It was August 4, 2020, Czech Republic (CZ). Without anyone telling me to, I buckled my airplane seatbelt. I had a window seat, but I didn’t want to look out, else I burst into tears. Not wanting to regret my decision, I forced my eyes to the window. The cabin doors closed. This is it. I swallowed a lump in my throat. Soon, the plane ran down the runway and took off. The scenery at my window slanted. I can’t. Blinking back my tears, I turned to face forwards.
I wished I didn’t have to return to my passport country. I wished that I could find a job that was willing to sponsor my work permit in the CZ, so I could continue to serve in the church there. Nonetheless, I accepted that this was God’s will, and if He wants to bring me back to central Europe, He’ll do so in His own time.
For now, He wants me to be in my passport country, Singapore.
Returning to your passport country is never easy. There are ways to mitigate the challenges. You can attend debriefs, receive counseling, and read advice about reentry. These steps are helpful, increase your awareness of what’s going on, and spur you to take action for the next step. As an adult TCK, I definitely encourage you to seek this kind of help.
But even with these supports, the process is still difficult. It’s complex, as it involves your past, present and future, your identity, acknowledging grief (and sometimes unresolved grief), reverse culture shock, your sense of belonging, goals, a change in location, adapting, the search for necessities, finding a job, settling into a new school, and the list can continue. The factors can be taken apart to be studied individually, yet they’re connected to others. The process is therefore more complex than one may think.
The duration also contributes to the difficulty and complexity of the reentry process. You’re unsure of how long you’ll take. Even after a year, you may realize you’re still adjusting to the food, still processing some hidden losses of the past, and perhaps, still searching for a suitable hospital or school. Personally, although I repatriated nearly nine months ago, I haven’t completely adjusted yet.
All of the above can be overwhelming. I’m not typing that carelessly. I know it through experience as I’ve returned to my passport country twice – the first time during my early teens and the second now in my early twenties. Both times were challenging.
During the first repatriation, I experienced a huge reverse culture shock, couldn’t acknowledge my grief, had a hard time accepting God’s will, and struggled to adapt to a country where people expected me to behave like a local.
During the second return, I had to adjust to changes that weren’t there before (like Singapore’s strict covid measures), and I struggled with processing grief. A Czech friend died while I was in the CZ, and I was repatriated a few months later. On top of those struggles, I had unresolved grief from my childhood.
If you’re reentering your passport country, it is easy to get lost in the complex factors, only to lose sight of the most important One in your life: our Savior. That’s right. The One who bought you from the bondage of sin so that He can have a relationship with you – Jesus Christ. As a citizen of heaven, it is so vital, so crucial, so significant that you keep your eyes on Him, keep guarding your quiet time with Him, and keep putting Him first. Stay close by His side, dear TCK. And that is not a one-time action. You need to persevere to pursue and love Jesus.
When challenges hit you with their full impact, you have two choices: turn away from God or cling to Him. I chose the first during my first reentry. As a result, I missed blessings, strayed far away, and went through much hatred, anger, and pain that could’ve been prevented if I had picked the latter.
I learned a valuable lesson and don’t want to repeat my mistake. Thus, when I was repatriated a second time, I chose to continue to be close to Christ and was blessed by the fellowship He and I had as I went through the challenges. Through them, I got to know Him deeper than before. And through them, He helped me to process unresolved grief, refined me to be more like Christ, and drew me closer to Him (1 Peter 1:7, James 4:8).
Staying by His side is worth so much more than running away. So please, dear fellow TCK, don’t let go of His hand. He is the joy amid your grief (Romans 15:13), the healer of your hurt (Psalm 147:3), the comforter when you cry (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), the strength of your weakness (Psalm 73:26), the courage of your fear (Joshua 1:9), and the guide of your path even when the valley is dark (Psalm 119:105).
Being a citizen of heaven includes the rugged terrain of life no matter the country you’re in; it’s part of the cost of following Jesus. Hence, trusting God does not mean that your road is smooth without potholes or grief (John 16:33). Rather, trusting Him means that you’ll cling unto Him amid the happy and sad times, no matter where you are.
The comforting truth is that through it all, He is upholding you with His right hand: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10, KJV).
Yearning to connect with other TCKs who are going through the same difficulties as you are? Truth4TCKs is an online conference that does exactly that. Their mission is to bring biblical truth and encouragement regarding the cross-cultural and highly mobile life to TCKs. Their theme for this year is finding what it means to be a Global Citizen of Heaven; the event takes place in May 2021. You can find out more from their website here.
Clarissa Choo is an ATCK and a former business kid. Although she has lived in four countries, Heaven is her only home. Clarissa is the Blog Tour Host for the online conference, Truth4TCKs 2021 in May, and the founder of the email/Instagram ministry, TCK Letters. She’s also a staff writer of TCKs for Christ, an upcoming website ministry dedicated to serving Christian TCKs. You can find her online here and on Instagram here.