Don’t Miss the Truth4TCKs Conference

“Mom, when we get back home, I’m gonna kiss the ground.”

Those were my words as an eight or nine year old, when we were leaving the US to go back overseas. My mother was delighted when I did not do that, but she understood quite clearly in that moment that I loved our new home, and that it belonged to me. I wasn’t going to end up American… at least not completely. 

Fast forward nine years, and I’m still in love with the metropolis I live in. My life has been a blessing, and I wouldn’t ever trade it off. 

The struggle I have with my “home” is that I’m still a stranger to its people. I will never be, completely, a local. I sound like a local, and some even say I look like one. But the fact remains that I’m the “American”. I’m the one who moved here. 

It’s hard sometimes. The life of a Third Culture Kid is a patchwork quilt, a tree with roots that span continents, a network of bridges. The quilt’s squares are added, but sometimes ripped off. The tree’s roots are deep in some soils and wide and shallow in others. The bridges burn and are built again.

Yet the complexity that we call life is ultimately beautiful and good.

Sometimes, the complex stories and losses and experiences feel like too much. We need people to come alongside us and tell us we aren’t the only ones. We are understood. We are seen and loved. 

That’s just one of the many reasons why I started Truth4TCKs. It’s an online conference for teenage and young adult Christian Third Culture Kids, whether Military Brats, Expat Kids, Business Kids, MKs, Diplomat Kids, etc. It’s happening in four days on the 22nd and 23rd of May 2021.

Truth4TCKs strives to bring biblical truth and encouragement regarding the cross-cultural and highly mobile life to TCKs – especially those that might not have easy access to it. 

I am so excited! This is for all types of TCKs. Our excellent speakers come from many backgrounds: military, business, diplomatic, ministry… Also, the conference is organized by teens and young adults, who have a passion to do hard things while they’re young and to serve their TCK peers. That’s pretty cool.

The 2021 Theme is Global Citizens of Heaven. Here’s what that means: TCKs often feel an identity crisis and a lack of a home. However, as Christians, we are given an unchanging identity in Christ and a home in Heaven. Once the TCK is grounded in their identity, they can go out to live their lives as global citizens, using their giftings to the glory of God and the good of others. 

You can find out more about Truth4TCKs on Instagram @truth4tcks, and at truth4tcks.org . You can register on the link on the website for $10 or for $17 (if you want the recordings of the sessions.)

Speakers include names like Kate Forbes (the Cabinet Secretary of Finance in Scotland), Megan Norton (Intercultural Trainer), Chris O’Shaughnessy (Author and Comedian), and more. We will also have a special message from Ruth Van Reken (the author of Third Culture Kids, she’s also known as the matriarch of TCKs).

This conference is totally worth it. It’s not on Zoom, but rather Airmeet, an interactive platform that offers a fresh experience for online events. So if you’re Zoom-weary, no worries. 

I have been working, along with my wonderful team, on this for the last five months. We’re so glad it’s almost here. We hope to see you there. 

Global Nomad, Think You Are Accepting? Think Again.

Do you ride camels there?

I pause. And groan inwardly. These people – they have no idea.

No. We don’t ride camels. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in my country.

No kidding. I live in a huge city. The poor camels would continuously be run over by cars and hit by motorcycles.

No Different

I’ve heard it said that Third Culture Kids are some of the most accepting people in the world. 

With all the exposure we’ve had to different cultures, ways of thinking, and kinds of suffering, you’d think that’d be true. 

But are we, really?

Many Third Culture Kids have extreme feelings about their passport culture. They could go on and on about how wrong people are, how close-minded they are. Now, some of that is valid. There are definite faults or problematic aspects that TCKs can realize about cultures, and especially cultures of passport countries, that most people can’t see. But the fact that TCKs can see them doesn’t make TCKs inviting or open-minded. Most often, Third Culture Kids really struggle with being kind to their passport culture, with finding the good in it. 

