/Monday, March 1, 2021
The greatest joy of my life is getting to work with MKs (Missionaries’ Kids). They form a fascinating people group, defined by an extraordinary capacity to contribute to society and by often-unexplored challenges related to growing up between worlds in international ministry.
Every summer, I teach and mentor MKs at two ReBoot Reentry Retreats. And every summer, I’m reminded of how fascinating and complex these young people are.
Based on what we know of their upbringing—families steeped in Christianity and committed to serving God—we might expect them to be ardent believers at even a young age. Some certainly are. But others have found that their own relationship with God has been hampered by the ubiquitous pressure to behave and believe in exemplary ways because they’ve been stamped with the “MK” label.
A ReBoot Story
Two summers ago, a young woman I’ll call Katie attended ReBoot. I was immediately drawn to her shy but radiant smile, the way she made direct eye-contact when she spoke with others and the look of concentration on her face as she considered the topics we addressed that week. She had a deeply questioning soul—not the kind that seeks to discredit, but the kind that yearns to know more and understand.
As I watched her during our sessions in the early days of that week, I noticed that spiritual topics made her go a bit quieter. She looked down and doodled more intensely. And as I taught my lessons about grief and faith, there was often something that looked like frustration and confusion on her face. A sort of dissatisfaction she couldn’t seem to hide.
A couple casual conversations with her led into more in-depth discussions. Then yet more. That it was late in the day or that the time between classes was limited didn’t seem to deter her from looking me straight in the eyes and asking questions like, “So how can God be good and loving when horrible things happen to people?” or “If predestination is real, does that mean he doesn’t care about the people who don’t get picked?”
You know—theological questions that would normally require a series of 3-point sermons to address.
I tried my best to answer her queries and the follow-up clarifications she asked for. Sometimes I just had to tell her that I didn’t know how to respond, but that I do know Jesus and that he is good and trustworthy. She’d cock her head to the side a bit when I made that kind of statement, as if she’d been so immersed in Bible teaching and church planting all her life that the concept of relationship with Jesus was something new for her to consider.
Our mini-theology intensives continued until the end of ReBoot—on bus rides, over dinner, during breaks and after dorm devotions. I found myself looking forward to our encounters, fascinated by the words she would choose and the expressions that would wash over her face as I answered. She’d nod quietly when I was done with the best explanation I could muster. She’d smile and look down for a moment. Then she’d turn and walk away.
A Time of Prayer
Every year, on the last morning of ReBoot, each staff member takes a moment to pray over one or two of the MKs. Katie slipped out of her chair so we could sit on the floor together.
“How can I pray for you, Katie?” I asked. She didn’t say anything for a moment. Her head was down. She fidgeted with the edge of her t-shirt. When she finally did speak, it was so softly that I almost didn’t hear her.
“I think I want Jesus.”
Something fluttered in my chest. I leaned closer and asked her to repeat what she’d said. She looked up and repeated, “I think I want Jesus.” I could see determination and vulnerability in her gaze. Yearning and just a bit of hesitancy. The prayer she uttered a few moments later, as we sat on the floor in a room buzzing with other conversations, was simple, her voice quiet and sincere as she expressed her need for Jesus and stepped softly into relationship with him.
The memory of that day—of the hope and relief on her face—is indelibly imprinted in my mind.
I’ll admit that there are times, especially during a pandemic, when I begin to second-guess the work I do. But when my certainty about this calling wanes, I bring that moment with Katie back to mind. The transformation I saw in her over the course of that week is a testament to two facts I cling to when I crave fresh inspiration and resolve:
- MKs need our attention and care just as much as the people their families are sent to reach.
- And we must never assume that lifelong exposure to faith will naturally translate into a personal relationship with Jesus.
I still hear from Katie on occasion. She’s becoming the woman God created her to be. And she’s holding on to the faith that morphed, during a weeklong reentry retreat, from theological wrestling into intimate belonging.
One final note: When you remember your missionaries, will you please pray for their children too? Some of them may still need to discover for themselves the loving, engaged and life-enriching God their families preach.
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Raised in France as a Missionaries' Kid, Michèle is a mentor, writer and speaker with a heart for MKs. She taught for twenty years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching a global ministry consulting and teaching on topics related to this unique people group. Her goal is to help missions, churches and missionary parents to develop a deeper understanding of MKs in order to address preventable challenges and equip them to thrive. You can check out more of Michèle's articles by visiting Michèle Phoenix.