The Missionary Kids Are Not Alright

Third culture kids are struggling with a crisis of care in the church, statistics and experts say.

“How are you doing?” my professor asks me as I enter the empty classroom.
“They’re bombing my city” is all I can say.
“Oh no,” they mutter.
They remember where I’m from.
A portion of a poem by Abigail de Vuyst, age 18, American missionary kid from Ukraine

American missionary kid and college freshman Abigail de Vuyst already missed her lifelong home of Ukraine while figuring out college classes in Michigan. Now she spends her days worrying about her friends. Are they safe in their cellars? Will they be able to get out?

“It’s hard just sitting and watching everything happen,” she said.

Home is a complex concept for missionary kids (MKs)—whose citizenship is in one country and whose upbringing is in another. The MK’s world, even in the best of circumstances, is “shifting sand,” said MK advocate and author Michele Phoenix. And now?

“We’re wrecked,” said Annie Wiltse, a teacher at the international school in Ukraine that de Vuyst used to attend. She and her students had just 24 hours to pack for their evacuation. “This is … in some cases the only home that they have ever known.”

Records aren’t available for the number of kids living with their missionary parents in other countries, but World Christian Database’s 2020 figures show there were an estimated 6,000 Christian missionaries in Ukraine and 425,000 foreign missionaries around the world.

Some American missionary kids, feeling powerless, are stuck in the United States because of COVID-19 restrictions, others are waiting in Kansas for an unknown amount of time because of kidnappings in Haiti, and many kids who make the transition …

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