Missionary Kids
Tumaini Articles #4

At Tumaini we often help missionary families who are dealing with some kind of crisis, trauma, or tensions. So Missionary Kid’s (MKs) are often the focus of our help just because they are part of the family. Missionary kids or TCKs (Third Culture Kids), as they now are often called, are special and different from kids brought up in one culture or country and often don’t know where home is. MKs don’t really fit in their passport culture, because they are more like world citizens. In general MKs seem to have a maturity beyond their years and have a tolerance and openness toward others, especially those of a different heritage and race.

That’s the good news. The hard part is the potential for tension which parents may have between the call they have received from God and the needs of their family. Sometimes that means making very difficult decisions like having to suspend mission work for a period of time or put their children into boarding schools.

Dr.Hugh Maclure, missionary doctor in remote areas of West Africa for many years between1946 an 1991, writes about MKs towards the end of his book, “Letters from the White Man’s Grave.” Looking back on his missionary service he says, “What about the cost to missionaries’ children? Their love and loyalty made our missionary life possible. Only now are we beginning to realize the price they paid..” He continues to say, “Some MKs bear the cost gladly (though from what our MK nephews say the pain was still there). Others, though they bore the separations bravely, couldn’t handle the uncertainties, the loneliness, the farewells from friends and parents and, above all, the feeling that they were not number one in their parents’ lives. Some became bitter against the Saviour who is number one in their parents’ lives. Others come to know and love Him, but often have painful scars more or less hidden by his grace in their lives. Seeing their children struggle costs most missionary parents dearly.”

I know that Dr. Maclure’s experience as a missionary was quite a few years back, and he and his wife actually took a 14 year family leave in Canada to provide a good education for their children. Then they went back to the field for many years. Today there are so many good school options, the internet, and even skype, which are great resources for missionary families; but some of the same issues are present in missionary families today. It takes a lot of wisdom, prayer, and often tough decisions to balance family needs with God’s calling. And the hard part is that our witness is precluded not by the programs and preaching we do, but by how we live our lives and how we treat other people, beginning with the most important people in our lives….our family members.

At Tumaini we understand the cost, and we are available to help missionary parents and children deal with the tension of work and family. We can be reached by calling 0728-606-911 or by email at tumaini.ac@aimint.org