Twenty-three missionary kids (MK)—ranging in age from 16 to 50—along with spouses and children attended a WELS MK Retreat in April. Organized by missionary kids, this retreat offered support and encouragement for adults who grew up in a WELS mission field.
“When you come back from a mission field, your sense of identity can be lost,” says Anna Sherod, a co-organizer of the retreat who spent much of her childhood in Japan. “People who grew up highly mobile and with highly intercultural childhoods have a unique set of challenges for understanding their place in the world.”
Sherod says the retreat is a way to help people process their pasts as they look forward to their future. “We want to provide a way for people to connect and to feel part of a community that understands that unique experience and also unleash people to use their unique experiences and gifts within God’s kingdom now,” she says.
Sena Yerges, a licensed professional counselor at WLCFS–Christian Family Solutions who specializes in missionary family support, agrees. “We’re all different, and we know about some common struggles with third-culture kids,” says Yerges, who grew up in various mission fields. “To be able to get together and acknowledge those differences but also talk about . . . how God has used our backgrounds to his glory is really exciting,” she says. “It’s great to see what comes from this unique upbringing.”
Yerges says retreats like these also offer a sense of belonging. “When MKs get together no matter if they never met before, it feels like an extended family reunion. Everybody just gets everybody else,” she says. “It feels very comforting and relaxing and reassuring. Instead of being the one who is different, you have a sense of belonging that you maybe haven’t had very often in your life.”
At the retreat, attendees discussed their unique challenges and blessings, networked, and worshiped together. They also worked on a collaborative art piece, in which they created individualized pie charts on slices of tree limbs showing all the places where they lived. These pieces will be arranged into an art piece that may be displayed at the Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis.
WELS World Missions helped fund this retreat. “Our World Mission team understands that overseas work is a whole family experience,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of World Missions and also a missionary kid himself. “The effects of the transition to a country and back to a passport country can leave kids reeling in many ways. These retreats give us the chance to offer needed support for these third-culture kids who as WELS members have much to offer the mission of the church.”
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