I really enjoy my daughter as an adult. She is 23 now and spreading her wings in many areas. Interestingly, she has experienced already many things that few of her peers have. Living in Europe and the former Soviet Union for more years than in Texas, she feels more European than American. Still she is very patriotic and loves being in the states when she’s here.
I guess she could be called a “third culture” kid as many missionary children are. Usually the fruit of that kind of living abroad is that one never fits fully into any culture — never fully learning the language and way of life of where you are sent to — many missionaries or servicemen stationed abroad in reality live in a sort of American sub-culture.
To understand this better, think about the large number of migrant workers Texas, has from Mexico. Many do not learn English or integrate into society fully. They live in the safety and shelter of their sub-culture. They are Mexicans living as Mexicans but live across the border in Texas, with American pluses.
It is possible and sometimes common for missionaries in other countries to do the same. It definitely does not diminish the importance and influence of the missionary calling and work or the fact the missionary should learn the language and culture as much as possible. It would be irresponsible not to do your best in a place where God has called.
But it is a reality. Truly breaking into a foreign culture takes years, even generations, and is difficult. A few missionaries have done this well over the centuries of sending and going. But I just don’t belief it is the most important goal anymore. And missionaries shouldn’t become obsessed with it.
Years ago in the days when a missionary left home and comfort with his worldly belongings in a bag and his casket, he had a better chance of becoming fully integrated into a new society. There was not turning back.
Today the world’s citizen are mobile and the world is small.
I think some missionaries put too much emphasis on becoming like the people and culture in which they are called. The truth is God uses us as we are and from where we hail. There is beauty and depth in our callings as we respond as who we are. God has done everything possible to enhance and provide for the mission, and our roots play into that equation mightily. It is more about Him and less about me.
Many “third culture” kids have a tendency to despise things from their homeland. In fact, it becomes kind of cool among some young expatriates living abroad to loathe or mock your homeland and gravitate to that which is foreign or different.
Sometimes the grown-ups serving abroad do this too. While in another culture and away from home, it is easy to see the mistakes and shortcomings of home or the church at home and return for a visit with the tools to make adjustments. It is easy to become critical against those who believed in you enough to send you and keep you there.
Those serving abroad learn painstakingly all of it stops and starts at the cross with a revelation of Jesus, and that message transcends culture. The message of salvation I proclaim for others is reduced to coming through the filter of me, and I am American. The Good News can be received through the filter of any culture anywhere. God will not let any man glory in himself.
When my daughter is home, she loves the states. When she is in another culture, she loves that too. I admire that about her.
I also enjoy long conversations and heart to heart chats with her. We laugh hard. We laugh a lot. Sometimes we laugh so hard and so much that my husband — her daddy — makes us settle down. It’s really cute.
My daughter inspires me to love others more and enjoy life to the fullest. She inspires me to keep pouring my life out for Jesus here and abroad.
It’s all about obedience.
Something sweet: Often when we are visiting and sitting by each other on the sofa or in the kitchen, she will take my wedding ring off and slip it on her finger — just like she did as a little girl — her eyes sparkling into her own dreams of marriage someday.
I look at her in those moments and think however I may have failed as a parent — and many such proofs are evident — I have somehow managed to instill within her a good sense of the need for laughter and the importance of dreaming…
Dream on, little girl, dream on.
She’s fully embracing life now and banking on some dreams to come true too, and I keep telling her, “It’s a comin’… It’s a comin’.”