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"Finding Home in a High-Mobility World: Cultivating Stability for Missionary Kids"

As I pulled into the driveway at Ruth House, my Google Map pleasantly announced, “Welcome home!” Ruth House girls laughed and commented, “This is so interesting.” In case you aren’t aware, there’s a function on Google Maps where you can put addresses and label them in different categories. Once you do it, you can tell Google to ‘take me home’ or ‘go to work’ without putting the whole address in the App. The concept of home never struck me until I took on the role of House Manager at Compass House for Women- the Ruth House.

Compass Ruth House is a discipleship program for female Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCK) who are in transition to the U.S. culture. By providing housing, mental health support, and a spiritual community, these ATCKs have a safe landing in the beginning of their return to the U.S. For the past 5 months living and sharing life with the girls at the house, I have the privilege to walk and accompany them through many moments we’ve identified as transitional challenges and struggles for returning Missionary Kids (MK). The confusion of identity may be present when they are introduced to a new group and feeling hesitant to present themselves in order to feel more accepted and less attention-seeking. Feeling of grief and loss might not be discussed as how it is but expressed in anger, frustration, and shown in avoidance. It is also not surprising to find out that me trying to anchor and harbor them at this stage of life brings more fear and resistance than comfort because they’ve never experienced how stability feels like- the concept of home that we as monocultural people have. The place I would call home, or at least how Google Map announces it, sounds strange and awkward for the girls because home is never a place they’ve been, but an ongoing journey of searching.

As churches and organizations help returning missionaries to adjust to the re-entry phase, MKs usually feel left out because of the uniqueness of their background and the lack of safe space for them to truly share their side of stories. MKs might not have the same sense of belonging to the U.S. culture like their parents do nor do they feel safe enough to talk about their struggles because it might deflect the purpose of God’s calling to the family. Here is something you could do to support the MKs in their journey:

1. Acceptance.

In order to help MKs feel safe enough to share, providing genuine acceptance in the presence of the interaction is essential. Just as Jesus desires to make a space at the table for everyone, this type of love demonstrate how we love and care for one another (1 John 4:19). MK’s story living overseas might be raw and complicated; however, it doesn’t take away God’s promise to His beloved children. Instead of correcting or redirecting their experience, try to listen to their narratives and be present with them.

2. Be proactive.

MKs grow up being aware and conscious of the concept of living on support. It’s not uncommon for them to have conflicting feeling about receiving help. You might find yourself in a push and pull scenario with their contradicted behavior when you offer. God calls us to carry each other’s burden and continue planting the fruit by faith in Him (Galatians 6:2). So, when we encounter their resistance or avoidance to our approach, do not be discouraged!

3. Contribute.

It takes a community to support and prepare MKs and their families to settle. Compass Ruth House is always in search for partnership or collaboration with those have compassion for this specific population. It might be your specific professionalism in health industry, social work, or mental health field that can provide growth and assistance to the MKs. Your financial contribution to the Ruth House discipleship program will also be a support to our continuous need to provide the girls with their needs in the transitional phase.

In Matthew 7:25 Jesus says, “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” It might take a while for MKs to find their home, but we can help them start by building strong spiritual foundation as a house built on rocks. So, when storms come, they would not be shaken.

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