Hannah Chapman was a third-culture kid (TCK) whose parents served in the Philippines, where she also grew up during most of her formative years. She now attends university in Australia.
What does being a TCK mean to you?
Now five years on from re-entry into my parent’s home culture (Australia), my TCK experience feels more subtle. It affects me in small ways, so I can sometimes forget that I had a very different experience growing up compared with my contemporaries.
How did being a TCK impact your choice to pursue mission as an adult, and what is your current involvement in mission?
I am involved with student ministry at my university, as well as specifically reaching out to international students through FOCUS (Fellowship of Overseas Christian University Students). My decision to be involved with FOCUS was largely influenced by my TCK experience. At the time, I felt more at home amongst international students and I wanted to use the unique experiences God has given me to welcome and share the gospel with them.
If you could have told your parents’ supporters one thing about being a TCK, what would you have liked them to know?
It’s difficult to navigate because sometimes I really did not want to be treated differently and all the extra attention as a “missionary kid” was very embarrassing. Other times, though, I really appreciated the specific questions about my experience and I felt as though my past was being interacted with.
What is one challenge you faced as a TCK?
Pride. It can be very easy to see some friends in Australia as close-minded and boring. That perception is not only inappropriate, but wrong. It took me a little while to begin to appreciate their “mundane” activities and skills without constantly comparing it with my different – but not necessarily better – experiences.
What is one blessing you’re thankful for as a TCK?
I am very thankful for the great care my parents took to help my sister and me with our many moves. Every trip involved discussion, journaling, drawing pictures of what we were going to miss, tears, looking through photos of where we were going, and prayer. The informal counseling we received helped to shape our expectations of the potential difficulties and joys. While it didn’t stop them coming, when they did come they were less earth-shattering and we could remain resilient.
What do you wish people knew about being a TCK?
The way a TCK reflects on their experience is greatly influenced by their age and proximity to their latest move. Someone who has recently moved can really appreciate questions about their previous “life.” Whereas someone who has already spent a couple of years adjusting may be trying to assimilate more and can really appreciate social invitations to normal local activities and events.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just last week I was at a camp for Christian university students. We had a missionary kids’ lunch on one of the days. It was such a joy for the seven of us from different campuses to meet – most for the first time – to talk about our experiences. We ranged from students who had been back in Brisbane for 10 years to those who only came back for their first year of study.
Some were from remote rural areas, and others from sprawling urban cities. Yet, at the drop of a hat, we were all best friends. We were all so excited to share stories without being seen as bragging, as well as finding it incredibly interesting to see how mission work is conducted in different areas and organizations.
Being back for five years, I had begun to forget what it was like when I first landed. Through our lunch (which felt way too short), I felt such a strong solidarity amongst all of us. It was definitely one of my highlights of the camp.