Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Feelings on the Field

Its hard to imagine losing everything.

I think we know it would be hard, but we don't fully grasp it.

How can we unless we've lived through it?

I think one of the hardest things that a MK faces is that no one really understands what we go through. People don't understand what it's like to give up your whole life. Even worse- we are expected to be grateful for it, because there are suddenly a whole bunch of people watching your family.

One of the things that I struggle with is that people would tell me they were there if I ever needed to talk, but then they'd give me the same cliche answers about how "things would get better" and "I was gaining an experience" and "they'd moved before so they knew what it was like." I can tell you- I've moved a total of eleven times in my life. I thought I knew what it was like. I thought moving to a different country wouldn't be that different.

I've never been more wrong.

It hard to even wrap your mind around that. Having everything one day, and losing it all the next.

Imagine it with me- You've spent the last couple of weeks selling everything and saying goodbye. Goodbye to the friends you've known since kindergarten. Goodbye to grandma and grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Goodbye to the church that taught you to have a passion for Jesus, to the school you made so many memories in, to the bed that kept you warm and safe from monsters, to the bikes you rode before you could drive, to the dog you begged your parents for and then watched grow up from a puppy, to the neighbors you caught lightning bugs with on warm summer nights, to the couch you spilled the nail polish on, to all the childhood toys you spent hours playing with on the floor, to the vase you never told mom you broke, to the trophies you won in soccer, to your favorite books that took you on so many adventures, to the table you shared so many meals and conversations at, all of it. Gone.

With tears streaming down your face you say goodbye to the house you grew up in and hug your loved ones one last time, not knowing when you'll see them again, and you walk away with only your immediate family and what you can fit into a 50 pound suitcase and a carry-on.

"With one plane ride the whole world as TCKs have known it can die. Every important place they’ve been, every tree climbed, pet owned, and virtually every close friend they’ve made are gone with the closing of the airplane door. The sights and smells of the market, waves of people walking, darting between honking cars as they cross streets, store signs written in the local language - everything that feels so familiar and “home” are also gone. TCKs don’t lose one thing at a time; they lose everything at once. And there’s no funeral. In fact, there’s no time or space to grieve, because tomorrow they’ll be sightseeing in Bangkok as well as four other exciting places…”
— David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds

The thing that really sparked me to finish this post was when I saw someone comment on a Facebook status where a fellow MK was mourning her loss and tell her that she'd be fine, she was strong and that she should be grateful for her experiences. People just don't understand that sometimes we need to grieve. After all, we've just had a big loss. When someone loses a loved one, we don't just tell them to get over it. No, we mourn with them and pray for them

I know that even though we lose a lot, we gain even more, but outsiders only see the things we've gained, not what we've had to say goodbye to to get that experience. Its not easy.

This may be the hardest post I have ever written. I usually work little by little on a blog post, throwing in a sentence or two here and there, putting whats in my head onto the screen in front  of me until I feel like God has taught me my lesson and I have all I need to say, so this post has been about two years in the process. Quite frankly, I don't think I'm completely done with this subject, because I don't really have an answer yet. Who knows if I ever will? And on top of that, this is a touchy subject, I don't want to step on any toes, and I don't want to complain, because I absolutely LOVE being a missionary kid. The point of this blog post is not to tell you how horrible it is, because I bet most MKs would agree with me that even in the hard moments, we wouldn't trade our lives for anything, but what I just want to communicate with you is that MKs need you. Remember your missionaries and their kids. Pray for them. Talk to them. Let them know you're there the listen without judgement, without any cliche answers, just love.

 "I pray that no missionary will ever be as lonely as I have been. - Lottie Moon"


  1. Wow! This really tugs at my heart. We are preparing to leave next spring or summer for Guatemala with our 3 daughters. (13, 9, and 6.) It's good to have your perspective. We're trying to sort through the feelings at the same time that we sort through our stuff, but it's good to keep in mind that this will be a continuing process. We'll have to extend grace and love longer than perhaps we expected. Thanks so much for sharing what is, obviously, a challenging but important subject. I really appreciate your courage to blog and share what you're experiencing! I hope that my daughters can share your excitement about mission work, as well as your honest about its challenges.

  2. I came here from the sidebar on Laurel D's blog (http://www.ourjourneyoffaith.net/) I think she may know your parents... I haven't read any of your other posts yet, but I had to comment on this one. As I read I just kept saying 'yes, yes, yes.' I am an MK myself and even though it's been ten years since I left the field, I can remember it so clearly. I remember standing and waving good-bye to my friends I had known since kindergarten and thinking "my world is falling apart. The cinder blocks of my life are coming tumbling down around me like a Jenga tower as my friends and everything else are pulled away." and knowing that I would be getting on that plane myself in a few days... and the conflict as people 'back home' ask "aren't you excited to be back, excited to be starting college?" Do you tell them the truth about the pain, or do you tell them what they want to hear?
    I love that TCK book - I didn't find it until partway through my freshman year of college and then suddenly so many things made sense. I am glad you have read it already. I am glad you are able to acknowledge the need to grieve (so many people try to stuff it away). You say "one of the hardest things that a MK faces is that no one really understands what we go through" and that is so true. But other MKs understand. I understand. I don't know how much it helps, coming from a complete stranger, but you are not alone.
    (Wow, long comment... so much to say though...)

  3. Wow, thank you so much!! I am an MK and I think you hit the nail on the head!! I have been trying to work on a post dealing with the same thing on my post but I feel like I couldn't really say it in a way that would clearly communicate what I've felt and at the same time not really hurt some folks. It was such a blessing to see this post this morning!! Thank you so much for being willing to share your heart and life with others who are going through the same thing!!

    Love in Christ,

  4. Would it be okay with you if I shared this post on my blog? I would make sure to give you full credit, this is totally my heart and I would love to share it with others!!

    Love in Christ,

  5. Great post. It's very true! It's a bit off the subject, and comes down the road, but over the past 5+ years of being a missionary, I often hit a 3 month brick wall once I get back in the field...also because I'm mourning. It's not the same kind of mourning as when you first leave for the field, but...it's the feelings that come with connecting back with everything where I used to call "home." It's a matter of wanting to hold my nieces and nephew, and getting upset that I'm missing out on them growing up, wanting to get in the car with my parents and chat for hours, missing the comfort that comes with being able to go to the store and get whatever I want, missing the smells of falls, leaves changing colors, pumpkin picking, apple picking and going on hayrides. However, one thing I have found to help with all this is to embrace everything I can while I'm in the US. If I get to a place for more than a couple days I unpack my suitcase. I organize big meetings to meet acquaintances and supporters, and therefore have more time to spend with close friends and relatives. I take a few extra deep breaths and step on every leaf I can.

  6. Thank you for the honest sharing of your heart Addisyn!! As one who is surley no longer a kid, but praying fervently every day about going to the mission field, I am so glad to hear you acknowledge my fears! I'm so happy you got this posted after all this time. And I am thankful for your sweet spirit that has given me courage! (((HUGS)))!!

  7. I came to your blog through another blogger's page and I've been reading bits and pieces here and there. But this post especially speaks to me even as an adult in her mid-thirties. I'm an MK - all grown up now. But the grief is still there at times. And yes, like you, I value all of my experiences and am so thankful for the life lessons I've learned. I think it's hard to find that balance between valuing an MK lifestyle and acknowledging the difficulties of it. One doesn't have to negate the other! I think that's what is hardest for others to understand. Thank you for sharing so honestly here. You've been given a gift for writing and I hope that you never cease to use it for His glory!
    Jen @ Being Confident of This