Growing up in Japan as a missionary kid, there were times I didn’t feel like I quite fit in because of my foreigner parents. One of those time was onigiri (rice ball) days.
Friday lunch was bring-your-own-onigiri day at my local Japanese elementary school. From Monday to Thursday the school provided rice, noodles, or bread with lunch, but Friday was different. 70% of my classmates’ moms wrapped their onigiri in plastic wrap, and the other 29% in aluminum foil.
But on days my American missionary mom had forgotten to restock plastic wrap, there was me… That 1%… An onigiri in a plastic produce bag… I remember feeling really embarrassed to pull out my onigiri from my Japanese-style backpack at lunch time. Maybe if I was in a different county no one would think that’s weird, but this is Japan! You do what everyone else does or you’re considered weird.
I share this childhood trauma with you not because I felt like my missionary parents didn’t love me growing up. Actually, it’s the exact opposite reason why I share this with you today.
You see, since being an adult and introducing myself as a missionary kid I get this question asked a lot. “How was it growing up as a missionary kid? Did you feel like your parents prioritized ministry above family?”
I don’t. I don’t feel like they ever were too busy with ministry that they didn’t take time for us kids. Or that they forced us to behave in a certain way because we were “missionary / pastor’s kids.” My parents are some of the busiest people I know, yet I’ve never once felt like they shushed me because they were in a middle of a Bible study or told me I had to help with an outreach event. Yes, they occasionally forgot to buy plastic wrap, but I never once felt forgotten.
For those with the misconception that missionary kids come out wounded and hurt because their missionary parents putting ministry above them, I’m living proof it doesn’t have to be that way.
I am thankful that God’s grace is enough for not just the missionaries, but for their children as well.
By Naomi, an OMF Missionary