“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ Jesus
Thieves steal. Sometimes the impact is NOW; you know it immediately and you feel it deeply. Other times, it takes some time; the bomb’s on a delay. And then it blows and you begin to realize all that was taken. All the time lost, the lives shattered, the relationships fractured. It feels like the wind gets knocked right out of you and you can’t even tell if the crater in your soul feels like anger or sadness or some other concoction of pain. But it’s definitely pain.
Sometimes the thief steals stuff, but often it’s more. Much more.
Maybe the thief looked like a robber on the back of a moto, or a home invader. Maybe the thief was a corrupt government, stealing freedom, opportunities, and futures. Maybe the thief was a cruel family member, or someone from your church or mission, a “friend.”
Whoever they were, they stole, they destroyed, and they killed. Or at least they tried.
Like any really good assessment, these five categories are totally made up.
There are no peer-reviewed studies parsing these five stages of cross-cultural work. There is no quantified, objective data set; still, please feel free to say you’re in “Stage 3 – Wing 4.” That would make me happy. And remember, if you say anything with exactitude, we’ll all think you know what you’re talking about.
The lines of demarcation between these stages are blurred, and in some cases overlapping. Just roll with it. And remember, this isn’t the Rubicon, so feel free to cross back over to an earlier stage if you’d like.
Are you ready?
We’ll look at the two options within each stage, we’ll list some common statements you might hear from folks taking each option, and then we’ll look at some primary goals for each stage.
This is more Wiki than Webster’s, so please add your thoughts, explanations, arguments, additions, or funny jokes in the comment section.
Idealist/Ignorant – Pre-field
You know the idealist, right? If you’re on the field, you probably were one. Once.
We need the idealist. Often, the idealism of youth or new belief motivates people to the field in the first place; that’s not bad. In fact, idealism is a fantastic place to start; it’s just not a fantastic place to stay.
Idealism is not what’s dangerous; ignorance is.
The main difference here is that the ignorant person doesn’t know what it is that they don’t know. And it’s a lot. The idealist knows they don’t know everything, so they’re safer. The idealist is a day-dreamer, aware of the reality around them, while the ignorant is lost in a fantasy dream world at night, unaware that their sick child is vomiting in the bathroom down the hall and their wife has been up three times already and the dog just peed on the clean laundry. Yeah, ignorance is dangerous.
Things you might hear the idealist say:“This is all so amazing! God’s going to do amazing, new, prophetic things in this glorious season of fresh wind. He is calling the nations to himself and he’s calling me to the nations. Will you donate?”
Things you might hear the ignorant say:“I don’t need a sending church or org or agency. I read a book and I feel super called! Also, I served a person once on a short-term trip and now I’m going to save the world. Will you donate?”
Goals for this stage:
Don’t be ignorant.
Protect your ideals, while purposefully listening to the reality of some who’ve gone before you. You’re not the first person God’s called across cultures, and you won’t be the last.
Cross-cultural workers often have tons of sympathy. We see the needs (physical, spiritual, etc.), we answer the call, and we GO. And that’s just great.
Sometimes we stir up sympathy for the poor and the marginalized; we fund raise with pictures aimed to generate pity and money. And that’s not so great. But it is relatively easy.
Sympathy is a powerful start, but it is not the finish. So I don’t want to talk about sympathy. I don’t want to talk about the pros and cons of feeling (or generating) sympathy. I want to talk about something much more potent.
I want to talk about empathy. I want to talk about the power of empathy in a world gone mad.
“Everyone has a story that will break your heart. And, if you’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring you to your knees.” ~ Brené Brown
It’s tempting. I get it. It sounds motivating and inspirational. I get that too. But I’ve come to believe that the good-intentioned, hopefully inspiring practice of talking about children as “world-changers” is, in most cases, damaging.
You can cover it with a spiritual veneer, you can call it “speaking truth over them,” you can call it a “parental blessing,” you can even call it “stirring them up to greatness.” But from where I sit, and after what I’ve seen, I’ll just call it probably harmful.
Let me explain.
I grew up among world-changers.
My family was part of an exciting, global ministry which had as its motto, Giving the world a New approach to life!Wow! What a vision! What a large, God-sized dream!
I sang in a choir of 5,000 teenagers, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus!” We were going to do it. Our parents had found the hidden truths, the secret. And with derision for rock music, an affinity for character qualities, and a navy and white uniform, we were in fact going to give the WHOLE WORLD a BRAND NEW approach to life.
And then we didn’t.
In fact, one of the most painful parts of my adult life has been watching peers wilt under the pressure of a world-changing paradigm. Families just aren’t designed to raise world-changers. They’re designed to raise children.
I watched friend after friend crumble under the pressure. Who were they? What were they worth when life just felt…normal? When the mission trips stopped and the typical bills came, a sense of dread and failure often settled in.
When the call of God, legitimately and accurately interpreted, looks nothing like the world-domination and global impact you were primed to experience, what then?
Home is a complicated word. A complicated idea. What is it? Where is it? As global nomads, we’re not entirely sure how we feel about home. We’re not sure we have it, and we’re not sure how to get it. We know the correct spiritual answer – that Christ is our home. That He is busy preparing an eternal home for us. And that even now, He makes His home in our hearts, wherever we go. Still, we search for a more earthly home. A physical place to set up camp for a while.
As an adult Third Culture Kid, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out roots. But lately I’ve been wondering if I should stop my search. I’m far too easily disappointed; permanence of people or place is not something we’re promised in this life. Even so, we need a support system for lives as portable as ours. This summer I started describing those supports as tent pegs.
A tent is a temporary shelter, and the tent pegs that fasten it to the ground also provide only temporary security. Tents and tent pegs are mobile, going with us wherever we go. They allow us to make a home right here, right now. And when the time comes, they allow us to make a home somewhere else too. Every time we pull our tent pegs up out of the ground, pack them in our bags, and move on, we can take the time to hold each tent peg in our hand and remember.
I’m passionate about homeschooling my four TCKs, so as soon as I received my copy of her book, I skipped straight to the home school section. Here is what I found:
“The majority of homeschool families I know do an excellent job. Unfortunately, I have also mentored and interviewed TCKs who had less effective, and less pleasant homeschool experiences. Those who shared negative experiences always referred to at least one of two key issues: working alone, and lack of social interaction.”
As a parent I want to be aware of these two important issues. I spoke about them at a conference earlier this year, and though not everyone in our online community home schools (or even has children), I think these issues are pertinent enough to warrant discussion here. Youth workers, sending agencies, and others who care about the well-being of TCKs may also be interested in how to help parents approach these concerns.