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Being a missionary kid (MK)

May 2011 | by Heidi Sand-Hart

Being a missionary kid (MK)

It is true that many ‘missionary kids’ are put off their parents’ religious beliefs, because it can sometimes feel like it’s been shoved down our throat. We suffer at the hands of our parents’ decisions, and that leaves us feeling like we had no choice in the matter.

Having to sit on the platform, facing thousands of people, with a video crew filming the ‘perfect missionary children’ during four-hour Indian seminars was enough to put anyone off, but, surprisingly, it didn’t have that affect on me.
    These things just seemed normal to me, because we didn’t know any better. We didn’t realise that we’d been given the short stick by having to sit through hundreds of meetings, crusades, camps, and seminars, but rather made the most of it.
    We made friends wherever we went and enjoyed the majority of it. I was always relieved when my mother was able to sneak us out of the unbearably long Indian village meetings in any number of foreign languages.
    We would sleep in strange houses and huts until the meal was served (usually around 11pm). I did get ‘burned’ by the church a few times, especially with people promising that Samuel would get healed on a specific date, and it didn’t happen.    
    These promises can have catastrophic consequences on a young mind and add unnecessary confusion, disappointment and pain. I personally was spared from forming a negative association between the duties of my parents’ faith and my own beliefs.
    
Liberating

Many fell away at the wayside, with the pressures and expectations too great, but the only way I can describe it is that God was far too real and present in my upbringing to bother questioning or denying his existence.
    The sacrifice and selflessness of my parents and their desire to help people, both spiritually and physically, has left a big mark on me, and I strive to live with the same pure intentions as they had and continue to have.
    One of the most liberating things for me about becoming an ‘adult third culture kid’ (ATCK) has simply been having the choice to decide whether to go to church or not.
    As a child, often my heart and mind wasn’t in church. Because I’d heard and seen it all before too many times, it became a chore and duty to my parents, not a friendship with God.
    I was put off church for a long while, because I had been overfed it. I had a confused relationship to it. Church was seen as the source of money, and we entered it with a heavy sense of duty to make a good impression on the congregations.
    Because of the constant moves, church wasn’t a long-term investment; it just spelt the end of more friendships. I still find it very exhausting to this day and see it as new people to get to know …
    I’ve always felt more comfortable in smaller settings, where I have the opportunity to question and understand things for myself (not just quietly accept things), and that is what I have found in London.
Heidi Sand-Hart

The author’s book Home keeps moving — A glimpse into the extraordinary life of a third culture kid is published by McDougal Publishing (160 pages, £7.99, ISBN: 978-1-58158-171-3)