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Questions missionary kids want to ignore

Taking a different approach to the conversation

By Cheri Stutzman | Contributor

Freshman Cheri Stutzman and her family lived in Thailand and served in that community for 15 years before she came to Taylor. (Photograph provided by Cheri Stutzman)

Freshman Cheri Stutzman and her family lived in Thailand and served in that community for 15 years before she came to Taylor. (Photograph provided by Cheri Stutzman)

Fast food. Long road trips. A different church every Sunday. Amongst the joys of seeing family again, a missionary kid (MK)’s return to the U.S. on furlough is fraught with culture shock, visiting supporting churches and questions they don’t know how to answer. As they travel from place to place and talk to family members who they haven’t seen in years, they are asked some recurring questions. And each of them missionary kids hear with dread.


What is it like in your country?

When MKs get this question, they are faced with the task of describing an entire culture in a few short sentences. Most countries are completely opposite of America, making it hard to describe it in a way that makes sense. Think of it this way: how would you, as an American, describe the U.S. to someone from a completely different culture? Instead, ask less broad questions. What is the culture like? The food? The people? The weather? Zeroing in on certain aspects creates a less overwhelming task.


Where is home?

It’s a normal question which most people can answer in one simple sentence. But for MKs it’s slightly different. An MKs passport says they are from one country but they don’t necessarily feel a part of that country. On paper they are from one country, but in their heart, it is not home.

For me, as a missionary kid from Thailand, home can be any of three places: here at Taylor, Pennsylvania or Thailand. We have pieces of ourselves scattered all across the world and choosing one place to call our own is like choosing a favorite family member.


What does a normal day look like?

For most MKs, their days aren’t much different from the average American. They wake up, eat breakfast, go to school and hang out with friends. The activities they do are the same, it is simply the surroundings that are different. When people ask this question, they are expecting MKs’ daily lives to be different from the average person, when in actuality, they are very similar. It is a hard question because what people expect may not be the truth.


What is your favorite thing about your country?

Most MKs love more than one part of the place they grew up in. They love the food, the weather, the culture, the random adventures they can go on. How can you pick one part of a country that has several different wonderful aspects?


Is it nice to be back?

Coming to the United States is a bittersweet time. There are reunions with family, food that MKs can’t get overseas and experiences they can’t have anywhere else. But, they also left behind friends, pets and ultimately home. The U.S. has a different culture than what they are used to, there are different ways to get around, different ways to order food. It is in some ways a foreign country to them, and returning is full of adjustments. It is nice to be back, but it is also hard.


So, the next time you come up to an MK and ask one of these questions, recognize that it may be hard for them to answer. But if you truly want to know, dig a little deeper and keep asking follow up questions and the lives of an MK living overseas may become just a little clearer.


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