Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Missionary Kids Retreat - Hear Their Voices! (Part 1)

Thanks to Alexander Graham Bell and a whole bunch of pre-paid minutes Allen Sowers added to a cell phone, I had the opportunity to spend several hours talking to people at the 2016 MK Retreat. Prior to that call, I thought I could imagine how important MK Retreat, which is held in June, and MK Camp, which is held in August, would be to a bunch of missionary kids living in Honduras. About fifteen minutes into the marathon call, I realized I didn’t have a clue! I spoke to current MKs, former MKs, and parents of MKs about what life is like for missionary kids and what the MK Retreat means to them.

There was so much information, we’re going to spread this out over several blog posts, lest this turn into the blog equivalent of War and Peace (meaning it would be long, not that it would originally be published in Russian or have anything to do with war). Stick around. This series promises to be more readable that Tolstoy. (No offense, Leo!)

Speak, Mr. Retreat Speaker

Former MK, and father of two current MK Retreat participants, Wes served as speaker at this year’s event. Wes and his family have served in Honduras for twelve years.

Wes grew up in Malaysia and Singapore--leaving the states as a 6-month-old, and not returning to live until he was seventeen-years-old and ready for college. When he arrived in the U.S., he, understandably, did not think of it as home. After about a year and half, he had the opportunity to travel to Singapore with a group from his college. He was so excited, believing he was going home. Yet, when he got there, he discovered things had changed. Bus routes had changed. Other mass transit had changed. He didn’t even know how much a can of Coke cost, and he knew he would get ripped off. That’s when it hit him: Singapore would never be home again. He felt there was no place on earth where he fit in and could call home.

Growing up, he had nothing like MK Retreat or MK Camp. As a father, he has seen how beneficial those programs have been for his kids, as well as other missionary kids. Wes spoke of the challenges facing MKs. Statistics suggest that 50% of MKs will leave the church. 50% will divorce at some point in their lives. Programs like MK Retreat help kids face challenges and pain and help change those statistics.

Just for grins, I asked Wes if he ever considered moving to the states and getting a job selling insurance. The answer was a resounding, “No way! I love what we’re doing. I love that our kids have had the experiences they’ve had. It’s a testimony to God’s healing and grace, after what I experienced.”

Talking Points

Wes graciously gave me a list of topics covered, along with a brief overview.  

Day 1: Where is Home? -- Third culture kids come from a home country, yet spend significant time in another place--identifying with two countries, yet not fully fitting in either place. There are unique challenges with that, for sure.

Day 2: Did God Just Throw Me Under the Bus? -- Most MKs deal with loss and transition at a young age. And they do it over and over again. It can be common for them to wonder, “God, why are you doing this to me?"

Day 3: God is Infinitely Amazing and Really Does Have All of This Under Control -- The day with the long title was spent looking at sciency stuff--even delving into string theory. In case, like me, you would feel more comfortable talking about Silly String than string theory, this one may require additional explanation. Wes talked about how God is completely outside of time and space. What feels overwhelming to us does not surprise God. We can trust Him, even when we can’t see how things are going to work out.

Day 4: Being Faithful In the Little Things -- Very often, we don’t care about certain things because we think they’re little. But something as seemingly simple as honoring parents isn’t a little thing to God. We’re to be faithful in little things.

Day 5: Nobody Asked Me If I Wanted This Life -- Missionary kids can struggle with thoughts of resentment. Growing up on the field, himself, Wes remembers never feeling like he fit in. This message included a friendly reminder that we are not the center of the universe. God is.

6: Did my Parents Serve God At My Expense? -- On this day, Wes opened up about his personal failures as a father and reminded the kids that parents are just as human as they are. The gist of the lesson was: Give your parents a break. Show them grace, and don’t hold them to a higher standard. People will fail you, but God never fails.

7: But Do I Really Matter? -- This was a day to reinforce what they talked about all week. They matter so much to God and to this world. The world needs people who are not ashamed of the Gospel. The church needs them. The MKs were encouraged to discover their gifts and use them. They were also reminded to work on being mature, responsible Christians

Music to Their Ears

While Wes has spent a lifetime in missions, the woman who led praise and worship for MK Retreat is a brand new missionary. Coming from Canada, Breanne has only been in Honduras for a few weeks. She hit the ground running! Besides being at MK Retreat, she has spent time doing evangelism and working with kids.

About her time at MK Retreat, Breanne stated, “I’ve learned just how important this camp really is. Camp has been a lot of fun. I’ve loved leading worship. But it has been wonderful to hear their (the MKs’) hearts, so I can have that insight into the lives of MKs. I wasn’t an MK, so I can’t claim to know what they’ve gone through. This will help me better relate to MKs in the future.”

She was particularly touched by what she described as the MKs “pouring out their hearts,” and hearing about what it is like to go back and forth between two cultures. She spoke of the responsibility the kids feel knowing their parents’ careers can depend upon their actions. Now that’s a burden to which few typical American teenagers can relate! MK Retreat gives them an opportunity to lean on other people. Breanne was most impressed with how they seek after God in a deeper way.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (edited to add: Part 2 is now available here) in the continuing saga of MK Retreat! You really won’t want to miss hearing from Rachel, who serves as director, Allen, who spins many plates, numerous campers, and a couple of MK moms.

- posted by Christi

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