Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Foreign missions shape personality

Missionary kids have the opportunity to explore the world and learn about parts of foreign cultures that others may never see

culture — Elizabeth Brownd, Jessika Sams, Shannon Rutledge and Kaylee Akers are missionary kids at Liberty. Photo provided

Culture — Elizabeth Brownd, Jessika Sams, Shannon Rutledge and Kaylee Akers are missionary kids at Liberty. Photo provided

Liberty’s recent Global Focus Week began with international students presenting the flags of their home countries. However, there are some Liberty students who do not always know which country to call home. They are missionary kids.

Because they grow up in several places, missionary kids often adopt a mix of cultures.

Jessika Sams is a prime example of someone who has embraced multiple traditions. She has lived in five countries besides the United States and her most recent home was the United Kingdom.

“The majority of my personal culture is very American, but because I grew up overseas, I also carry parts of those cultures with me,” Sams said. “They all mix together to make up who I am.”

Ben Franks lived in Poland for five years and said he views himself as more Polish than American. He said his favorite missionary kid experience was having church inside a castle. But amazing experiences aside, he said he wishes more people would ask him about overseas ministry and not just whether he can speak Polish.

Alex Adams, a missionary kid who has lived in three European countries, also said that being asked what languages he speaks can get tiresome. He did say, however, that he enjoys finally living in a country where he does not have to worry about understanding what is being said around him.

Sage Lewis is a missionary kid who used to live in Thailand. She said that the one question she gets tired of answering is “Where are you from?”

“That’s the most difficult question for (missionary kids) to answer,” Lewis said. “We aren’t really from there. And for me, being from Thailand doesn’t make much sense to most, because I don’t look Asian.”

Sams added that one of the hardest parts of being an missionary kid is not being able to go back to the places she loves.

“For most of the places I’ve lived, I haven’t been given a chance to return,” she said. “It’s not like a favorite restaurant that I can return to every once in a while. I’ve had to say goodbye to the culture and the people I knew and know that I might never have those experiences again.”

Olivia Brown said something similar, stating that it is hard not being able to see her family over the holidays. She said she misses them and being a part of their ministry.
Aside from family, Brown, Franks and Sams all cited food as the thing they miss most.

“Everything else is usually replaceable or has similarities here in the U.S.,” Sams said. “But each country has a unique way of doing food that doesn’t normally translate across borders. Unless it’s McDonalds. That pretty much stays the same wherever you are.”

For Sams, coming back to the U.S. was a relief. After being surrounded by spiritual deadness, she was ready to be at Liberty with others who could help her grow in her faith.
However, Brown and Adams had a more difficult time readjusting. Both struggled with homesickness and loneliness when they first arrived.

“It was very hard coming back,” Brown said. “I had a difficult time making friends, because I closed myself off since I believed that no one else knew what I was going through. … I had to learn to find things I had in common with other Americans.”

In spite of the challenges, all missionary kids who were interviewed agreed that being a missionary kid was a positive experience. Some of the advantages they mentioned included traveling the world, seeing other cultures up close, having friends from different countries and learning to appreciate people who are different.

“I got to collect several friends from different areas, so I have multiple spheres of influence,” Adams said.

Sams encouraged her fellow students to broaden their own horizons by making friends who do not fit into their regular groups of friends. She specifically encouraged students to form friendships with international students and learn from their experiences as well.

“I would be a very different person if not for my missionary kid past,” Sams said. “Growing up outside of the U.S. has given me a love for other cultures, a desire to see the world and a desire to take the word of God to the nations.”

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