A missionary’s kid is very special. I have often said and have been told that it takes a special person to grow up in a foreign country (no, we don’t ride the short bus). You see, missionary’s kids often have opportunities that other kids never have. Yes, it is a privilege to be a missionary’s kid. Regular kids don’t get to sit in traffic for two hours on the only highway in a metro city. Normal kids don’t get to bargain shop in a crowded outdoor market any day of the week. They don’t get to travel six hours into the mountains and meet people who are still part of native tribes. They don’t get to see dogs being barbequed on the side of the road. You see, regular kids couldn’t handle that.
Missionaries’ kids possess several qualities that regular kids lack. We have strong stomachs. We have fantastic acclimating skills. We are awesome at packing and moving. We are expert church-goers, thank you deputation. We can wear the same church outfit for weeks, and no one would ever know, because we are in a different church every night. We know what’s good at every chain restaurant because we are taken to them by loving pastors at least three different times in one week.
There’s strong. And then there’s MK strong.
MKs deal with some of the most unique situations. I remember one of the first times my dad preached out after we had moved to the Philippines for our first term. The church had a dirt floor and rough wooden benches for pews, and the pastor’s name was Tommy Epis. Epis in Filipino means “cockroach.” We were waiting for service to begin, and we watched as an elder in the church took the pastor’s car and ran to McDonalds to get our lunch for us—well over three hours before we would actually eat it. We enjoyed cold double cheeseburgers and watered down cokes that day. It was the very best they had to offer, and let me tell you that after a service as long as that, it was pretty much delicious.
That would be the first of many interesting experiences I had overseas. My most memorable moments on the field involved food. I love food. When you live in a foreign country you learn to appreciate even little things like hot dogs. For nearly four years I went without hot dogs. But you see, I am a MK, so I can do that and still survive.
I survived because I learned to enjoy many native treats like mammon—a rice flour cake that is just barely sweet; Nestle packaged ice cream treats (never eat or drink dairy products in a foreign country unless you know its pasteurized); Fudgee Bars—brownie-like treats with fudge in the middle; and banana-que—small bananas fried in oil with melted brown sugar on them. In many ways the food makes the country, and these are just some of my sweet favorites. The meat and potatoes—actually it’s meat and rice, but that is a whole other story.
Rice is the staple food in many Asian countries, and basically if you don’t have rice with your meal, it is not complete. A MK learns to love the staple foods in a country. We’re MKs, we can make ourselves like foods that regular people would find disgusting. However, there are still some lines that MKs do not cross.
Driving through the mountains where the Ifugao tribe resides in the Philippines, I was so excited because we were actually going home. I was tired and bored of seeing miles and miles of rice terraces. We passed through a little village that was literally built on the side of the road. The shacks were sandwiched together and looked as though they were made out of corrugated cardboard. A typical family who lives in a shack has the sleeping and eating rooms indoors with an outdoor kitchen and bathroom (pretty much anywhere one can find a spot). The kitchen consists of an open fire with a grate above it for roasting or barbequing or a pot suspended over the flames. As we rode down the mountain side and passed this little village, the driver suddenly stopped and everyone turned to stare. On the side of the road a family was preparing their lunch and dinner. A dog was split open on the barbeque grate, its intestines were spilling out, and its chopped-off head rested in the corner of the grate. Paws flopping in the breeze, the dog had had his day. Poor Spot. MKs do not eat dogs.
MKs see many odd things that regular people do not get the chance to see. We have the opportunity to be exposed to a different and often fascinatingly new culture. But it’s not all fun and games. It’s not all great times and happy moments. Sometimes there are tears of loneliness and isolation. Holidays can be sad when you think about your extended family enjoying each others’ company without you. Phone calls help, but nothing can really take the place of your favorite uncle’s chocolate cake.
MKs learn to handle separation. MKs are strong. We are strong because God empowered His chosen missionaries with the ability to make it through the tough times, and He gave us the fun and interesting moments to give us strength to carry on. Yes, I said it—us, we MKs—we are missionaries. We weren’t asked if we wanted to live in a strange place and eat bizarre food; our parents just packed us up and moved us. But we are chosen by God because He knows what we can handle. We are strong. There’s strong, and then there’s MK strong.