Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Twenty-five

It's a wonder more missionary kids don't leave their parents' faith.  As it is, the statistics are high.  When I look just at the Fundamental Baptist missionaries from our first country, Grenada, I see a lot of brokenness, beyond even the statistical odds for our State-side counterparts.  Broken marriages, abuse allegations, children who are now atheists or agnostics, and even those of us who have left Fundamentalism for a different "brand" of Christianity--it's all counter to what we were taught, what the plans for our lives were.

Of course, my parents, who are still together and still serving on the mission field, would say that those other missionaries who failed to attain or remain at the high Fundy standard of perfection were never truly Christians at all, or that they believed the lies of the Devil, or that those hurting people are "acting out" because they are bitter about something or other.

One missionary family fell apart, the parents splitting/deconverting, some of the kids going wild, and my parents said it was to be expected, because that was the worldly missionary family.  They weren't as spiritually minded as us.  But another missionary family imploded, and it was the family that was MORE holy and set apart than we were, and it mystified my parents.  I'm sure it makes no sense whatsoever that the "worldly missionary family" we knew in Singapore turned out to be a stable one, with kids who have stayed Christians. Ironically, their daughter, the one my mom warned was a corrupting influence has turned out to be much more conservative than I am.  Maybe Mom should have encouraged me to spend more time with her, not less.

We weren't allowed to pursue deeper friendships with these other Singaporean MKs,
because they were deemed  worldly by my parents.  They had VeggieTales parties,
which included evil rock music, so they were clearly not good Christians like us.
I still don't know why our parents let us go to this party.

Christian families are losing their kids from the faith all over, but I feel that MKs have it the worst, because we were so isolated.  There have been studies on why missionary kids in particular struggle so much with acclimating to the culture upon returning to their native land.  Many former MKs are speaking up, telling their stories. In today's digital age, everything is readily available in ways it was not years ago, so it sometimes feels like there is an information overload, that there are more kids leaving the faith now than there were before.  Maybe it's true, I dunno.

Kids who are raised in one culture, with parents from a different culture, grow up between two worlds, never fully being accepted into or accepting either culture.  When you throw in multiple cultures, it gets even more confusing.  I consider myself a West Indian.  And also a Singaporean.  And my passport says I'm American.  My family now lives in India.  But what am I, really?  None of those things, fully.  I'm a nothing.  An in betweener.  A Third Culture Kid.

Grenadian Hannah with her sisters
Because I had a childhood without roots (we only visited America four or five times in my whole childhood, and we all saw it as just another trip to a foreign country), I've spent much of my adult life learning to fit in, to hide the confusion and lack of connection.  My parents taught us that the culture in which we were growing up was godless and wicked, so we couldn't fully embrace it.  But then we saw the materialism and limited worldview of American culture, and knew we couldn't embrace that either.  It took "this world is not my home" to a whole new level.

Singaporean Hannah with her family

I remember when my mom first discovered the book on TCKs, she almost threw it at me, maybe hoping it would heal me, make it all better, make me NOT a TCK anymore, by her acknowledgement that I had a "problem."  I always just thought there was something wrong with me, with my family, with the other mks.  Maybe we weren't holy enough, or spiritual enough, or dedicated to God enough, and that's why we kept having issues.  And all of our problems relating to this were downplayed, never affirmed, our fears rarely comforted.

People sometimes laugh when I tell them I didn't know what the World Trade Center was on 9/11, but, honestly, at the time my only concern was that the world's airports had been closed, and I was worried I'd be trapped in the United States.  I was a freshman in college and that day, that week, that month, I felt totally alone in the world.

When people ask me where I'm from today, I still often reply, "Singapore," and many will ask, "Oh, missionary kid?" while nodding with a understanding look on their faces.  But how can they understand?  I don't even understand.  I still don't.  Maybe it's the spiritual trauma I experienced when I came to the States--I couldn't fit in even when I tried so hard.  But butting up against an abusive past, I knew I couldn't go back.  But how to go forward?  And to where?