The question of where I am from has to be the most difficult question to answer when I meet new people.
I’m an MK, missionary kid. I’ve lived in Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and even overseas in Papua New Guinea. I’ve left a little piece of my heart in each of these places, so deciding which to call my “home” is impossible!
And usually when I bring up the fact that I’m an MK, a host of other questions follow, questions that are complicated to answer in a brief get-to-know-you conversation.
The truth is that being an MK is sometimes difficult. We left the States for Papua New Guinea (PNG) when I was fourteen years old. Prior to that, we moved every 1-2 years, so saying goodbye was a part of life, a part that certainly never got any easier.
When we arrived in PNG, my siblings and I faced other trials, such as beginning at a new school, adjusting to life without modern conveniences, and handling less freedom (mainly for girls, as it wasn’t safe to walk about alone). But the hardest part? The hardest part was living apart from our parents in a family-style dorm.
Moving to a third-world country was hard enough, but add in teenage hormones and it might just be a recipe for disaster. 🙂
Making new friends at that age is always hard, but it was complicated by the fact that I was once again, the “new girl” in a school full of students who had mostly known each other all of their lives. I felt out of place and alone at first, with my parents only accessibly by short-wave radio.
But by far one of the blessings of being an MK and moving to PNG was that I attended a small, Christian school run by other missionaries. Making friends was a little easier due to the fact that most of us lived together (on the school base), played together (sports like soccer, volleyball, softball, and basketball) and went to class together.
In fact, in my case the blessings of life as an MK far outweighed the trials.
I watched my parents live out their faith in a very practical way. I also lived alongside other godly examples: teachers, dorm parents, coaches, youth leaders, and other missionaries who had devoted themselves to the spread of the gospel. Seeing their faith in action had a profound impact on me.
Additionally, I made friends who came from all over the world – Canada, Ireland, Australia, PNG, India, England and more – and learned what living in a third world country is really like. I learned a new culture and some of a new language, two in fact!
More importantly, I saw people go hungry, both spiritually and physically, a lesson I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
As an MK, I also experienced quite a bit of adventure. I swam in the ocean and played on an “untouched” beach when our class traveled to a port city. I climbed Mt. Elimbari with my family and made it halfway up Mt. Wilhelm with my class, the highest in the country at an elevation of over 14,000 feet.
I jumped from a two-story cliff into a pool of water at Keia Falls, multiple times. I hiked in the “bush,” ate fresh tropical fruit, and attended many “mumus,” feasts cooked in a large pit in the ground filled with pork or chicken, sweet potatoes of all varieties, greens, and sometimes corn, my favorite.
During school breaks, I spent time in the tribe with my parents in our bush house – a small house of woven bamboo and pit-pit (a smaller reed) with a tin roof, up on stilts, on the side of a red-clay mountain range. The view was to die for! 🙂
Sometimes I really miss living in PNG. Life there was quieter and slower-paced. We spent little time watching our tiny tv on batter power. We spent much time outdoors, enjoying the beautiful landscape. We played a lot of board games, even by kerosene lantern, and ate a lot of stove-popped popcorn.
Certainly the most important thing I could tell you about being an MK is that I wouldn’t choose any differently, in spite of the tough times.
Because the best blessing I received during those years was better than every good opportunity I listed above.
The best blessing was an opportunity to grow near to the Lord.
During those years in PNG, my faith became real and personal to me. The Lord removed all of my comforts, everything I leaned on (including my parents), to bring me into a deeper walk with Himself. At times, He even removed my very health. But it wasn’t for naught. There was purpose in even the most painful trials.
He pursued me, all the way to Papua New Guinea and back.
He pursues me still.
So maybe the best answer to “Where are you from?” is to simply say:
I’m an MK, so I’m from all over the place!
I don’t have just one home; I have many.
But I know Who I belong to.
And He’s been faithful all along the way!
“Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Psalm 36:5
This post has been published in The Missional Handbook by Rosilind Jukic. If you have any interest in missions, this book contains a wealth of information from a variety of perspectives (affiliate link).
Sharing with: The Loft, Make Your Home Sing Mondays, Tell It To Me Tuesdays, Tell His Story, Wholehearted Wednesdays, Grace and Truth
Leah Adams says
Jen, I loved reading this! It gave me insight into YOU, and how wonderfully the Lord has led you and cared for you all your life. Would love for you to link it up at The Loft. Our topic this week was I Am…. The linky will be open for another 24 hours if you have time to link it. Bless you, friend.