And when we belong to a God who has called us to love our enemies, that’s not ok. 

Whether enemy or not, the people from our passport culture are just that – people. Created to mirror God’s glory. 

‘And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

Matthew 5:43-48

You must be perfect. 

That’s hard. It doesn’t mean we will be perfect – it means we should strive to be perfect. 

Because as believers, if we hate or pridefully shame ignorant people with a more “closed” worldview, we are no different from unbelievers. 

Love When It’s Hard

TCK, your insight and your experiences are valid. Your passport country does need your perspective. But as followers of the one who counted his equality with God as nothing and who became a servant, we should be nothing less than that: servants. 

We should use the experiences God has given us to kindly and humbly help others think differently. 

We should be humble enough to recognize that we can learn from those who haven’t traveled or interacted with as many cultures as we have. 

Everyone has a story. Everyone is going through trials. 

Jesus loved the least of these. 

Will we think we are better? Or will we follow our humble Savior?


TCK, what things do you complain about when interacting with people? What pride might you be holding onto in your life? Bring it to the Lord.

The Secret to Living Fear-Free as A TCK

What if they think I’m bragging? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m stupid for not knowing who so-and-so is? What if they don’t understand why I’m struggling? What if they don’t get why moving was so hard?

Have you had any of those thoughts before? They may seem like the thoughts of an average self-conscious teenager, but if you look closer, there is something more going on. These are the thoughts of the anxious TCK.

I’ve been there. I’ve been the awkward girl in the US sitting in the Sunday School room. A couple seats over from the end of the row… But not too close to the middle — that might seem weird. Sometimes I’ll sit there and barely talk with anyone. Everyone there has their friends and their clique — no need to try and interrupt. 

Once in a while, there will be a friendly girl. She’ll ask me where I’m from— the dreaded question. I’ll explain. “I don’t live here,” I’ll say. “I live overseas.” 

“Really?”

There is so much locked up in that word — her presuppositions about me, her expectations, curiosity, or lack of it. I don’t know what is coming exactly — but I’m nervous. 

Why?

Why am I nervous? Why do I care so much what people think about me? Why do TCKs especially struggle with this?

After years of moving, trying to fit into multiple cultures, and living an ever-changing life… the TCK finds themselves in another new place. 

And the fear kicks in.

Why Fear of Man Is Problematic

That fear is wrong and sinful. 

As humans, we were made to love and worship our Creator. He is to be first in our minds, our hearts, and our lives. 

When we worry about what the monocultural new person will ask us or think about us, God isn’t in the first place. 

We are fearing the approval of the created more than the Creator. The Creator’s approval is powerful and everlasting. The created’s opinion might seem powerful — but the approval will sway as easily as a blade of grass… and eventually wither up. 

Wanting approval isn’t wrong. What matters is whose validation you are seeking. 

This is where it gets tricky. 

All their life, TCKs have looked to people’s approval to learn multiple cultures and languages. That’s how they’ve navigated life. It’s taken them a lot longer than most to figure out where they stand in a community and culture because those cultures and communities change a lot for most TCKs. 

But here’s what we have to remember: Although people’s approval might teach you, you cannot let it rule you. Because when you fear their disapproval, you become a slave to their opinions. 

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Proverbs 29:25

Escaping the Handcuffs

Trusting in the attributes of God — who God is — will change your perspective on who you are. Those who are secure in their identity won’t fear others’ opinions… because others’ opinions won’t change who they are. 

My dear TCK friend, if you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to fear

That doesn’t mean you won’t still struggle with fear. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be anxious again. Nor does it mean you won’t feel awkward around people sometimes. It means your chain binding you to that cell wall has been broken, and you are free to walk out. 

Are you struggling to walk out? Here are 3 ways you can fight against the fear of man in your life: 

  1. Focus on who God is. He is:
  • Faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9)
  • Loving (1 John 4:8,10,16)
  • Kind (Psalm 116)
  • Eternal (Psalm 90:1-2)
  • Powerful (Psalm 90:11; Psalm 24:8)
  • King (Psalm 24:8)
  • Wise (1 Corinthians 1:25)
  • Just (Ezekiel 18:20-26)

If we have such a wonderful God as our Father, then his opinions and thoughts are precious. 

