The Children Who Ask, “Who Am I?”

Posted on July 17, 2020 by VMMissions Staff

By Carol Tobin, Content Editor and Mission Advocate

In case you never noticed, there are a lot of acronyms in the mission world. MK [missionary kid] or the less specific TCK [third culture kid] are ones that need to be known. These terms refer to individuals who have lived in a culture other than that of their parents during a significant part of their childhood.

It was during one of our furloughs from service in Thailand that someone put a little spiral-bound book into our hands, You Know You’re an MK When… which lists 500 different situations, responses, and feelings that left our daughters either howling with delight or on the verge of tears. It assured them that they were understood! There was a name for the complexity they felt around the question, “Who are you?”

  • Your parents’ siblings are strangers to you but you have 50-60 aunts and uncles who are no blood relation to you at all.
  • You can’t answer the question, “Where are you from?”
  • You can quote your parents’ sermons from furlough word for word.
  • You describe Americans as if you were not one yourself.
  • Your parents have discipled hundreds of other people, but your own faith is shrouded in doubt.
  • All your life, you have been defined by your parents’ profession, and now you want an identity of your own.

Having grown up in Thailand, our daughters are TCKs. Their faith has been tested by deep affinity with people whose view of the world is vastly different than theirs. Yet, they are convinced of the reality and relevance of Jesus – here, there, and everywhere. They are well positioned for witness in the intercultural settings that abound in our world today.

Hosanna realized God’s heart for Muslims in South Asia as her best friend in boarding school met Jesus. It broke her heart when after graduation her friend’s Muslim family pressured her to recant. Bethany bristled in frustration as she sat in seminary classes where her professor not only spoke disparagingly of mission but refused to grant validity to what she knew to be true in her own experience.

A recent conversation with my nine-year-old granddaughter reveals to me that her faith and identity are already being deeply shaped as she, like her mother, grows up in Thailand. During devotions this week, Anjali soberly made the stunning statement, “I want to be a Christian. I realize that this is true.” Why this declaration on this particular morning? Because she was reflecting on the news that a member of their house church in Thailand had renounced her faith. But Anjali knew the story of how this “auntie” had come to believe. She had had a dream about Jesus and discovered in the morning that the amulet she always wore around her neck was around her neck no longer! God had come to her in her dream and literally set her free! Anjali declared, “The story about the necklace is still true, even if she turned away. The story isn’t gone. It doesn’t just go fake. God is there.”

Be encouraged by the glimpses into the lives of TCKs [in this issue of Transforming], and join me in applauding them for enduring the arduous journey of discovering who they are as deeply rooted children of God.

Filed in: All posts, Editorial, Transforming

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