Friday, September 1, 2017

Former MKs Answer a Survey About Their Lives

Some of my friends said it would be interesting to see what adults who used to be missionary kids would say to an anonymous survey. I prepared ten questions. These results are from well over a hundred former MKs.

Thank you to all the former MKs and everyone who shared this survey. Your candid answers are valuable.

Q How many years total did you live on the mission field?
A 0-5  16%
    6-10  25%
    11-15  18%
    16+  41%

Q How old are you now?
A 18-25  24%
    26-35  25%
    36-45  29%
    46-55  4%
    55+  17%

Q Your memories of being an MK are …
A mostly positive  77% 
    mostly negative  4%
    about equally positive and negative  18%

Q Do you believe that your background of being an MK was helpful to you as an adult?
A Yes.  98%
    No.   2%

Q What would you say are the benefits of being an MK? (Check all that apply.)
A knowing another language(s)  81%
    having experience in church ministry  73%
    having a wider worldview  94%
    understanding how to adapt to other cultures  93%
    having a close relationship with my parents and siblings  62%
    being homeschooled  36%
    going to a Christian school with other MKs  12%
    being able to use my talents publicly from an early age (music, teaching, speaking, singing, etc.)  61%
    having a simpler, less-materialistic lifestyle  64%
    making friends from other countries  78%

Q In your opinion, what are the negatives about having been an MK? (Check all that apply.)
A feeling like a weird person since I don’t belong in the country where I grew up and I don’t belong in my 
          parents’ home country  53%
    difficulty with making friends  35%
    not understanding jokes and plays on words  35%
    thinking like a person from my mission field and not like the people around me 28%
    not understanding manners and etiquette  22%
    having my own fashion rules—that didn’t quite fit in  42%
    never having enough money and feeling poor  31%
    finding others who truly understand me, since I grew up in another country  54%
    extreme shyness—feeling backward and lacking self-confidence  40%
    feeling strange in my church. I went from being a big fish in a little pond to being a tiny fish in a big pond.

Q As an adult, what advice would you give to missionary kids? (Check all that apply and comment, if you wish.)
A Enjoy the journey! You truly have the best of both worlds.  86%
    Look at the positives. You’ll be glad in the future for this opportunity.  86%
    Learn all you can while you’re young. Being bi-lingual, understanding different cultures, and all the rest will 
            help you when you look for jobs.  89%
    Learn what you can about ministry. God will use this in your future.  80%

  • “I'm continuously using my MK background and helping others see a different perspective. Living by faith comes easy. When I realized how fortunate I was to grow up the way I did, I knew I could make a difference in the world and that my worldview helps how I see others. So blessed. I owe a debt I can never repay, but I can live my life responsibly and with purpose because many parents followed His calling and never turned back.”
  • “Don't let anyone tell you that you are less than someone who grew up in the USA. If anything, you are a little better because you have more experiences. But don't let that go to your head.”
  • “Jump in and participate. You are a missionary too!”
  • “Live a normal life. Don't isolate yourself from the people you live around. Don't think you are better than anyone. Don't always long for America.”
  • “Focus on all of the interesting opportunities you received as an MK instead of the ones you missed by not growing up in your passport country.”
  • “Understand that you are a national in the country/culture your parents have moved to. You are an individual and God will use you as just that.”
  • “Listen to your parents. They generally know what they are talking about.”
  • “God is gifting you with a set of opportunities that will allow you to develop in unusual ways as a person and as a believer. You can waste those gifts by complaining about the many difficulties of being an MK, or you can view them as gifts and let them mold your life in preparation for future service.”
  • “Don't be afraid to look for and get help when you need it whether it be educational, emotional, career oriented, or life oriented.”
  • “Cherish each experience. You'll have a bond with your siblings and parents that most people will never understand or enjoy. Ask God to show you how you specifically can minister to the people that you're serving.”
  • “Learn to recognize and accept both the good and the bad ... because both are equally valid. Some of your experience will aid you in life. Some of it will set you back; that's okay. Learn to see both, and learn to be okay with both.”
  • “Try not to focus on what others are doing. They aren't you. God gave you the privilege of your position, and it is wonderful to follow His lead and use the experience to further serve Him, wherever that may be. For me, it meant staying on the field and marrying a local, and the same for a sibling.”
  • “Remember that life is not about you. It's about bringing glory to God. So, every situation whether being a missionary kid or some other factor is an opportunity to either choose to delight in Him and let Him work in and through you or an opportunity to dwell on the negative (because there's always some to find) and allow your ministry to be squashed. It really is completely up to you whether you thrive or fail as a missionary kid.”
  • “Learn that your identity is in Christ and not where you love or where you are from.”
  • “Be thankful for the opportunities you have as an MK. While you may be the odd one out everywhere you go, your life is also enriched by experiences and you can be, hopefully, a blessing to many different people.”
  • “Learn to forgive and accept the people around you as you'd like them to forgive and accept you. Have a humble heart. Most of the people around you haven't had the benefit of a broader worldview like you've had, so be patient. Be patient with yourself, too. Don't beat yourself up if you mess up or need a big, messy cry. Guess what? People with a more narrow worldview mess up and have big, messy cries as well.”
  • “Don't be afraid to make a decision.”
  • “At first, it may seem like leaving your home country is a sacrifice. However, you'll realize when you're eighteen and have to leave the "foreign" country that the real sacrifice was not in going to the mission field, but leaving it.”
  • “I feel so blessed to have grown up as an MK!!!
  • “The negatives of being an MK tended to mitigate with age. I no longer feel extreme shyness or lack of confidence, and I've realized that the ‘no one understands me,’ though partially true, isn't completely true. Various people understand different aspects of my life quite well, and I can identify with a lot of people.”
  • “Even in the hard times, keep your head up and keep focused on God. In times of loneliness (which can be quite a lot) draw close to God. And never forget that you're not the only one and there are others on their knees praying for you!”