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:17

Our identity is anchored in Christ. If God is immovable, then who we are in Him is as well. Focus on that.

2. Remember, you can’t control others’ opinions. They don’t define you. 

(…) in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?  Psalm 56:11 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.  Psalm 118:5-8

3. Pray that God would take first place in your heart. The higher a place God takes in our hearts, the less important the opinions of others become. 

As I write this, I feel guilty because I have not attained fearlessness. In fact, I am quite often the most fearful and anxious person in the room. But by God’s grace, I will lose fear… day by day.

Lord, please take first place in my life! Please destroy the idols of others’ opinions and take your rightful place on the throne of my heart. Let me take refuge in You. Give me the grace to focus on who You are and the immovability of my identity in You. 


Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

A TCK Interview: Finding Our Identities (Part 1)

I had the privilege of doing an hour-long (!) interview with some friends of mine, an ATCK Christian couple: Luke & Wendy. I had so much fun talking to them… listening to their stories about identity, belonging, love and truth… This is the first part of a 3 or 4 (I still don’t know) part series that I will be releasing over several weeks. Have fun reading!


Breanne: Thank you so much for letting me interview you for my blog! I wanted to ask both of you to tell your individual stories and your very unique love story if that’s ok.

Wendy: Luke, do you want to go first with your individual TCK story?

Luke: Yeah, well, I was born in the States, but when I was two years old, my family moved to Macedonia. My parents served in the church there, and we lived there for eight years. After that, we spent a year in the States in Ohio, and then we moved to Prague, Czech Republic, and we were there for eight years again. After that, I went to college in the states, and my family moved back to the States temporarily. Then my parents moved back to Macedonia. I stayed in Indiana, where I was going to college. And then, well, I actually crossed my life with Wendy’s and ended up moving to Istanbul. So that’s like a brief synopsis of where I lived.

In general, I think my reaction to life as a Third Culture Kid has been mostly one of going with the flow. My parents were very considerate of us kids. They definitely wanted our input and wanted us to feel like we were heard, which was really great. But for the most part, I just kind of went with whatever… *haha* was going on.

When we moved away from Macedonia for the first time, I was young enough to not really understand what was going on. But I was old enough to trust my parents to do something good. But it wasn’t something I remember honestly, like the moving part. Like precisely right when we moved, I don’t actually remember much of that, which is kind of interesting.

Breanne: Yeah, ‘cause you think that would be the part you would remember the most.

Luke: Yeah, maybe it was traumatic or something, I don’t know. *haha* No, I don’t think it was that bad.

Anyway, it was a lot of exploring the new space that I found myself in, but kind of on my own. I sort of developed a kind of outsider perspective wherever I went. I kind of had my own little world that I lived in for the first few months of being in a new space, maybe a couple of years, who knows?

But no matter where I moved, after a while, God always blessed me with friends. So I could find at least one or two people that I felt welcomed by and sort of make a life there, with those friendships, which is really a blessing.

Breanne: Luke, I was reading your guys’ story on Wondering Optimist, Wendy’s website. I remember hearing something about you wanting to be as American as possible during your college years. I think it would be fascinating to hear more about that.

Luke: Moving to America was different from every other time I moved. I first moved to America when I was ten. I was too young to really…

Breanne: Everything’s an adventure when you’re ten!

Luke: Yeah, but when I moved to college, I sort of experienced the States as a place where I was expected to fit in more than I actually felt that I could. So I kind of tried to work with that. Like I said, I tried to go with the flow. And the flow was expecting me to be American. I didn’t really mind that at the time. Honestly, I thought it was interesting because I never really knew or could be American until I tried it.

Wendy: Did you succeed?

