Things I Learned From Being A Missionary Kid

I read this blog post a couple weeks back and it got me thinking about my own experience with being a missionary kid.  Note this post isn’t about whether or not living in missions is good or bad. This is simply about my experience and how I feel now looking back.

Life growing up in missions was a serious mix of feelings for me. It was certainly an adventure. I loved traveling and living in different countries.  Being a missionary kid taught me things like:

America isn’t everything: The world is fantastic and vast outside of America, life is teeming with possibilities. America isn’t the greatest country in the world.
I am incredibly lucky to have the things I do: Growing up I always knew I was poor, but I didn’t know that there were people poorer than me. I mean I knew it but I hadn’t seen it for myself.  Being in missions has taught me what I can live without, and it’s also taught me to always be grateful for the things I have.
Home is where I make it: From the jungles of Ecuador to the beaches of St. Lucia to the cities of the Philippines. Home and friends and fun are there.  Adapting is easy, and home isn’t something I leave behind. It’s something I carry with me. I am incredibly grateful to have learned these things.

But on the other side of this equation, I carry some anger and resentment about other experiences I had too.
People forget me: Moving around so often, making friends here and there, and then leaving has taught me that people don’t care to follow up with claims of friendship after you’re gone. The saying “Out of sight, out of mind” is really true, and it has taught me to be very careful who I’m friends with because I’m tired of getting my heart broken.
People didn’t stop to know me: Being from a big family in missions I also learned that people don’t care to look at the individuals in my family.  They look at all of us and listen to my parents and then judge us, without stopping to ask me or my siblings how we feel. I felt like a lot of my individuality was lost.
I felt used: It’s amazing how something as selfless as missionary work can still be used by people for their own ends.  There were a lot of times I felt like my only worth was in the fact that I came from a hard working family.  I was liked because I could do things for them.

I do still think that good can be done in missions, but I don’t feel like people talk about the problems that can arise.  Missionary life isn’t easy, and it certainly changes your life forever, and not always in ways that you expect.

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for opening up Abigail. I’m going to talk with the kids about this. You bring up some really good points and it makes me want to reach out to the other missionary kids. Some of them have only known missions. But I can totally see the truth in what you are saying, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd even if that crowd is only your family. Funny the things one never thinks of. Dad and I only thought about how great is was you kids had each other. I’ve tried to build a very strong family culture that helps to form roots for you kids with the activities we do as a family, our prayers, ect. Love you so much hun ~mama

  2. This is very true, Abi. Most people only talk about the positives of mission life and are too afraid that they’ll push people away who may be considering becoming missionaries if they say anything that might seems critical. Some people only criticize missions because it didn’t fit for them. But the truth is that there are upsides and downsides in mission life, just like any other life. The struggle that I have with being a missionary is when people learn that I am one, and then automatically think, “Oh, well, then you must be perfect,” and then act shocked that I could ever do something so normal and imperfect as fight with my siblings. They say, “I thought you were a missionary?” and it drives me crazy because even though I’ve been to foreign countries and told people about Jesus, that doesn’t make me somehow not have normal human tendencies or shortcomings. Anyway, there are my thoughts on this. Thanks for posting! It was really great to hear.

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