Before coming to Cambodia I used the basic mechanics of a bridge as an analogy to describe a missionary — the connection that a missionary has between two cultures, their home culture and their new culture (this analogy I stole from another missio friend, Arthur). The basic picture is that a bridge has a connection to two places, but doesn’t really dwell in either but is stranded between.
Before coming to Cambodia I also did a seminar on some guesses that I had on mission. I talked about the immersion model of mission (living as completely as you can like the locals). I then opposed this idea with the idea of being connected that now comes to us through the internet and how this has changed mission. Does it mean that it’s harder to be immersed like it was before with so many ways and opportunities to connect with our home culture than before? My basic point was rather than think about these two mission types as ‘either/or’ (both are unattainable ideals as neither is truly possible), I found it helpful to view connection and immersion as two points on a spectrum and that missionaries will sit somewhere on that spectrum based on their goals and situation. Further, missionaries might slide up and down that spectrum at various stages of their ministry overseas.
Having been in Cambodia what I am realising is that this sliding between immersion and connection doesn’t necessarily just occur in the long term, but can occur around short periods of time. As missionaries prepare for furlough (home assignment) and so their head moves more towards their home country.
Having been in Cambodia what I’m also realising is what this idea of immersion and connection means for our kids. We haven’t been immersed as we initially thought and so that changes their experience of Cambodia, but also how much they are affected by Cambodia. Further, with more connection this has also affected their relationships with family and friends in a Australia (often in a really positive way). One example of this is a closeness with grandparents that might not have been possible before (see here, here and here for further details). In my seminar I had been exploring immersion and connection from serving as a missionary point of view. What I haven’t really begun to explore (but we have been experiencing) is how immersion and connection affect our kids.
While I appreciate the term TCK (Third Culture Kid) as a way of describing what it’s like to grow up overseas away from your parents home culture. For me, seeing them as Bridge Kids is a more concrete description of what it’s like to grow up overseas.
As a tiny tot totally with my parents, and have an ‘ayah’ looking after us, we were totally immersed in the culture. Then came boarding school- a culture all it’s own culture with about 24 nationalities represented! Since we had only letter contact with Australia, returning for home leave was as traumatic for us children as leaving in the first place! Extended family were strangers! Returning for good in my middle teens was a real struggle, leaving old school friends, making new friends, day school with travel, confined by fences and gates, after the freedom of the wild, and so on! Yet all this made me the person I am. So thankful to have had the constant love of my parents and Heavenly Father to keep me grounded and able to be who I am! Your children are blessed to know both countries and the support from ‘home’. Transitioning from one to the other should not be quite so traumatic!
Thanks so much your sharing. Hearing about your TCK experience is really helpful for us as parents. Sounds like the TCK experience has changed over the years.
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