Thank you, Leah! I appreciate the reminder about the Loft, too. Earlier this week, I was trying to think of what to share, but this worked out perfectly. I made it just in time, haha.
Woot, Sweet Jen has come back to the Loft! It was nice to see new faces, but it’s nice to see some favorite old ones too <3 I loved this from your post: "More importantly, I saw people go hungry, both spiritually and physically, a lesson I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life." Powerful!
Hi, Ren! 🙂 I’m not sure how consistent I’ll be able to be, but it’s nice to join in when I can. Thanks for stopping by here and leaving some encouragement for me.
Love this! Incredible experience.
What amazing photos, too. Looks like a beautiful place.
It really is a beautiful place! I really miss those mountain views here in flat Indiana, haha.
Mari-Anna Stalnacke says
Thanks for this post, neighbor. I am a very mission-minded and do wonder how my kids would take it to live overseas. Blessings to you!
I’m so glad you stopped by, Mari-Anna! There is so much more I could say about being an MK, but this is a good start. 🙂 Hope your day is full of joy!
Betsy de Cruz says
Wow, Jen! What a life! My kids have grown up in Izmir, Turkey since ages 2 and 4. They’ve lived with us the whole time, but there are some very hard things, like saying good-bye to so many TCK friends over the years, and now being some of the VERY few teenage TCK’s in our city. (It is just so hard for families with teens here that most of them leave.) HOWEVER, there are so very many good things about it too, as you say in your post! My son starts college in Texas in August, and we will be stateside for 9 months to support him his first year of college. Sorry about the book I’ve written, but your post struck a chord with me.Beautiful to read!
Hi, Betsy! Yes, I can imagine that being only a few teens would be quite difficult! It’s so nice that you will be home for a while with your son – I think that will help him make a much smoother transition. I was so very homesick my first 6 months. Although my Mom came over the summer after I graduated to help me settle in to college, she had to return not long after I started. Thank the Lord my grandparents didn’t live too far away, so I spent quite a bit of time at their house on weekends (a couple of my cousins lived there as well). That transition back to the states is just as difficult as the transition from the states to overseas, I think! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by.
Jennifer DeFrates/Heaven Not Harvard says
Sounds like you had exactly the life God planned and because your parents lived in obedience, you got to see faith and life from a place most people don’t even know exists, ever, much less as a teen. It sounds like a beautiful life. Thank you for sharing your testimony.
So true, Jennifer! I’m very thankful for it. 🙂
Coupon Gal (Andi) says
i see that God is doing a work in you all these years 😀
Hi, Andi – yes, He certainly is. Thanks for stopping by!
Farin Vazquez says
It’s not a given, that children growing up are able to see their parents living life in such an obvious, practical way. This really shows that life is made not by where you live (or the length of time in one place) but by how your family showcases their faith and supports growth in the family.
Exactly! I’m grateful for parents who demonstrated authentic faith!
Gina B says
Wow, what a great experience! I didn’t know ANY missionaries as a kid, and my kids’ disabilities prevent us at present from doing this kind of life – so this was a great insight into missionary life. It must have truly built a firm foundation in your faith! Is it ok to be envious of that? 🙂
Yes, it certainly did build a firm foundation for me – praise the Lord! I know other MKs who have actually turned away from the faith, so it really depends on how God is allowed to work, I believe. My parents played a big role in that, as well, by demonstrating really authentic faith, and that makes a big difference!
Rosevine Cottage Girls says
Love this post! My friends are missionaries in Sierra Leone Africa, I love hearing their stories.
Awesome! Missionary stories really are like no other (obviously, haha). Our kids really enjoy hearing about my growing up years and reading other missionary biographies, too. It’s a great way for kids to learn more about the faith!
Brandi @ penguinsinpink.com says
This is beautiful. I have friends who are going to be missionaries to Peru somewhere in the mountains soon. This gives me some insight into what it’ll be like for their three little girls. So thankful of the faith that grew in you during your MK days.
How exciting! It’s definitely a whole other world! I think the best thing parents can do to help their children is to have conversations about the hard parts. If you or your friends are interested, there is a blog I follow that shares often about missionary kids and families called A Life Overseas. They have some excellent articles for MK parents to read! I pray their transition overseas is smooth.
I didn’t realize I hadn’t commented on this yet. Oops! What an inspiring story, and a deeper glimpse into what God has used to make you YOU! I always wished I’d been an MK. I glamorized it in my mind.
Thank you for sharing part of the story, and I’d love to hear more of your adventures and struggles. <3