I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting on a small bed, in a strange room, looking at the iron bars on the window that made the room feel more like a prison, and sobbing over and over “I want to go home!” It was our first night in Ecuador, and I was homesick for Canada and terrified.
Fast forward 10 years later to May 29, 1991 –- my highschool graduation day. Standing in a long line in what had become known as the “wailing wall,” with my classmates on either side of me. Friends, family, teachers and other students hugging me, wishing me well, and crying. As tears streamed down my face, I sobbed over and over “I want to stay! I want to stay!”
Such is the emotional roller coaster of the MK life. Constantly being confronted by new and scary experiences. Always being forced to make new friends, while wondering how long they will be in your life for. Experiencing heart break as friends, who have become like family, come and go. It is a wonderful, exciting, challenging, and bitter-sweet life. And I wouldn’t trade my experience on the mission field for anything.
I was eight years of age when we set foot for the first time in Quito, Ecuador. Old enough to be angry with my parents for tearing me away from my school, my friends and my beloved grand-parents. Old enough to understand how hard it is to make new friends. And, old enough to make sure my parents knew just how angry I was at them. As someone once put it, missionaries are called to the mission field… but missionary kids are drafted.
While I’m not proud to say that I spent our first few years on the field ensuring that my parents “paid” for what they had done to me, I am pleased to say that I got through that rough patch and eventually came to the place where, 10 yeas later, I was literally begging to stay. I attribute that change in heart in part to the amazing teachers at the school my brothers and I attended. Missionaries themselves, their soul purpose on the mission field was to come alongside the MKs to educate, affirm and befriend us in the unique setting we found ourselves in. Today, more than 15 years later, I am still in contact with many of them and honoured to count them as trusted friends.
I also owe my change in heart to my grandparents and the many men, women and churches in North America that supported my parents both financially and through prayer. The prayers they said for me –- especially in those first few years when I gave my parents a hard time –- were crucial, as were their letters, care packages, and extra attention when we returned on furlough. Nothing is more important to a missionary family than constant contact with “home!”
But most importantly, I must acknowledge the tremendous impact of my parents, who though called to a demanding, full-time ministry as missionaries, never once made me feel like I was second fiddle. They did all they could to help me adjust to our new life, provided as normal a life as possible, and made it very clear that their family came first – even if it meant leaving it all to return to North America. I’ve seen first-hand the devastation that can explode in a missionary family when the parents put too high a priority on the work they have been called to and not enough emphasis on the family God has blessed them with. I’m a so grateful that my parents understood this delicate balance.While I would not have been able to say this at eight years of age, at 34 I can confidently say that my experience as a missionary kid is the best thing that every could have happened to me. I remember with fondness earthquakes and mud slides, climbing volcanoes, eating bugs, military coups, and jungle adventures. I feel honoured to have been part of a close-knit missionary community, to see the hand of God move in miraculous ways, and to hear voices praising God in a variety languages. I am an MK, and I’m proud of it!