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Third-Culture Kids

by on October 31, 2017
I was 9 when my parents told us that we would be moving to South America. The rest of that year was spent preparing to move from Minneapolis to Seattle and eventually down to Bolivia in January 1993.
Growing through those formative years of adolescence as a missionary kid is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I am grateful for the experience of a different culture, learning another language, and the opportunity to form deep friendships with the people I encountered. On the other hand, there were many times I would have preferred to have a more “normal” teenage experience. Missionary kids are often referred to as “Third-Culuture Kids” in that there are part of them that identify more with the culture of their sending country and other parts that identify with the culture of country where their family is serving, but don’t fully feel at home in either. After I left Bolivia and went to college, for years one of the hardest questions for me to answer was, “Where are you from?”
For Christians, we are all, in a sense, Third-Culture Kids. When Paul, a Roman citizen writing to Roman citizens, says, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3.20), he is aware of the discrepancies between God’s priorities and those of the Roman empire. Until Christ returns, we will never fully “fit in” in either world. And this is okay. We are meant to live in the tension between where we are now, and what God will do for us in the future. In the meantime, God has placed us in our particular culture and neighborhoods so that we might be ambassadors and witnesses for heaven, where our true citizenship remains. No one is as uniquely qualified to represent Christ among your specific culture as you are.  He has placed you there with a mission to tell of his love, and therefore we are all mission-aries sent to bear witness to His love.

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