Living between cultures

Missionary Lynne Castelijn shares some perspectives on being raised in the bush.

Lynne and Albert Castelijn’s oldest daughter was just 2 years old when they first headed out as missionaries. In fact, she was born just six days before they started missions training in their native Australia. Their second daughter was 4 months old when they arrived in their ministry country and their sons were born during the years the Castelijn family has lived in the remote location where they live and minister to the Banwaon tribe.

This qualifies their children as “third culture kids” (TCK’s) and Lynne shared recently some of the particular joys and challenges of children of missionaries—children who are multiple language learners who live between cultures.

There were many blessings, Lynne shared. The chance to live in another culture brings a broad worldview and makes possible a unique insight and connection with the plight of many of the world’s people. The opportunity to build close friendships with tribal children and to grow up with them has been a singular blessing.

“I think the children will always hold their tribal friends close to their hearts,” Lynne shares. “They are not just photos on a screen, they are real people that they have built relationships with.”

She adds, “There is the great benefit they’ve gained—of being able to relate to a wide variety of cultures, people groups, socio-economic sectors. They can fit in appropriately with the poorest people and also with wealthy Christians and business people in the cities.”

“On a practical level, they have learned to be very resourceful and to think outside the box,” Lynne says, explaining that, by growing up away from civilization, their children have been gifted with unique approaches and fresh, alternate insights in areas like artistic pursuits and repairing broken things. The bush location has taught them to be creative, inventive and solution-oriented.

Family time has been a large focus for the Castelijn family as they have lived in the Banwaon tribe. Lynne says one big blessing has been so much time together. “Some of their favourite memories are of Albert reading to them at night after dinner; first from the Bible, then a chapter or two—or three if they could convince him to keep going—of a novel or series.”

Lynne says that their children have “walked with us through so many difficult and challenging times. We prayed together … and they saw God change people’s lives and work out hard situations. This has definitely been a wonderful foundation for them.”

Yes, she admits, there were hard times, too. It was disappointing to be separated from other missionary kids who the Castelijn kids got to know in two-week visits to town. “They didn’t get to spend as much time with other MKs as they would have liked. This was difficult at times.” Also, it was hard to be viewed by tribal children as “rich kids”—hard to realise they couldn’t meet all the physical needs of everyone.

Home assignments were hard for their children, too, Lynne says. “Being constantly on the move, having parents who were weary, the expectations of others, wanting to ‘fit in’ with peers.” Sometimes, transitioning from a simple tribal environment into western culture, it was difficult to see all the “gadgets and gizmos” that their home country peers had. “Although,” Lynne adds, “I think that is actually a benefit, as much as they might have seen it as a challenge at the time.”

When she ponders the whole bundle of blessings and challenges, Lynne shares, “Overall, they have all expressed a very positive attitude to their lives as MKs, for which we are so thankful!”

Various options for schooling are available for missionary children, including great opportunities in both homeschooling and in attending schools that exist specifically to educate the children of missionaries. Lynne shares that, although they knew there was “an outstanding school” for missionary children in the country where they serve, they opted to home-school, mainly because of the distance involved. They were able to use a curriculum available for distance education from their home country.

“This has been a great option for us,” Lynne says, “as it meant that the children were doing the same curriculum as their peers in Australia” so they would have fewer challenges later when they applied to colleges and universities.

In the early days, they relied heavily on the mail delivery via mission planes for schoolwork and supplies. But advances in technology have helped. In the last few years the Castelijns have benefitted from a satellite dish to expedite communication to teachers in Australia via email. “I doubt we would have been able to do the high school years without the satellite dish,” Lynne observes.

Currently, Lynne and Albert and their family are on home assignment. One big goal during this season is to help their three older children transition into independence and get them settled in their passport country, continuing their education. “I feel the three older children are fitting back into Australia and are finding their niche. The Lord has blessed them with a great community of Christian young people. Whatever they believe God wants them to do is fine with us, and life is a mission field in itself, no matter where we are.”

“We appreciate your prayers for our children,” Lynne expresses. She knows that they, like all children, will go through some tough times, but Lynne and Albert have a great confidence in God’s overriding guidance and protection in their lives.

“They have developed a passion for people,” Lynne shares gratefully. “They have seen the difference the gospel has made.”