Q What advice would you give to missionary parents? (Check all that apply.)
A Give your children time and attention. They need to feel your unconditional love.  80%
    Make sure you do ministry along with your children. 63%
    Be careful to value your marriage.  69%
    Be aware of trends and fashions. Don’t insist that your children be old-fashioned and weird.  61%
    Say yes to things you can permit as a Christian parent while protecting your children from harm.  77%

  • “Make sure that they do right things because you've taught them God's Word, not because they are MKs and ‘they know better.’ Teach them doctrine, because they don't always get doctrine taught to them in school. They will learn biblical principles and they will be taught the way of salvation but they may not know how their group believes in baptism or other things in the Bible that are different from the other groups. So, help them learn doctrine when they are at home with you. Please celebrate American holidays. Keep up with the news of your home country. By all means, go home with your college-bound teen to help them settle.”
  • “Make spending time with your kids a priority. No, it doesn't have to always happen every day, but cut some time out of your week for that. And don't replace your time that you spend with your kids with ministry ... they will become bitter toward it if you do.”
  • “Do not put your ministry ahead of your children.”
  • “Create safety rules to protect your kids. I was raped at six and molested for years by five other people. You have a responsibility to keep your kids safe and it's more important than your missionary duties. The Bible is clear, God, family, church, others.”
  • “Don't isolate your children from the people you say you love enough to leave your home for. Allow your kids to be kids. Understand your kids are different than you and your ‘home’ is not their home (country).”
  • “Make an obvious effort to care about your child's interests and social life. I wasn't allowed either, because it was too much effort or money.”
  • “Allow your children to be individuals within the country and culture you have taken them. After all, they are now nationals.”
  • “Make sure your children are your top priority after God and your marriage. My parents were amazing missionaries, but we knew we were very important to them.”
  • “Don't force your children to be ‘American’ and patriotic. That will come in time, perhaps. And if not, it is no great loss. Don't criticize the nationals or complain about the difficulties of ministry in front of your children.”
  • “Let your kids be adults before they go back to their home country for higher education. The combination of transitioning into adulthood, home country, and university is hard.”
  • “Find ways to keep your children connected to extended family.”
  • “Allow your kids to minister in their own way. They may be able to minister to those that you could never reach.”
  • “Don't force religion on your children. Teach by example.”
  • “Never, ever, ever put the ministry above your children. God will work in your ministry in His timing, and your family is absolutely more important. For your children to feel safe, and like they're valuable in your eyes is very easily damaged when in ministry, and can have an eternal effect. Your ministry may be eternal, but the impact you have on your children is by far greater, and should always be prioritized.”
  • “Perhaps realize that going from a missionary home that spends a lot of time serving the worldly others around you is vastly different to being in a saturated Christian atmosphere with far fewer freedoms in many ways. Suddenly, your teens are affronted with Christians from all types of families and churches and seeing the rife hypocrisy is one of the biggest turn-offs for Christian teens. It makes sense, you know? You expect attitude from unsaved people, but it can be quite mind-blowing for a teen not used to the overwhelming Christian college culture. I went at twenty, and I know I really, really struggled and only lasted a semester and a half. I soon returned to my country, married a local, and we have been busy serving in many churches around the country as "encouragers" as we raise our children.”
  • “Family before ministry. Every single day.”
  • “Your kids are watching you. They may not agree with every standard you have for your family but they will remember how you loved them, invested in them, and whether or not you truly are a missionary because you love God and He is real in your life.”
  • “Help your children love and appreciate both the country they live in and their home country. Don't speak negative of either.”
  • “Encourage them in their dreams and hobbies, etc., and help them find ways to use their unique talents and passions for the Lord.”
  • “Don't insist that your children conform to standards of supporting churches just to avoid offending them. You set the standards of your home as you feel the Spirit's leading.”
  • “Always focus on the positives and come back on furloughs. This will help your children adapt when they return.”
  • “Plan your furlough around the school year to allow your kids to spend a whole grade in an American school.”
  • “Have a positive attitude toward both your home and host countries. My parents enjoyed furlough and terms on the field, and that rubbed off on me. Do fun family things as you travel. Visit a variety of churches. Enjoy family time, and always love each other. Don't forget to raise your kids while you minister to others.”
  • “Be aware of how other churches would perceive your ministry, but remember they don't control how you run your family. Don't expect your children to be above other children their age. Allow them to make mistakes, learn from them, and know that their parents will be there to pick them up.”
  • “If you are often giving voice to your inner questions (is deputation/furlough fair to my children?) or your worries (will he/she ever adjust to college and life after the field?), it will affect your children's outlook and attitude. Be positive about adaptation and flexibility!”
  • “Let your kids be kids, yes they'll help in your ministry but their first job is to be a child, not a ministry tool.”
  • “Expect the unexpected.”
  • “Talk to your kids about faith.”
  • “Make sure that your home is a place of transparency and vulnerability. Your kids probably know how to perform the good Christian kid role. Be sure to keep your relationship with them open so they know that they can come to you and admit whatever they are struggling with. Keep your family as your first ministry.”