Luke: I don’t really think I succeeded *haha*

(Everyone laughed)

Luke: Well, I succeeded in some ways. I made friends there and identified with people about things that weren’t just about being a TCK, you know? So in that way, I succeeded. But that wasn’t necessarily an American aspect of me. It was just identifying with people as individuals.

But I always sort of felt like I was missing something. And I think that was because I was pushing my past away, in my mind. Thinking, “Ok, that was part of my life that I need to move on from.” In thinking that way, I sort of stabbed myself in the foot, as it were because it stopped me from feeling fully home wherever I was. Once I embraced that I am a TCK again and that it is actually significant and good, it helped to move forward with my desires… to figure out what I actually want. ‘Cause being a TCK affects the things I want.

Breanne: Thank you! That’s awesome. Your turn Wendy…

Wendy: Alright! My story is quite similar to Luke’s. I was born in a tiny town in Illinois called Winfield. My dad was going through seminary at the time, and my mom worked for a proofreading company. When I was two, and my brother was less than one, we moved to Ukraine. It was Donetsk Ukraine, as in the Eastern side of Ukraine, so very Russian. It was right after the Iron Curtain came down, so right after the Soviet Union disintegrated. My parents served in the church in Ukraine. My father worked as a pastor and in the seminary. We lived there for four years until my brother Jackson began to struggle with asthma. It really became clear that it wasn’t the right place for him and his health. So we went back to the States for one year. And then to Austria for a year. Lastly, we moved to the Czech Republic. It was like four countries and four schools and four different languages in four years. I was six when we left Ukraine. My first grade year in the States was in a private Christian and super-white school. And then we moved to Austria, Vienna, and I went to my first Christian International school. It was my first International school experience, and it was the best. It was there, in second grade, that I discovered I was actually an extrovert. Before that, I was just in my own little world… I remember I felt really distant in Ukraine and the States. When I moved to second grade in this International School, I was like, “Oh my gosh, everyone is different, and it’s ok that I am different from all these people. I don’t need to fit in because no one fits in.” It was so freeing. I made friends with this guy from Kenya named Tumani, and we would play soccer together. It was such a great year. I felt accepted for exactly who I felt I wanted to be. Very liberating.

Then we moved to Prague, and I started going to this British International School. That actually took me back into my own little world somewhat because there were a particular culture and a certain way of being… It was mostly for business kids; they were primarily British, I didn’t really fit in. It was a time of a bit of hardship, I guess? That was just a different genre of a TCK that I hadn’t interacted with yet, and a lot of them weren’t believers. That pushed me into a different headspace, and it was hard not to fit in with that; they were into some dark stuff as well. That was my first experience of like, “Oh, I need to be careful with what I hang out around. I shouldn’t be watching these movies.” It was just kind of dark. I guess that was when I needed to choose not to fit in, consciously, which was different. Because as a TCK, you automatically just want to adapt, at least I do. In a way, I’ve always wanted to adapt, but I never remember actually adapting. I was always like, “but I am my own person. I am Wendy, and no one else is.” I really embraced the “I am different from you” kind of mentality.

And so we switched schools to a Christian international School, which Luke joined later. I think my story is more complicated in some ways. The lack of control I felt I dealt with in some negative ways. I think I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression, which resulted from not feeling in control. Some expat families are rooted where they are, but our family wasn’t like that. Every year they’d be like, “We’ll see, we’ll see”… It gave me an uncertain feeling of “Do I learn Czech, do I not? I don’t know. What’ll happen? I hope I don’t leave my friends”. I think I felt out of control. I do think I suffered from the effects of those sorts of things.

Going to college, I went to college after working on my mental health for a long time, which helped me stay ok and process. And unlike Luke, I embraced my TCK-ness in college. I joined the intercultural organization. I wanted to be involved with TCKs and find internationals. I really made an effort to get to know multicultural people. I think I felt most at home in a diverse community.

