For most freshmen, that first year on a college campus is an exciting time. Learning a new place and making new friends are part of that experience.
But for missionary kids (popularly called MKs), who have lived most of their lives outside the United States, the transition is much harder.
“To have people from my culture, it was a time of peace before a time of storm,” said Luke Summey about the 2007 MK Re-Entry Retreat in Arkansas.
This year, Summey came to the retreat, held Aug. 7-10 at Camp Mundo Vista near Asheboro, as a facilitator to help MKs before they head off to the same storm he faced last year.
Summey’s parents serve in the North Africa/Middle East region and have their stateside base in Charlotte. He is the men’s ministry leader for the Baptist Campus Ministries at Appalachian State University in Boone.
“I can relate to any of these people because I was an MK,” Summey said. “I think the big thing is for MKs to find a body of believers they’re comfortable with to be Christian mentors.”
Summey said the retreat offers “amazing opportunities to worship with people in the same position” — headed to college and transitioning from another culture.
Many MKs feel like foreigners in the United States because they were raised among different people groups.
Every year the International Mission Board (IMB) plans a retreat for high school graduates who are coming to the United States to attend colleges or experience a gap year to ready themselves for college.
This year the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) hosted more than 75 MKs, along with facilitators, IMB and WMU-NC staff and volunteers at Camp Mundo Vista.
Christy*, whose stateside base is in Alabama, plans to spend nine months in California learning about the Bible and discipleship. Many MKs find a gap year working or training in a Bible-based atmosphere helps them adjust to the United States. Christy’s parents serve in South Asia.
“I’ve met some new people,” said Christy, but the biggest thing for her at the retreat is “not having to explain myself,” which allows her to be more free and comfortable.
She said she could definitely tell a difference between her worship at the retreat than at the church in Alabama. She said MKs better understand different cultures, different beliefs and different forms of worship.
A panel discussion helped answer some of the questions these students had before starting their first year.
The older MKs shared embarrassments, food tips, relationship advice, etc., from their experiences on their college campuses, Christian or secular.
Find a church home
Do not fill your schedule
Share memories of home/family with others
Do not replace Christian organizations for church
Do not isolate yourself
Look at America as a new culture, a new people group with which you can share the gospel
“In our small groups, I learned it is OK to act 18,” said Melanie,* whose family serves in South Asia. Sometimes because missionary children are in the U.S. they find themselves having to take on responsibilities for their parents.
For Giles Fort, an MK from Zimbabwe/Botswana and facilitator for this year’s retreat, a hard adjustment was his “lack of knowledge of American history.” He’s been in the States three years and people still are shocked at how much he doesn’t know about America’s history.
Because of his time overseas, Fort said his heart is burdened for his people group.
“Zimbabwe is in really bad shape,” he said. “People are dying. People (in the States) didn’t seem to understand this burden.”
Fort said that because he goes to a Christian university, he has plenty of options to fill his calendar. He encouraged students to shy away from joining too many groups.
“I was sliding through on Christian programs,” he said. “I felt God say ‘Really? Is that what you want?'”
He encouraged students to nail down an hour a day to spend with God.
“Never, ever give that hour away,” he said. “I promise you the Lord will be faithful.”
Kelly Davis, an IMB candidate consultant, said it is ultimately up to the MK.
“This faith journey is yours, not your parents,” Davis said. “You will have as much of God as you want.”
He said the reverse is also true: “You will have as little of God as you want.”
Linda Whitworth, who does stateside assignment training for IMB, said it is an anxious time for these MKs. The retreat offers them a safe environment. They have time to reconnect with the IMB, friends from the field, and WMU ladies express love to them through hosting the retreats and spending time with them.
“It’s just a sweet time to be able to see some old friends,” she said.
They commune with like-minded people, develop a support base and face a new life.
Ruby Fulbright, WMU-NC executive director/treasurer, led prayer time in Friday night worship. She read a recent prayer entry from Missions Mosaic about MKs.
In North Carolina, 400 women had been praying for the MKs for two months leading up to the retreat.
“I have MKs,” said Fulbright, a former missionary. “My oldest daughter went to (the retreat). It was kind of a passion for the MKs before I talked to the (WMU) board.”
At her first state executive director fellowship, Fulbright asked how to host the camp. For North Carolina, it has been on the calendar for five years. Fulbright believes it is the first time this event has ever been held in North Carolina.
States volunteer to host the yearly retreat. Over the next two years, the retreat will be held in South Carolina and Ohio.
The WMU-NC hosted the event, which costs about $22,500. That money provided lodging and food for MKs as well as school supplies for each of the participants.
To contribute, send donations to WMU-NC, P.O. Box 18309, Raleigh, NC 27619-8309. Designate your check for “MK Re-Entry Retreat.”
Pray that MKs will find a church home
Pray for focus on schoolwork as well as on making quiet time a priority.
Pray for mentors for the MKs on campus who will show them where things are and support them during their transition to American life.
Pray for discernment on the best use of time and money.
Adopt an MK
Individuals or groups are encouraged to adopt an MK. They can send care packages, use e-mail or social networking sites to send messages or even visit with them on campus or invite them to homes for meals at holidays and other times. Contact Julie Keith at [email protected] or call WMU-NC at (919) 882-2344.
Forms will be sent out giving some information about the adopted MK (likes, dislikes, contact information, clothing sizes, etc.).
* Last name withheld because of security reasons
(EDITOR’S NOTE — See related Spok’n column by Norman Jameson, BR editor.)
Letter from an MK
Luke Summey, a missionary kid (MK), whose parents serve in North Africa/Middle East for the International Mission Board, shared a testimony about the 2007 retreat in the summer issue of Tarheel Talk:
“MKs are a people group of their own. Seriously, we’re actually considered one of the people groups of the world. In fact, it was recently recognized that we MKs are some of the least reached people in the world. And by that I don’t mean spiritually. I mean in terms of our needs.
It’s hard to be an MK. You don’t fully fit in in the country you were raised, and you really don’t fit in in the country your parents are from. It is a slow and painful adjustment. The MK Re-Entry Retreat speeds that process along.
I will admit, for me, adjusting to America is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I’ve had to do it multiple times. This retreat fulfilled so many needs for me. For a few days, before I started the long and difficult transition to college life in America, I got to hang out with people that understood me, mentors who had already been through what I was about to experience and WMU ladies who poured out love like there was no end to it. It was amazing.
If I had not had that opportunity, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I would not have gotten the advice I so desperately needed for my upcoming college experience. I would not have been able to meet other awesome MKs who would soon become my lifelong friends. I would not have gotten to learn anything about the WMU (which by the way is a pretty awesome organization).”