As we have been in youth ministry for over 20 years, there have been many abbreviations that have come across our “desk”. Now with texting the number of abbreviations seems to have multiplied in a really short time – LOL, PK, MK, TTYL are all a part of our daily vocab (how’s that for another abbreviation?)
So here’s another abbreviation that has become more of a reality in the recent years for us: TCK.
TCK stands for “Third Culture Kid”. So what is a third culture kid? As author David Pollock defines it, it is “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any of them. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” (The Third Culture Kids Experience: Growing Up Between Worlds, by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken; pg 19)
Our kids have spent their growing up years in Bolivia, among a different culture, language and people. They became, as we did very familiar with that culture, language and people, and “owned” it as part of them, yet we saught to help them understand the culture that Tami and I came from in the US as well. So as we lived in Bolivia, we were a blend of Bolivia, US and our own family’s “interpretation” of both.
Our kids identify best with those who have grown up in similar situations. That’s why they long to go back to Bolivia, because that is “home” for them, and where their friends, who have grown up in the same situation AND who understand them are. Our daughter has repeatedly told Tami and I, “I want to go back to Bolivia. I want to go back to my friends and school there.”
As we have moved from Bolivia to the US, the TCK in our kids is making itself out in various ways:
- having a hard time answering the question, “Where are you from?”
- longing to go “home”, when right now, they are in a “home”.
- looking like everyone else, but not being at all like anyone else because of where they grew up.
- being able to understand when Spanish is spoken, when no one thinks they can understand it.
- little knowledge of TV shows that are popular
- internally ready to go back to the mission field after spending 6 months in the US, but unable to. (“It’s time to go home.” )
These are just some of the signs that our kids have that show we are raising TCKs.
Living in Bolivia or any country, changes you. You can’t be the same after spending 8 years living in a cross-cultural ministry like we have. People ask us, “You and Tami grew up here all your life, how can you call the US strange and have to get used to it again?”
In the close to 8 years we were on the mission field, life moved ahead for all of us. Our lives moved ahead in Bolivia, others moved ahead here. A lot of things change in 8 years, think about what has changed since 2004. Phone technology, debit cards, mobility, the way bills are paid, the list can go on. We stepped out of that flow when we went to Bolivia and when we stepped back into the US, it was a different US, and we were only there for a “visit”, to step back into Bolivia again.
We are adjusting, learning, making mental shifts in how we live, think and work in the US, seeking to prepare and encourage those who have been called by God to cross-cultural ministry. We are overwhelmed at the task. We are dependent on God and the prayers and support of our support team as we seek to train, equip and support cross-cultural missionaries.
Why do we share these things? We want to communicate these adjustments that we’re making as we get used to living in this strange country of the US (at least for us), so that you can know how to pray for us in this ongoing transition. Please pray for us as we get used to this new ministry and life. We can’t do it without you.