Frontline Action and Frontrow Seats
Blessings and lessons from the Missionary Kid life
Growing up I lived as a Missionary Kid (MK) in The Netherlands. As some would say me and my two siblings were tagged on to God’s calling for my parents lives. In big and small ways we joined our parents on the frontline of missions, but at the same time we experienced the blessing of having a frontrow seat to what God was doing.
My parents were missionaries and so our family did quite a bit of traveling. At a young age I could probably do some things that many children that age couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to do. I could speak with authority on the quality of airplane food. I learned that you should never ever, ever get chicken on an airline. I could name most airlines by looking at their logo. I could pack more in my suitcase than most people can put in their trunk. I learned that it’s a bad idea to fly the eastern European airline of whizz air (people on board are pleasantly surprised when the pilot lands the plane), that British airways gives missionaries bad attitudes, and that there is always one person in the family that gets pulled by security every single time. So, figuratively speaking, I could have raked up enough air miles to fly business class for the rest of my life. As most MK/TCK’s can agree with, travelling becomes an activity something that is done and something that is part of life.
I want to share with you some of the riches of being a missionary kid, specifically the travelling and moving aspect of that lifestyle. When reaching into the mixed bag of hardships and blessings that are part of the MK life we must realize that all is a gift from God, not something to be proud of or to boast over, but gifts from God. Although there are many I just want to share with you three gifts that in many ways for me have define the MK life, family, flexibility, and faith.
Growing up as an MK, family was very important to me as most MK’s will be able to recognize. It is what they rely on when everything else changes and life in general is fluid. Think about it; when your friends change, your church changes, your homeland, language even culture changes, your family stays the same. You celebrate holidays that are different, you like different food and you speak a language a language that at times is a mix of several other ones. In my life, and what I know of other MK’s, family has been the stable factor when everything else is changing or different.
When we traveled there was a certain rhythm that we followed, there was a certain way of doing things, we did it teamwork style. But something that was very important, the most crucial part of this operation was to keep taps on the pink coat. The pink coat was worn my seven year old younger sister. I think every missionary mom has this inner panic button that is hit when a child loses visual contact while traveling. What didn’t really help our young wondering spirits was the time that a 10 year old fellow MK got lost in the Polish city of Krakau at the same time that the Danish princess was visiting. Sticking together was the golden rule and that was the way that we made it back and forth across the Atlantic so many times.
If I would have to choose one character trait that I think every MK or TCK learns it is that of flexibility. Life is always unexpected, but sometimes we just expected the unexpected.
Over time, both MK’s and TCK’s learn to blend effectively into new places and adapt to new settings and experiences. In our life I think that this was best seen in the way that we switched back and forth between languages. But also in staying at different people’s houses, meeting many different missionaries from different cultures, and of course eating different food.
Flexibility is also key when traveling. There is always at least one thing that goes wrong while on the road. Either we missed a connection, lost a piece of luggage, forgot a credit card, flight that gets delayed, someone gets sick; there are many things to choose from. They key is just to roll with it, expecting the unexpected.
One thing that tested my flexibility to new levels was when we arrived in Philadelphia after we had packed up, shipped our stuff, said goodbye, barely gotten our passports on time and had just had an 8 hour flight. We had bought a car in advanced and a person had driven it to one of the airport parking lots. We expected just to slide right into those comfy seats and drive off to our hotel. But there was one catch, actually two. The first one was that there are approximately 30.000 parking spots available around the Philadelphia airport. The second one was that we were kind of fuzzy what parking section the car was and that they said they left it open with the keys on the inside. I was sure that we had given a free donation some gang in Philly. However, after much prayer, some panicking, and about an hour of us rooming around jetlagged we did find it. Things don’t always go your way, and you can often find yourself in a different setting than you might expect. Everyone should learn flexibility, but for MK/TCK’s it is part of life. The unexpected becomes expected.
Lastly, and in in my opinion greatest gift from the mixed bag of blessings and hardships that come with being an MK, is a tested faith.
And as I’m sure that many of you know, ministry does not come with a fat paycheck, (unless you’re southern Baptist). Our family handled finances based on George Muller’s principle of never telling anyone about our needs but trusting in faith that God would provide for us and using those answered prayers as a way to glorify him and strengthen others in their faith. So when my parents sensed God calling them back to America early on in our lives for more schooling they said ok God we will go but you will need to provide for a few things in the next week otherwise we will have to wait a schoolyear. They hung up a list in the closet of things needed and prayed for them each day. Within one week we had a car, a house, a job, a scholarship, a church and everything we needed to fulfill God’s assignment. So at times that we doubted God’s provision we’d go back to that closet to remind that God always provides.
Our family lived and worked at a camp and conference center. We like to say that in our time there we got a front row seat on what Christ was doing in many people’s lives. It was a huge blessing to see both of my parent’s work in ministry and to do ministry as a family, both practically serving and through prayer.
Throughout the years of being missionary kid I have come to know God as a faithful God that cares for us in personal ways and that he will never ever leave you hanging. Were there times of doubt? Yes of course. But I had the privilege to grow up in an environment of answered prayers. Where the food on the table, the car out front, the washing machine in the bathroom, the computer, the train tickets, the ministry, the people working with us, the trips across Europe, all of it was answers to specific prayers we prayed as a family. And so when I tend to doubt God all I have to do is look back to see the very visible handprints of answered prayers all over my life and my family’s life.
Being a missionary kid was not always easy, in some ways we joined our parents on the frontline of ministry with all the differences, transitions and goodbyes that came with that. But at the same time we had a front row seat to what God was doing and to, at times even be a part in that.
Corrie ten Boom was a famous Dutch speaker and author. She is best known for the Hiding Place. When she was young and scared or doubting her dad would remind her of something. He would say that when she got on the train from Haarlem to Amsterdam to get parts for his watch repair shop that he was the one buying the ticket. And he would make sure to give it to her when she was boarding the train. The same way it is with God. When he sends, he will provided the ticket. When he gives an assignment he will provide the means. When he places you somewhere he will pay the bills.
So in a sense it is true that missionary kids are tagged on to God’s calling for their parents lives. But at the same time it is God who proves himself faithful, again and again, to those who place themselves in dependence of him. Serving God and being around those who serve him is, in my opinion the best way of getting to know God.
As another MK said well, we look forward to heaven, not only because there will be one voltage, one language, one time zone, one place where all the people that I know will be, but also because I and every other MK there will be able to worship the God that my parents spent their lives working for, the God that put our family on this great adventure, the God that I saw working in people’s lives summer after summer, and the God that provided for those that he sent, time and time again.
This is a paraphrased transcript of what was shared during the TCK/MK event “Destination Unknown” during Lancaster Bible College’s 2017 Missions Conference.