Resources for the families of mission workers

When mission workers go abroad, they leave family behind in their home country.  Typically these will be parents and siblings, but sometimes they will also be adult children.  We occasionally blog about POMs (Parents of Missionaries) and YANGs (Young Adults Not Going), and we’ve put together some resources here that may help families understand the journey of those who are left behind.

 

BOOKS

Families on the Move (Marion Knell), Monarch 2003, ISBN: 978-0825460180.  A book for every European family to read before moving overseas, which also helps churches and family members appreciate what it means for their family to move overseas.

Foreign to Familiar (Sarah Lanier), McDougal 2000, ISBN: 978-1581580228.  A very simple way of helping understand why different cultures behave differently.

How to be a Global Grandparent (Peter Gosling & Anne Huscroft), Zodiac 2009, ISBN: 978-1904566847.  A secular book with some good sections on factors to consider when visiting family overseas.

Looming Transitions (Amy Young), CreateSpace 2016, ISBN: 978-151962234.  A great book full of ideas, filled with warnings and strategies for those making transitions and their family members.

Parents of Missionaries (Diana Storz & Cheryl Savageau), Authentic 2008, ISBN: 978-0830857302.  The authors combine a counsellor’s professional insight and a parent’s personal journey with ideas and stories from dozens of mission workers and POMs.

Swirly (Sarah Saunders), Review & Herald 2012, ISBN: 978-0828026819.  A children’s book explaining how growing up abroad brings swirls of colour.  Helpful for adults too.

Third Culture Kids (David Pollock & Ruth van Reken), Nicholas Brealey 2017 (3rd edition), ISBN: 978-1473657663.  The classic book which helped us understand the ‘third culture’ which mission kids grow up in.

 

WEBSITES

http://www.astorybeforebed.com/.  You can record a story online for grandchildren abroad to listen to.

http://www.pomnet.org/.  An online network in the US for POMs.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facetime, Instagram, Skype, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Zoom are all social media apps helping you connect with family abroad easily.

TCKs can also connect online via groups such as MuKappa, SynK, Third Culture Kids Everywhere,

 

FORUMS, CONFERENCES AND CAMPS

Global Connections TCK Forum discusses issue of concern with those supporting TCKs.

Penhurst Retreat Centre offers family debriefing for whole families.  Email info@penhurst.org.uk for more info.

Rekonnect Camps for kids and teens operate in July/August each year and are great for supporting TCKs on home assignment.  Find out more from rekonnect@globalconnections.org.uk.

 

GENERAL TIPS

In the UK:

  • If you buy a game for grandchildren in the UK, buy the same game for grandchildren abroad so that when the kids abroad visit the UK they have something in common with their cousins.
  • When your family visit the UK, try to meet with them and other family for a holiday away, as otherwise they may not have enough time for you in all their other busyness.
  • Read bedtime stories to your grandchildren using social media.
  • Your family member has been through a big transition but will get support from their church and agency.  You probably won’t!  So make sure you try to find others who’ve been in a similar position who can help you.
  • Remember their experience overseas will have changed your family – for better or worse – and they’re not going to be the same when you see them.
  • Remember that even if you’ve seen them online, your grandchildren may still think of you as a stranger
  • You might have to explain new technology, terminology and culture to your children.
  • Be prepared for grandchildren coming back to the UK to be mildly traumatised by the sexuality, profanity and disobedience of their peers in UK schools.
  • Remember if your family are in a Creative Access Nation, be careful what words you use on social media (see our guide on finer aspect of communication).
  • If your single adult mission worker child moves back in with you while on Home Assignment, remember that living with mum and dad can feel like a real failure to them, and they may be tempted to revert to childish behaviour.

 

Abroad:

  • When visiting your family abroad, be prepared to pack your case with things they need (and other people give you) for them.
  • Make sure roaming is switched on if you want to use your UK SIM, and that the phone is unlocked if you want to use an overseas one.
  • Get your visa well in advance, and don’t book your flight till you’ve got it.
  • Remember security issues are very different in some countries.  Don’t photograph the police!

 

 

This briefing paper was compiled with help from Janet Chapman and Sarah Charles of OMF International.

YANGs

A recent discussion with other member care workers, followed by a discussion with some prospective mission workers who plan to take early retirement and go abroad leaving behind their grown up children, prompts me to draw attention to the plight of YANGs – Young Adults Not Going.

The number of healthy and financially independent adults who are able to bring their working life to a close and use their professional and life skills serving God abroad has been increasing significantly in recent years and they have brought a welcome boost to the teams they are part of.  Here at Syzygy we have worked with several couples in this situation over the years and they have been a great blessing to fellow mission workers and nationals alike.

However, their absence from the UK can come at a significant cost to their children.  While it may be tempting for these older candidates who are just at the end of the baby boomer generation to think that their 20-something children are grown up and it’s about time they learned to stand on their own feet, this overlooks the fact that millennials are used to having much more support from their parents (helicopter parenting) and can take longer to feel grown up than previous generations.  So the departure of a parent to a foreign country can feel very much like a bereavement – particularly if it also means the loss (albeit temporary) of the family home which is rented out to strangers.

Perhaps for the first time in their lives they can’t go ‘home’ for Christmas.  A stranger is sleeping in their bedroom.  All the belongings that a student wants to keep but can’t take to university are now in storage.  Nobody is there to babysit for them.  And mum and dad are no longer physically there for them in a crisis.  It can feel even worse if on top of their loss they have to take up responsibility for caring for their elderly grandparents or a needy sibling.

That’s not to say that the parents shouldn’t go, but they need think hard about how to support their children from a distance.  The Global Connections TCK forum has some useful suggestions for parents considering going abroad in mission – click here to view them.

Sending churches and agencies also need to be aware of the risks to YANGs, and while they may decide that member care for them isn’t directly their responsibility, they do need to find a way of facilitating discussion around these issues so that the YANGS feel supported.  Otherwise they may struggle so much that the parents are drawn away from the mission field in order to be there for them.

Without active planning to prevent this eventuality, YANGs could very easily become YINs – youth in need!