rate to clients overseas. For more information go to:

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