Third culture kids missionary kids attending omf orientation with tck advocate playing missionary games

When God Uses our Past to Serve Him Today

OMF Blog

The God of All Comfort

Facing the past can mean finding joy in the present. That’s true for Harmony who has been compelled by Christ’s love to comfort others, just as she has been comforted. Read how God is using her today in the lives of Third Culture Kids.

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By Harmony Niphakis

“Who wants seaweed?!” I barely get the words out before a swarm of kids surround me and start grabbing for sheets of the stuff. I see a five-year-old shove four sheets in her mouth at once, and in a second, all traces of the green fishy snack are gone.

The kids are trying to convince me to open another package, and I almost give in because, honestly, the looks they are giving me are reminiscent of something I might see on Shark Week.

I stand my ground and give them hope for tomorrow: There will be more seaweed! This is not the end!

They reluctantly disperse, returning to their other apparently less interesting snacks of popcorn and fruit strips. Mental Note: order a truckload of seaweed next time.

My heart is full being here and serving this fantastically unique “tribe” of children: Third Culture Kids (TCKs)*, or more specifically, Missionary Kids (MKs)

Shared Experiences of Transition and Loss

Like me, these American kids have spent most of their early childhood growing up in East Asia while their parents serve as missionaries among the unreached.

Every two to four years, these families return to the States for six to twelve months on “Home Assignment”, an opportunity for them to reconnect with extended family and ministry partners. And THAT is when I have the privilege of spending a full week with these kids. We call the week HART: Home Assignment Reunion & Training.

I never had the opportunity to attend HART as a kid. I was eight years old when our family returned to the States after serving in Thailand. I had never lived in the States before that summer in 1999, and little did I know that the transition to my passport country would be such a challenge.

I longed for my Asian home every day. I felt confused and uncertain about the emotions I felt. And I craved friendships with kids whose cross-cultural experience extended beyond trips to Taco Bell or watching Mulan.

The Growth of TCK Care

At the time, TCK Care, such as the care of business kids, diplomat kids, and missionary kids, was still a blossoming field. Few people understood how significant it could be for a kid like myself to have the opportunity to connect with other TCKs and learn about God’s provision when your life is once again uprooted.

I experienced my awakening in college. The grief that came from leaving “home” as a child finally bubbled to the surface. I had allowed my hidden heartache to simmer too long, and the product was debilitating depression. I tried to push away the God that claimed to have my best interests in mind. If He cared so much, why were my prayers to return home “just once” blatantly ignored. Instead of leaving me, God used friends, classmates, church, and even interactions with nature to flood my stubborn heart with messages of love and belonging. I began to see how I have a new home, a better home, in Jesus who lives in me.

The God of All Comfort

Like the proverbial cherry on top of the already plentiful ice cream sundae, God proceeded to take the joys and pain of my own MK experience and give them purpose.  I now serve as a Third Culture Kid Advocate with OMF in the U.S. Among other projects, I have the joy and privilege of working with Missionary Kids in four transition programs a year. My greatest strength in this role is that I can relate on a personal level with what these kids are experiencing. This gives me the opportunity to share the same message of love and belonging that God spoke to me.

As I reflect on this gift, the Apostle Paul’s words in II Corinthians 1:3-4 are brought to my mind

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

The seventeen kids before me, each now finishing the last of their snacks, are so precious. Lessons are next on the schedule. I pray that God would speak truth through me, and that they would take these truths with them wherever they go.

I know that they will each face their own unique challenges. Some will thrive: seeing adventure in every move, finding friends all around them, and being present wherever they go. But others will struggle: dreading every change, seeing new relationships as inevitable losses, and holding on to “what if’s” and “if only’s”.

Whatever the case, my coworkers and I are here now to share that they are not alone, that each of us are loved deeply by Christ, and that we belong to the God of all comfort, something I would not understand unless I had experienced it for myself.

Join Us in Praying for the Children of Missionaries

Pray that they would experience the comfort of God for themselves, and that they would share that comfort with others

Pray for our OMF (U.S.) TCK Team as we lead transition programs for our Missionary Kids during Orientation and Home Assignment. Pray that God would help us to create memorable experiences that will point our MKs to Him.

* Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are individuals who have spent part or all of their childhood living in a culture that is different than their parents’ culture because of their parents’ occupation. Military Kids, children of Diplomats, International Business Kids, and Missionary Kids are all examples of individuals who often qualify as TCKs.

Want to learn more about TCKs and serving Missionary Kids with OMF?

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