As a young Third Culture Kid (TCK), those two words always kindled excitement in my childhood self. One part of the excitement was in the much-anticipated escape from the snowy frigidity of our home to the balmy humidity of Thailand. But perhaps the greater portion of excitement was found in the conference itself, which we attended annually.
While our parents sat in a meeting room with other adults talking about important adult missions things (debriefing, training, fellowship, etc), we got to play and make crafts and sing and go swimming and do an abundance of other things children delight in. After a week of fun and bonding, we were always devastated at the goodbyes we’d have to bid the short-term TCK workers, often drawing pictures and cards for them to show our thanks.
The Cool Teachers were so much fun, playing goofy games, singing, and doing skits but also serious when it came to the Bible lessons they would teach us. Ten years later, I can still remember standing in a circle with other TCKs during a Bible lesson, coming to the new realization that Jesus had already forgiven even my future sins. This is just one instance out of several in my own life, and I know many other TCKs who can also attest to the impactful ways their faith was shaped at conferences.
Filling in the gaps: why TCK care is so important
While Third Culture Kids in OMF often have front-row seats to the work God is doing in their parents’ ministry, just like any other children, they still need to be intentionally spiritually nourished and taught. However, in cross-cultural work, this doesn’t always or consistently happen for TCKs.
During missionary team meetings, in house churches, or small house plants, it’s rare for there to be any children’s programming or Sunday School. This often leaves older children even from a young age to take care of the littler ones. As the oldest child myself, this lot regularly fell to me, so Spring Conference was a lovely time not only to have fun as a kid with fewer responsibilities and have fun with other TCKs my age but also to spiritually grow.
TCK care is not only helpful because it often releases the parents to do ministry, but much more importantly, TCK care demonstrates and lives out our belief that TCKs matter in and of themselves. Intentionally loving these kids shows them that they have value and matter. TCKs are not a distraction from “real” ministry but are a ministry of themselves– TCK care and conference TCK programming is a crucial, legitimate ministry.
Getting your feet wet: what do short-term TCK workers do?
These beliefs are what fuel our care and support for TCKs and their families in a variety of ways. Many OMF teams have an advisor dedicated to TCK care, family and educational support, and more. Others teach TCKs at international schools or help families with homeschooling. What does it actually look like to go on a short-term trip as a TCK worker?
Practically, this looks a lot like preparing for a Vacation Bible School or a Bible Club with everything that entails, including prayer walking, team training, decorating rooms, and preparing skits, crafts, and games. Relationally, this looks like working on a cross-cultural team in a cross-cultural setting, interacting with kids (of course), and possibly sitting with families during meal times to learn more about their ministry.
Attending TCK programs at conferences growing up not only gave me fun times with other TCKs but also allowed me to experience the love and care of Christ through the short-term TCK workers who served us. Their intentional, genuine care showed me that I was not an afterthought or a nuisance in need of distraction while the adults did important things but a valued member of God’s family. I pray that in the coming years God will continue to raise up short-term workers to serve, bless, and impact the next generation of TCKs, just as I was impacted.
– Pray for creativity for those who cannot hold conferences face-to-face due to COVID restrictions to still provide support and care for TCKs.
– Pray for TCK workers to have faith and confidence that God will provide a way for them to come serve.
– Pray for those attending conferences in the upcoming months, that young TCKs attending would have a good time and get to know God better.
OMF Adult Third Culture Kid