The first two years of college were really hard. After that, however, I started to realize that everyone had a really complex story. There were so many other ways of finding diversity and different perspectives. That really kept me sane in college. I was blessed by rooming with a foster kid and hearing her story, and having a bunch of friends who were Vietnamese… I hadn’t met many people who were Vietnamese.

When college was coming to an end, I had studied abroad in Italy. Then after that, I came to Turkey to visit my parents in Istanbul. This was like my junior year of college. I remember thinking, “I think I could live here. I really like Istanbul.” And I really liked Italy as well. I thought to myself, “Man, America’s cool, but I really do feel more at home here, on this side of the world.

Some TCKs are like, I’ve moved, I don’t want to anymore, I want to settle down and put down roots. I had the opposite. I want to keep being a nomad, totally up to that hippie life; let’s go!.. Everyone at college knew me as the European cultured hippie Wendy who liked art and wanted to travel the world again. That was kind of my identity already. I just embraced that.

After college, I backpacked through Europe to Istanbul, and I started my life here. And yeah, I think I will be connected to the international community my entire life. It’s so much a part of who I am… feeling more like a global citizen than an American citizen. My identity is nuanced. More and more people than we realize have that. Whether they have a passport or not. They can be multicultural, multiethnic in some way.


Come back this next weekend for the Part 2: A Long Lost Love!


Credits to @istanbul.lovestory on Instagram for the picture

Truth4TCKs: My Plea to TCKs + ANNOUNCEMENT

I am a Third Culture Kid. I am ethnically American but have grown up in another country most of my life. I am a bridge between cultures and languages, not belonging to either side. 

A Third Culture Kid is by definition, “ a person who spends a significant part of his or her first eighteen years of life accompanying parent(s) into a country or countries that are different from at least one parent’s passport country(ies) due to a parent’s choice of work or advanced training.”

This kind of upbringing is increasing rapidly as the world globalizes. More and more people are moving overseas (wherever that may be), and their kids are moving with them. 

When one is raised in constant, daily contact with several cultures, it impacts them tremendously. They do not feel like they belong in one country, or people, or culture. 

Why does this matter? 

Because the increasing number of TCKs means an increasing number of Christian TCKs. 

Christian TCKs are a very unique, special group of people. They are passionate about the nations, love cultures and languages, and see the world a bit differently than their monocultural brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I want to encourage and challenge that group of people. 

Christian TCKs are given their unique upbringing by God for a reason. They understand multiple cultures, languages, and have a more global world view. They don’t belong in any one place, and so they feel as if the one place they will fully belong is in heaven. They see the differences between Christianity’s culture in various nations and often know how to spot ethnocentricity. TCKs act as cultural brokers, bridging two or more groups who normally wouldn’t understand each other. 

If someone is a follower of Jesus Christ and is a TCK, they cannot waste their God-given abilities. 

If you are a follower of Jesus and are a TCK, I repeat, you cannot waste your God-ordained abilities. 

You uniquely see the world. You are empathetic and diverse. You love many cultures and you love learning new ones. (Yes, learning culture is a thing, y’all.) You have such wonderful things given to you intentionally by your Father in Heaven. 

Please don’t waste them. Please choose to use those abilities for the glory of God and the good of others. The world needs people like you. 


Also, I have an announcement! I will be posting interviews soon that I have done with Christian TCKs. I’ll ask them about their struggles. We’ll be talking about the way their upbringing has molded them to see the world. And last but not least, how they’ve used their abilities to glorify God and impact others. I can’t wait for you to hear their stories. Ciao, my friends!


School photo created by drobotdean – www.freepik.com

Truth4TCKs: I’m From… Heaven? – How The TCK Life Is A Blessing In Disguise –

The Confusion Of The TCK: Where They Are From

“So where are you from? “

I paused… Should I give them the long answer? Or the short one?

“Umm, I’m American.”

“Oh, cool.”

It was true. I am American – at least, that’s what my passport says. But I don’t feel like it. Not really. 

