I was about 11 years old when my parents told me we were going to move overseas. Far from being excited, I started crying. Before that day, the thought of moving had never crossed my mind. I very much lived in my own little world and was pretty oblivious to the fact that there were other countries in the world. Seriously.
If you know me at all now, you probably (hopefully!) find that surprising. I’m an Intercultural Studies major, I work in the International Office and my friends come from many different countries. I love the diverse cultures of the world and I want all of campus to be filled with the excitement I have! I’ve come a long way and can now say that my family’s move to Ecuador was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It’s totally changed who I am today and I thank God for that.
Something that I see a lot of missionary kids struggling with is a critical spirit against Americans. Missionary kids have the wonderful privilege of growing up with exposure to a more open mindset to other cultures. Sometimes, though, we take that to an extreme of judging people in the U.S. who are less knowledgeable about the world. How ironic is it that we who judge people for not being gracious with other cultures are, in fact, doing exactly the same thing!
I’ve come to realize that I have no right to judge people because of what they don’t know. I am grateful for having the wonderful privilege of developing a unique perspective on the world, but who am I to criticize? Who am I to poke fun at the Ecuadorian who thinks all white people have blue eyes (even though I don’t) and asks me to tell Obama hello for him? Who am I to scorn the North American who asks if there’s electricity in my city (of 250,000 people)?
It’s not my place to judge people for their ignorance because I very well could be in that exact place. I once tried to refuse a poor Kenyan woman’s gift to me (everyone knows not to do that!) and nearly broke her heart. Besides, I didn’t know where Siloam Springs, Arkansas was before I moved here. How’s that for being uneducated?
It’s not our place, as home-grown Americans or as missionary kids, to look down on another culture. We have much to learn from a superstitious villager who lives in a hut and herds goats all day everyday just as he can learn much from us. Such a man truly knows what it means to be perseverant in the face of difficulty. I’ve seen the uniqueness of the peoples of the world, and the wisdom that each culture holds. And in that diversity, the beauty of the body of believers becomes evident.
I’ve seen incredible things different people groups have to offer, and it makes me excited to think about how Christians can best utilize the unique abilities and strengths of different cultures to radically change this world as we live for Christ.
Being a missionary kid has also taught me the deep truth behind the idea that this world is not my home. Though I’ve not moved around nearly as much as some, I have no definite answer to the question “Where’s home?” To be quite honest, I still panic and call my mom every time I’m asked for a permanent address. But there are good sides to moving so much. I can proudly say I’m a pretty good packer. If something won’t fit, I can make it fit. And going through airport security is like going on a nice Sunday drive.
But most of all, I know that, no matter where I am, I’m not home. All this moving has instilled deep within me that this world will always change. So no matter where I am, I know that I’m on my way home, but I’m not there yet. Heaven is the only place where people will never leave, joyful seasons of life will last forever and I’ll finally be able to unpack my bags and throw away my suitcases.
What’s my permanent address? Heaven.