Thursday, June 13, 2013

Third Culture Kids

Imagine growing up caught in a chasm between worlds. You are American by birth, your parents are American, your siblings are American, your hair, your eyes, your look is American. There’s even a little blue book, issued by the government, stamped with an official seal proving that you are indeed fully, absolutely, and entirely American. And yet, you know you are not. The world that you know is not America, but instead is Kenya, Vietnam, Morocco, Hong Kong, France…wherever your parents happen to be living, working, and serving. What if English was only a language that you spoke at home? What if the school, traditions, food, and mannerisms around you had nothing to do with America? Would you really feel American? Where would you fit? Where would you belong?

“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.”

There is an interesting dilemma that permeates the lives of many overseas missionary kids. It’s that feeling of being trapped between two (or more!) worlds—the feeling of not really knowing where you belong. Young people facing this dilemma are known as TCKs or “third culture kids.” They are kids without a place to truly call their own. They hold a passport to one country, yet their childhood memories and many of their friends reside in another. And to make matters even more confusing, both of these cultures might be completely different from the culture where they are currently living. They feel as if they are continually bouncing back and forth between cultures, trapped and confused as to where they really belong. Talk about a fragmented identity!

As a teacher at the Black Forest Academy (BFA), I will have the privilege to teach, coach, and interact with TCKs from over fifty different countries. Many of my students will have experienced life in more than three distinct cultures by the time they reach high school. Though these TCKs may lack a specific culture to call their own, the wonderful thing about coming to the school is that they are put together with other students who are facing the same dilemma. At BFA, all the students are world travelers and global citizens. They all know what it is like to spend a holiday in an airport terminal or to have to Skype their grandparents for Christmas. Through shared experiences, BFA creates a new and unique sub-culture for TCKs to find that missing sense of belonging. At last, there is a place where they don’t have to answer the question, “where are you from?” and they don’t have to feel like the outsider.

If you have time, check out this video about BFA and the missionary kid experience. I found it really helpful to hear the TCK concept explained from the insider’s perspective. 

To close, I’d like to ask that you will please pray for me as I learn how to reach out to this very special group of young people. Pray that I will be sensitive to their situation and able to come alongside them as a Christ-centered mentor and guide on their search for identity and belonging. Most importantly, pray that these students might find that their true citizenship lies in heaven as children of God. 

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” Phil 3:20

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