Children of missionaries may be known as “missionary kids” (MKs), but that doesn’t make them missionaries like their parents. God has unique plans and purposes for their lives, and it’s important to walk alongside them as they follow Jesus.
Here are five common misconceptions about life as a kid of a missionary—understanding these misconceptions can help us better support these youth.
1. They know all the answers in youth group.
"I feel like everyone thinks we all have like a doctorate in Bible,” said Henry Ippel, son of Andrew and Ruth Ippel, Resonate Global Mission missionaries who serve in Nicaragua.
Everyone needs opportunities for spiritual growth throughout their life. Missionaries and MKs are no different. MKs don’t have all the answers at Bible studies and youth group and—just like everyone else—they have questions. In fact, many Resonate missionaries serve as teachers at international schools, where they provide a Christian education for children of missionaries and other expats.
2. Their lives are exotic.
Not all kids in Canada and the United States have the cultural experiences that MKs have—but that doesn’t mean MKs’ lives are exotic. They don’t ride elephants to school or travel all the time.
“We do have a great life in many ways,” said Andrew. “But mostly it’s just going to work and school and eating and sleeping like anywhere else. Not too exotic once you get used to it!”
3. They enjoy talking about ministry.
When missionaries visit Canada and the United States to visit family, friends, and supporters, their kids are often swept up into conversations about the ministry too.
MKs certainly play an integral role in their families, churches, and communities where their parents serve…but they’re also people with their own interests, gifts, and callings. They’re also kids. They’re learning, growing, and trying to figure things out…but they like to have fun, too.
“I think as parents, we wish our kids were just asked normal questions that any kid could answer like, ‘Who’s your teacher and what subject do you like most?’” said Jared Benthem, Resonate missionary in Nicaragua.
4. They always look out of place.
MKs don’t always look like they’re “not from around here.” Missionaries are sent to countries around the world, from countries around the world. Physically, they might look very similar to the populations where their parents’ ministries are taking place—but that doesn’t mean the culture is the same.
“Because we are in Lithuania, they don't stick out like they would in many parts of the world,” said Tricia Groenewold Van Dyk, Resonate missionary in Lithuania. “Here, being tall and blond means looking normal. People don't recognize them as foreigners right away, so being a third culture kid here is not as obvious.”
5. They identify as a “missionary kid.”
Missionaries come in many different professions. Tricia and Benjamin Groenewold Van Dyk, for instance, serve as professors for LCC International University in Lithuania.
“Because we are academic missionaries, the kids experience themselves very much as just professors’ kids,” said Tricia. “In that way, they probably have more in common with professors’ kids everywhere than with some MKs.”
Please join Resonate in praying for children of missionaries. Give thanks that they are uniquely equipped and gifted for God’s purpose, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide them as they discern where and how God has called them to serve him.