“Mama,” Judah asked with a frown on his face as we were mixing up granola on the kitchen counter, “so…what is our country?”
“What do you mean?”
“So, do we live here now? Do we live here, then go to Nana and Papa’s to visit, and then go to Oma and Opa’s to visit? Or do we visit here and then go back for a long time to Spokane? Or go back to Germany for a long time?”
So I explained to my little TCK (third-culture-kid) what the plan was. A couple of years here, a long visit there, another long visit somewhere else. It seemed to satisfy his curious mind for now, but I am confident that more questions will come as he grows older.
The usual response to the fact that we moved to Africa WITH our children ranges from incredulous to upset about the irresponsibility of such a decision. But, every now and then, someone surprises me with their response. It happened twice so far, to be exact, and the fact that I remember both occasions vividly shows how impactful those responses were.
“What a rich life!”, one person said.
What a rich life.
Yes, there is the heat and the bugs and the looming cloud of malaria and other diseases we wouldn’t have to worry about somewhere else. Yes, there is the moving around and uprooting and not having a permanent home and not knowing where they belong. But let’s not forget how rich such a life can be for our children.
It is rich because they experience a world much bigger than their own. A world that goes beyond their Western roots and cultural ideas. A world that pushes them to really explore the nature of Truth and goodness beyond what their culture says.
It is rich because they get the prime opportunity to learn another language! What a gift that we hope will accompany them all their lives.
It is rich because they quickly realize that “our way” isn’t the “right way.” Here, we only use our right hand to eat or pass things. Not wrong, just different. Here,there are no frappucinos-to-go but there are fresh coconuts to sip on. Not wrong, just different.
It is rich because they are learning to respect their elders, a value often lost in Western culture. They are being trained to shake hands with anyone older than them, look them in they eyes, and say “Shikamo” (literally “I hold your feet”) as a sign of respect.
It is rich because they are learning, in practical ways, that our happiness is not the goal of this life here on earth. That there is deep joy and blessedness in serving the Lord’s cause rather than pursuing our own short-lived happiness.
It is rich because they see nature and wildlife they otherwise wouldn’t. Living by the ocean, catching lizards, taking a walk with sheep that really didn’t look like sheep much…
It is rich because they learn to love people very different from themselves — different in skin color, different in culture, different in daily habits.
It is rich because they are learning early to sacrifice for a cause bigger than themselves. Judah left his big stuffed elephant in the States. Elias had to leave his beloved bicycle in Germany. Giving up toys and stuffed animals…early lessons in giving up material things for the greater cause of Christ.
It is rich because they now can point to a dozen or so countries on the map of the world and know people who live there or are moving there soon. Tiras in Brazil, the Mueller crew in PNG, Mr.Joel from Australia…
A life rich in goodbyes and transitions? Yes. But also a life rich in experiences? Yes, indeed.