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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The White One

They forgot to tell me that this wouldn't be easy.

I heard that student missionaries who go with another mission organization go through a rigorous psychological test as part of their application. Then they attend a student missionary camp for at least two weeks in the summer where team building features prominently in their experience. They're sent out with at least one other partner and often work with a career missionary family.

I, on the other hand, managed to get out of the online study guide course based on the Mission to Passport Handbook because I'd taken a student missionary course 10 years ago and had been working at a self-supporting institution in a foreign country since then. I'd even recently completed graduate studies focusing on third-culture kids. I portrayed myself as qualified but I quickly learned I was not.

While there are other missionary volunteers here, they came at least 6 months before me and have already created bonds with the other missionary volunteers. I don't have a career missionary family I'm assigned to work with. Unlike career missionaries, I don't have access to a psychologist if I need one. Ironically, I'm older than some career missionaries but I'm here alone. This is the hard part.

I'm very thankful for my family and my best friend who faithfully keep in touch through chat, email and phone. In an era where electronic communication has been reduced to a series of emojis and abbreviations, they still take the time for hour long conversations or to write meaningful emails. I cherish the moments we share and am grateful for the bonds that keep us close. I think if I didn't have that connection, I would have left and gone home in the first week or two.

It seems strange for me to struggle. I could write the textbook on TCKs and adapting. Yet I've learned since coming here that it's really important for me to be able to connect. More important than job satisfaction is feeling understood and heard. Finding that, though, is not so easy.

I am highly sensitive to non verbals. I know when someone is tuning me out or uninterested in what I have to say and shut down when I sense that. This leads, then, to a growing reluctance to share because I don't want to be rejected. Which, in turn, leads to decreased vulnerability. The higher the walls, the harder it becomes to build quality friendships.

I'm not sure if it's a TCK thing or if it's just life. Toddlers who are complete strangers can hold hands and walk away, gabbling in a language only they understand. Children exchange toys in the sandpit and are quickly friends. It seems the older we get, though, the more we filter, evaluate, judge and the less we accept, listen, and connect.

I have a quotation on my phone that resonates with me. It's a feeling I've had for as long as I could remember.

So here you are, too foreign for home, too foreign for here, never enough for both. 
~Ijeoma Umebinyuo

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