I have the privilege of posting this article by my father-in-law who also happens to be a parent of Third Culture Kids. He asked if  he could contribute a post here, and I’m grateful for his input:

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to these discussions.

I greatly admire Susie for a number of reasons.  In the present context, I admire her for the contribution she has made to the discussion of this topic.  Secondly, I admire her for the way in which she has handled the transitions in her life – a child in South Asia, growing years in West Africa, mid-teens in South Asia, the move as a young adult to Australia and, perhaps the most remarkable of all, becoming a part of the peculiar culture of our family.  She is well qualified to write on this topic.

(My comment: I really wanted to – and did, for a while – take the previous paragraph out, as praise like this makes me uncomfortable. But I’ve been asked by my husband to pay my father-in-law a compliment and leave it in – so I have.)

I want to contribute as a maker of TCKs, a Third Culture Parent.  When my wife and I were first called to missionary service in Africa, on the one hand we were excited and aware of the privilege that the Lord was giving us.  On the other hand it was not an easy move to make.  We had grown up in a small country district and had travelled very little even within Australia.  How would we get on travelling half way across the world to a strange country with four kids in tow?  All we could do was trust that the God who was enabling some of our friends to do a similar thing would enable us to do it too.

And then there was the matter of our children’s education.  Our two eldest kids, then 8 and 6, would have to go to a boarding school 700 kilometres from where we would be living.  They would do two semesters of 15 weeks with a mid year break of 10 weeks.  I recall many sleepless nights working through the mixed emotions as I wrestled with this situation.  How well I can remember the build up of emotion as the time came to make the long journey, on often difficult roads, to bring them home at the end of term.  There was an even worse build up as the time to take them back to school drew near.

Eventually all our children attended boarding school.  We made sure that we took our annual holidays during the mid year break so that we were available to our kids for a whole month.  We have great memories of times spent in a special place at Mkushi and on safaris in game parks.

An up side to the boarding school situation was the friendships we formed with the teachers and other parents.  There was a real sense that the children’s education was a co-operative effort.

I don’t want to write a book, but I could give many more examples to show that TCK-makers do not take on that role without a great deal of thought and a fair amount of pain.

Of course, there are up sides to being a ‘TCP’.  One is that you move into the international community.  We worked and networked with people from Canada, South Africa, Sweden, the UK, the US and Zimbabwe.  Our experience of the world was enlarged by rubbing shoulders with people from so many cultures.

Our move to another country opened the door to world travel and a valuable spin off from knowing people in so many countries is that they take care of our accommodation when we visit them!

Another up side is the great privilege of entering into the culture/s of people among whom you go to live.  There was a great day when we were introduced by one of my Bible School students when we visited his church.  He said, “We no longer regard them as Europeans. They are Lambas.”  We knew that we had been accepted into the Lamba tribe.  Some twenty years later I was the coordinator/secretary of the Lenje Bible Translation Project.  On the day that we launched the first Lenje New Testament, the Administrative Committee of the project arranged a naming ceremony in which I was given my Lenje name.  We had been accepted into another tribe.  Two years after this we handed the work over to the local church association and left the country.  The eldest son of a prominent family in the Lamba tribe, whom we had known for nearly 30 years, came to farewell us.  He said, “Missionaries have come and gone, but this is different.  You are family.”  What a privilege to be accepted like that.

TCK-makers become Third Culture People themselves.  Just as TCKs have difficulty in working out where they belong, so do Third Culture Parents.  Where do I belong?  My passport says that I am an Australian.  I enjoy the easy living in this wonderful country where we have been given so much.  When I hear the song, “I still call Australia home,” I resonate with the sentiments expressed.  Then I see a film based in Africa, or watch a documentary on something in that great continent, and immediately I feel homesick.  While I am at home in many ways in the culture of the country of my birth, which itself has changed a great deal during my lifetime, is there not a part of me that is Lamba and a part of me that is Lenje?  Why is it that while enjoying many things Australian, I hanker after a culture where relationships, especially family relationships, are more important than making money, possessing things and becoming a celebrity?

One thing that has happened is that I now have an affinity and an empathy with those who migrate to our country, those who spend significant amounts of time in our country in the course of their employment and those who serve here in their countries’ embassies.  I have a greater understanding of the transitions of life and I try to use this knowledge in helping the new ones settle in.

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