Third culture kids

The children of missionaries are special young people who live between cultures.

The students that Patrick Eggleton and his wife, Dawn, minister to are children of missionaries that fall into the category often called “third culture kids.” These missionary children are multiple language learners who live between cultures.

Patrick shares insights presented by a recent chapel speaker, Libby Stephens, a teacher of missionary children.

Patrick explains that “third culture kids” are often better at relating to adults than to their peers, children who aren’t sure of who to cheer for in the Olympics and who think of their home not as a place, but as people. They are usually adaptable, Patrick explains, but their sense of belonging is not belonging.

“They know the world, but not their country,” he adds.

Third culture kids are not unique to our day, Patrick observes. Abraham, Joseph, Daniel and even Jesus all experienced living in a different culture and country for a time while their roots remained in a different heritage from the place they lived.

The graduates from the missionary children’s school where Patrick teaches will soon say goodbye to Papua New Guinea. Some of them will probably never return to the place they grew up. Patrick recognises clearly that this can be a frightening prospect.

“They want to fit back into their passport country, but they don’t even think like others there. They want to enjoy family and church, but often they have difficulty getting to know them, making them feel that much more like an outsider,” he explains.

Patrick hopes that the honest discussions he has with his students will help them in the transition. “Having a 'third culture' background is a wonderful gift—they just need to learn how to live with and appreciate that gift,” he shares.

This is an important aspect of teaching and ministering to the children of missionaries. And there are things you can do to help.

“Please pray for missionary families you know,” Patrick asks. Pray for wisdom for them to understand well and meet the needs of their children.

“Please continue to pray, also, for workers. Pray for a math teacher and additional elementary teachers for missionary children at our school,” he adds.