Bethan is a Third Culture Kid who is now living in the UK. Last year, she spent one month at KidZone working with children who were transitioning into being Third Culture Kids. She discusses how her experiences as a TCK have impacted her relationship with mission.
What led you to go on this trip to KidZone?
My parents were missionaries with OMF in the Philippines. So, I couldn’t really escape from OMF. That’s how I heard about this. The year I finished my A-levels, I was thinking about what to do in my gap year. My parents knew about this program in Singapore working with kids.
KidZone is for children who are moving away from their home country and about to become TCK’s… That was fascinating because I kind of went through that experience myself. I knew what it felt like to step out of the country you were brought up in and have to move over to a completely new culture. So, I thought maybe I could share my experience.
What was that like for you?
It was really cool. There was one family in particular who had returned to their home country for a year before their time at KidZone, and they were finding it really tricking. I was able to share how I had struggled in school as well moving back, and sort of help them in that. I showed them there is a verse in Philippians that says our citizenship is in heaven. If we struggle with identity sometimes that’s ok, but our identity is not in the country we come from or our parent’s country but in Jesus. Heaven is our ultimate home.
Did you experience culture shock in Singapore?
Singapore has quite a mix of cultures. The Chinese, Malay, and Indian culture. So, it’s quite a diverse place. It’s very developed, you feel like you are in a rich country and in that way it’s an in-between of the West and developing Asia.
I didn’t really have culture shock, as I grew up in the Philippines and knew some of what Asian culture is like. And, I had been to Singapore before with my family. I found it really exciting to be back in Asia again. Just to smell everything and see everything and feel the heat again.
I just… I loved it.
How should we look at mission? Should we go, just because mission is a good thing?
I feel like it shouldn’t just be a glamorous trip, like I holiday. I think you should have some sense of some calling and for me, when I was thinking about it, I just prayed about it a lot.
I decided to apply and thought I can stop my application at any point if I felt like this wasn’t the right thing. But along the way there were more and more signs showing me, “this is where God wants me to go”. And, sometimes you just need to do something. Even if God doesn’t speak to you directly and say, “do this”, but you feel quite sure then you need to take the step yourself and you’ll find out for sure if it’s the right thing. It was lots of little encouragements and everything sort of fell into place applying for it, and I took that as yeah, I was supposed to do it.
The time I had out there was really good and really encouraging and to serve the kids and family as well. But the bigger question of how do you know if you should do missions, yeah, it’s tricky but you just need a calling from God.
Did your view of mission change at all from your Serve Asia experience?
I think it did a little. Just in seeing all the families coming to Singapore to go out to East Asia and to see everything they have left behind. It was quite a big step of faith for all of them. I was really challenged by what people give up to serve God and follow Jesus to where they think He is calling them. I was challenged by that.
Did you experience any disappointments or big challenges?
Yes, I did. In the group of kids I was working with, which was 7-10 years old’s, there were a few children that had very little English. That was really difficult especially at the beginning. Even to explain how to play games and when we were doing stories they didn’t know what we were saying or what was going on. So, it was kind of hard to just let them know what was going on. It was definitely a challenge but something we prayed about quite a lot.
By the end, one of the older boys who had struggled was actually coming up to us and starting conversations in English and really trying hard to understand.
Kids are pretty great actually, even without language they manage to figure out what’s going on and let you know how they are feeling and communicate with you in some way.
Did the Lord give you a Bible verse or anything to help you for your placement?
Before I went I was quite worried about going and teaching kids and being responsible and having to be in charge. I was praying and a bit worried, and read this verse in Exodus 4:12 which says, “Now go, I will help you speak and teach you what to say”.
I saw I do need to really just trust God. He’s going to help me and give me the strength to manage and the wisdom when I’m there.
Did your time change how you view daily life or the future?
It made me really love Asia. But also, with all the families that are going to share the gospel with people that aren’t reached, it opened my eyes to how great the need is.
What advice can you give those considering a Serve Asia short-term mission placement?
Keep praying about it. Definitely, you can’t pray too much. If you really think God is calling you to do it, you need to take the step of faith and do it. Amazing things will happen, but you need to trust in God and lean on Him for the strength and your energy- especially if you are working with kids! Just lean on Him.