I have only lived there for a couple of years. Most of my life was spent in other parts of the world. 

So what? I am still American even if I grew up elsewhere, right?

Wrong. I grew up in a culture and environment very different from those of my cousins and friends in the States. 

I don’t feel patriotic. I am not as worried about American politics as they are. I don’t feel like America is as big of a deal as they crack it up to be. I don’t even think of America as home. 

So, where am I from? 

I don’t know. 

I am literally an in-between. I don’t belong entirely in any of the cultures in which I have lived. I do not belong to them, nor do they to me. I am a Third Culture Kid (TCK). 

Why Where We Are From Matters: Culture & Belonging

In the book Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, authors Ruth Van Recken and Michael Pollock talk about “cultural balance”. They say: “A sense of cultural balance allows (…) freedom. Once we have internalized a culture’s customs and underlying assumptions, or know who we are in relationship to this culture, an intuitive sense of what is right, humorous, appropriate, or offensive in any particular situation develops.”

When we have grown up in a certain culture, we know who we are in relationship to it. We know if and how we belong. Being rooted in a soil of relationships and community gives people a sense of identity and belonging. 

When we have not grown up in a culture, we do not know how to act or behave or react in a situation within that culture. It becomes more complicated if we have grown up in multiple cultures. We never know which one we belong in because we haven’t had the time to completely absorb the customs and assumptions. Thus the paradox of the TCK: we’re expected to belong in one culture, but we don’t. 

However, we don’t fit into the other cultures in which we have lived. We have moved too often to pick it up, or we have lived in a family who embodied a different culture than the one in which we did daily life.

Since someone who has cultural balance feels free within their society, they find their identity there. Rarely ever does a TCK feel at home. 

A Home with God

One of the most amazing things about the Word of God is that it applies to every single facet of life. This includes the struggles of the TCK. 

When a TCK does not feel as if they belong anywhere, they can be reminded of Hebrews 11: 13-16 and Philippians 3:20.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)

There is a common theme in these two passages: as followers of Jesus, we do not belong to this earth. 

We belong somewhere else. 

Heaven.

Paul says in Philippians 3:19 about the people of this earth: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” When Jesus transforms the life of a wretched sinner, they no longer glory in their shame. They glory in the redeeming work of Christ. They no longer set their minds on earthly things. They set their minds on godly, pure, lovely things (Philippians 4:8)

I think that we could say there are two cultures: the culture of this earth and the culture of Heaven. 

We don’t belong in any way to the culture of the earth anymore. Instead, we live in accord with the culture of heaven, where our citizenship is. 

This is astounding news for the believing TCK. Although we might not feel like we belong in any country or national culture, we know there is one place in which we belong perfectly. A place in which we are loved perfectly by God forever.

What joy! 

Looking On The Flip Side

As my father likes to say, TCKs often feel that wherever they go, they are a dime short of a dollar. Then he’ll add with a smile, in reality, they are two dollars. 

Even though TCKs might not understand cultures 100%, they can understand them very well. Let’s say 90%. If they understand both sides of a cultural divide, they can act as bridges for those on either side of it.

TCKs get to live a multicultural life full of rich beauty and diversity. They grow up living among languages, different cuisines, various expressions of art, and values.

Also, TCKs can learn to be flexible and adapt no matter what the circumstance. This can be a helpful ability in life. What ordinarily might shock someone is less of a shock for the TCK. Flexibility is an asset that global businesses look for in employees.

Therefore, although the TCK may often feel rootless, without a secure national identity and a sense of belonging, they can make their weaknesses their strengths. They can help monocultural people succeed in their attempts at intercultural interactions. 

Rich Life and Hope

Third Culture Kids can feel like nomads. So did Abraham. He roamed the earth, not knowing where he was going, waiting for a better country. His faith was counted to him as righteousness. 

Dear TCK, have faith in the hope to come. You are a citizen of heaven and belong wholly there. Make use of the God-given talents your upbringing has allowed.