The chapel is empty now. The service is over, and the students have all left. I’m here at this southern German seminary in the Black Forest with two other Gospeltribe staff. We’ve been sharing about our Missions Training School and Summer Outreach Trips. But now it’s time to drive back down the winding mountain roads to the Gospeltribe base.
“Excuse me. Can I talk to you?” Startled, I turn to see a girl about 18 years old, shifting her weight nervously from one foot to the other. She looks as if her eyes could spill over with tears at any moment.
“My name’s Tanya,” she hurriedly explains. “And when you said in the service that you grew up in a missionary family, I was so excited and just had to talk with you! I’m an MK too – a missionary kid! My parents are from Germany but I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. My family’s just moved back to Germany, and this is my first year at the seminary. It’s great here, but…”
Looking away for a moment, Tanya regains her composure and continues. “…No one understands me here. I’m the only missionary kid at the school. Nobody knows what it’s like! Germany doesn’t feel like home to me. Kenya is my home!”
“My heart instantly connects with Tanya. I remember leaving my school and friends after a year in Guatemala and moving back to the U.S. when I was thirteen. I know what it’s like to return “home” to a place that doesn’t feel like home anymore and feel like a foreigner in your own country. Experts who have researched “third culture kids” explain it this way: if your family’s home culture is blue, and the culture you grew up in is yellow, then you are green – not fully one culture or the other, but a mix of both. Sometimes it feels like you don’t fit in anywhere.
As I hug Tanya and pray with her, I’m reminded that Jesus knows what it feels like to be in a place that isn’t really home. He had to leave Heaven to live among humans on the earth. That must have been an extreme culture shock! And even His closest friends didn’t get it when He talked about His Father and His Heavenly home. Jesus knows what it’s like to be homesick, to be lonely, and to feel that no one understands. We can come to Him with our loneliness and hurts. He understands.
“Thank you so much!” Tanya wipes away tears and smiles shyly after the prayer. “I knew you’d understand me.”
Though there were many students in the service that evening, I’m convinced I was there for one girl – one lonely missionary kid who just needed to know that someone else had been through what she was going through, to encourage her that she would make it.
Who can you encourage today?
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted.” 1 Peter 3:8 (New Living Translation)