Q What are the biggest blessings in your adult life because you were an MK? (Mark all that apply to you.)
A travel  77%
    language ability  64%
    vision for church ministry and reaching the lost  64%
    a general appreciation for missionaries and missions  82%

  • “Learning to adjust quickly to new things. Making a huge network of friends.”
  • “Well rounded amazing worldview, a love for people and a desire to be around those from a different country, a deep joy that springs from the privileged life and beautiful family closeness that transcends other families. A love for God and mankind adds a desire to see people of all colors and language groups come to know Christ. I have a rich cultural understanding and the ability to make friends across cultures. I have ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ (other missionaries) that are closer in most cases than family. There’s a sense of awe to think I've had such a great experience in life, and I feel guilty at times to think God chose me to be part of this life at this time. I'm so blessed ... it's beyond words. Thank you God.”
  • “I can generally adapt to any situation no matter how chaotic or bizarre.”
  • “I got to see life in another perspective. Something that would never have happened if I hadn't been an MK.”
  • “My experience growing up in a different country. The friendships I have around the world. A true understanding of missions.”
  • “Understanding that, as a Christian, it doesn't matter where you are, your purpose is the same.”
  • “The relationship with my siblings is by far the greatest personal gift that God gave me on the mission field and since. The people that we served are still very much in our lives and our worldview is much broader than most.”
  • “A broad worldview and perspective. My husband is from another culture and was attracted to my international identity. I am able to connect to different cultures all over the world.”
  • “Both my husband and I were MKs. We served as missionaries for twenty years. We will always feel like missionaries and think with a world perspective.”
  • “For me, it prepared me for ministry on the mission field.”
  • “The ability to adapt to and deal with many different situations and people.”
  •  “The biggest blessing came not from the material things, but when I learned to accept and love that I am who I am and where I am—because God loves me. The greatest blessing anyone can receive, is the saving knowledge of God's love, and the peace found in His sovereignty. However more MK specific, that I was able to stay in my country and marry a wonderful Christian man, and the impact that my childhood has had on my relationships with people now as an adult.”
  • “A bigger worldview, and a greater appreciation for how human and fallible people are, pastors included. I loved the talks with countless pastors and missionaries through our deputation and furlough trips, as well as inter-church things here in my field country. I've seen all sorts of people fall to temptation, and it's helped me seek to be wise and have good boundaries to protect my family and church.”
  • “A wider understanding of cultures, mindsets, and lifestyles.”
  • “Role models of genuine faith.”
  •  “I find that I tend to have a broader worldview than many who have only lived in the U.S. I don't have to have a lot to be happy. I didn't realize how poor we were growing up. We had everything we needed though often not frills. Because of that my financial goals are pretty simple and I don't feel I have to have the latest and greatest everything. My view of Christianity as being a follower of Christ, of desiring Him, and seeing Him as the all-powerful life changing God who takes the drug addict, the abused, the broken and makes them His own is far from the ritualistic approach to Christianity I have often seen in the U.S.”
  •  “I have a greater ability to see from another's perspective.”
  • “I was an eye-witness to the fact that a life lived for God is a life that is full and  not wasted. It's not just missionaries that see this, but any kid whose parents live for God comes to understand this through observation. However, MKs have a unique opportunity to see self-sacrifice and God's blessings.”
  • “Multi-cultural acceptance. We can blend in. We are able to see small needs and details; we are observant.”
  •  “Today I am serving on a foreign field that is vastly different than the field where I grew up. I am excited that our children get to experience such a unique opportunity! I expect they will experience loneliness or sadness that friends have moved on during the span of furlough or field time and I believe my personal experience as a missionary kid will prove useful as I help encourage them through MK life.”
  • “Because of how I grew up, I don't see someone who isn't worth befriending just because they are different. We are all weird in our own ways.”

Q Did you at any time in your adult life go through a patch of bitterness for the way you were brought up?
A Yes, but it lasted a short time.  20%
    No, not at all.  64%
    Yes, it was very difficult for me.  16%

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:58)


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