May I introduce you to a friend of mine?  Eva is a beautiful young woman who grew up in Kyrgyzstan.  When she was 9, her family moved to Germany, then made a major (and permanent) move to the States a year later.  Today, Eva is a bright and vivacious 6th grader with a keen mind and a luminous spirit.


I was hanging out in her room last night when she handed me a thin yellow notebook with flowers on the front cover.  I was expecting to find drawings inside, as she’s an accomplished artist.  Instead, I found penciled words that flowed from page to page on tides of loss, anger and sorrow.  With her permission, I’d like to share just a few lines from her notebook with you.  Her voice expresses simply the emotions she felt as her roots were torn up from her beloved Kyrkyzstan.


It started


as a


around the


that we

would leave






come back.


Then one morning

they said:

“We’re moving…”


I remember


like they



like they didn’t



They said

this was

God’s decision

not theirs.


It was

God who

made me



God who

made me


who made

me cry.


It was

God’s fault.


It was God

who did it.



all the things

I love

have gone.











In a little over a week, I’ll be heading back to Moody for an evening with some of the MKs who study there.  Instead of my usual material, they asked me to address a topic I was glad to cover: how growing up in ministry can impact a person’s faith.


In Eva’s case, her faith was wounded by anger.  She blamed God for tearing her away from the Kyrgyz universe that had been home to her since infancy.  She isn’t alone in that response to loss.  As I wade through the surveys over a hundred adult MKs filled out earlier this year, I’m seeing multiple themes emerge.  Some of the respondents share Eva’s anger at God about the losses inherent in mobility on the mission field.  Others direct their anger at their parents for caring more about the unsaved than about them.  Yet others voice cynicism about a faith they consider hypocritical, having witnessed disturbing contradictions between their family’s private and public faces.

In many cases, though, the MKs write of a strengthened faith, one that carried them and still carries them through life’s greatest challenges.  Some who have become missionaries in their own right are eager to share with their children the wonders of growing up between worlds.
The stories that affect me most deeply are of adult MKs who have completely turned their backs on faith, religion, ministry, their own families and their former lives.  Whether their abandonment of faith is a result of survival instincts, neglect, anger, or disillusion, it carries with it the burden of alienation and the blessing of a simplified spiritual worldview.  In many instances, though I grieve for the decision they’ve made, I can understand the circumstances that pushed them to such harsh extremes.


So…if you’re an MK of any age, here’s where you come in.  I would LOVE to know how growing up MK affected you and your faith.  If you’d like to briefly share, please, please do!  And do so by April 10th, so I can include your comments in what I share at Moody.  You can either post your feedback right here or on my Facebook wall (under the link to this blog).  If you choose that option, I’ll cut/paste your comments here myself.  If you’d rather remain anonymous, feel free to send me a personal message, and I’ll happily use your words without stating your name.
Eva’s life is back on track—she’s found friendships in this country and a renewed faith in recent months.  But her journey may not be yours, and I want to be sure your story is heard too.  Whatever it is, it is worth retelling.



  1. Posted by a 57-year old MK:
    fear of abandonment
    cynicism toward pastors and other “authority figures” they always have an agenda
    a desperate longing for genuine fellowship with God and other Christians
    disgust with the “kingdom builders” who raise their denominational fences and keep out anyone who might have a different opinion
    fear of speaking up
    disgust at the parochial ignorance of the Pharisaical gatekeepers who huff and puff
    a distant relationship that is mourned when a parent dies
    distant siblings
    desperate need for approval that no one can fill
    feelings of social ineptness – what is the correct behavior for this situation
    mourning the child left at boarding school who sits alone in deep depression with no one to help
    that same child having to be the mother of two younger brothers, defending them against older bullies and uncaring adults (those two younger brothers still think of me as a mother)
    feeling outside and looking in at strangers
    feeling invisible
    feeling that the strangers would not understand and think you weird and broken
    trying to hide the brokenness
    a deep hatred of “church camp” that is so like boarding school
    finding out the teacher who you so admired at boarding school was merely tolerating you
    still feeling disconnected even though I have been at my current church for 11 years

  2. Posted on Facebook by MR: I’m an MK who didn’t feel a right to truly claim the title until I was in the 40s when God brought a new level of healing and deepened relationship to Jesus. I’ve ALWAYS loved the fact that I lived in Germany until I was 10 and that my parents loved Germans and ministry. We did not suffer as children of missionaries. Yes, I had unresolved grief from moving back to the U.S. (not being told by my parents that it was probably a permanent move) but God has graciously allowed to live over half of my life in Europe, so He has restored what was lost. I’m so grateful to have been raised (at least the first 1/2 of my childhood) “overseas.” The rewards have definitely outweighed the challenges for me. Thank you Lord for parents who balanced ministry with family and taught us to love God, Germans and adventure!!

    • mmccord

    • 12 years ago

    I relate so easily with Eva. I was 13 when I first heard those words, “We’re moving.” The decision was made, I felt that I had no input and had to leave behind everything that I had ever know. I was born in Korea and knew nothing else (except some looong furloughs that I would have rather skipped).
    I had no idea that our first international move when I was 13 would lead to me living in 5 countries in the next 5 years. Those five years included 4 schools (2 boarding schools), my mom was diagnosed and passed away from cancer, my dad remarried, and I felt completely broken and overlooked by God. How could the God that my parents proclaimed to be loving and gracious be the same one who allowed my life to be so difficult?
    Praise the Lord for his faithfulness and patience with me. He healed me, restored my faith and brought me to a deeper place in my faith. The lessons I learned from years overseas and the difficult days were worth the pain.

    • Njamajama

    • 12 years ago

    When I think of my parents passing away – which is going to happen sooner rather than later – even though I am now 48 years old, I still break down and weep unconsolably the same way I did when I was handed over to the driver at the border, to take me and my little brother to boarding school, while my Dad turned around and drove back the other way. Leaving him and mom, twice a year, was like death, over and over again, for grade 5, grade 6, grade 7 grade 9, grade 10, and grade 11. ( Grade eight was in Canada, with my family for an entire year). On my last day at boarding school, I went outside, by myself where no-one else could hear me, and I roared with triumph at the sky, punching my fist, tears streaming down my face, yelling “I WON! Never, never again will I have to leave, or be left. Never! Never!”
    Except that I will be left again, when they leave this world. I love them desperately, and I know that what they did, they did because they had an inexorable call, and I truly, completely forgave them years and years ago. But it does not erase the anticipation of the smirk on death’s face one last time, when they must go away again.
    My faith in God is the only thing I have when I dare to let myself think about that bad day when they will have to leave again. Don’t get me wrong – the apron strings have been duly cut, and I am an accomplished, secure, and happy man, husband, parent and now grandparent. But this scar is awfully deep, and I cannot share its damage with very many people, because it does not go away over time, even though I know I will see my parents again. It’s the ‘goodbye’ part I dread. No, I really mean I loathe goodbyes, deeply.

    • tina

    • 11 years ago

    My 2 pennies worth: We moved every 3-4 years and I lived in 4 countries between 0-18yrs. I have amazing parents that really model what it means to live in a relationship with Jesus and until I moved to my ‘home’ country, I had a very deep and real relationship with Him too. Then came a very traumatic transition (it’s so VERY different moving ‘back’ than moving somewhere else) and finding myself all alone at 18, no friends, only mono culturals and no help. While I was trained in being a christian in a non-christian environment, I had no experience in being a christian in such a very tolerant superficial varied ‘christian’ environment as I encountered upon ‘returning’. This problem was compounded by my usual ‘reinvent yourself as a local’ strategy that had served me best during past moves. Because in this case ‘local’ meant compromising my faith as well. You’d think having seen so much of the world I’d know that people differ hugely and not to base conclusions on just a small group of people… And to my credit I did spend years trying to find others that thought like me (I was quite radical), but I didn’t find any. I’m quite assimilated now, having lived here for 20 years, and fortunately I have found many others with a true and real faith since. I survived then by compromising (even losing) my faith to fit in and the sad truth is: you can’t get back what’s been lost. I still struggle in my faith everyday as a result. I’ve made stupid choices as a result. But God is faithful and I trust in His promise to complete the work He started in me while praying ‘I believe, Lord, help me in my unbelief’.

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