Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Musings on missions kids

I just finished the book Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia by Tim Bascom, the memoir of a man who was raised in Ethiopia because his parents were Christian missionaries there with SIM. I have read a couple of other stories by missionaries' children, and I find myself troubled that each of the stories involved something truly unfortunate happening in the child's life, as the result.

In this particular book, he attended boarding school in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia's capital), at the school for all the missionary kids (his parents were stationed at a village in another part of Ethiopia.) At the age of six he began attending this school, seperated from his parents for most of the year. They would have the kids write letters to their parents, but the letters were supervised and dictated by a teacher for the child to write. If a child misbehaved, they were beat with a leather belt by one of the people in charge. He says that growing up he never had one, not one, Ethiopian playmate/friend, because he resented them in some way for taking his parents away, and also because the boarding school never had the kids interface with anyone else, it sheltered them from the surrounding society/culture.

As an adult now, he has gravitated (understandably in many ways) towards a very liberal form of religion, because he tired of the "duty" focused Christianity he felt his parents practiced. Although his memoir isn't bitter, I gathered from the overall tone that he doesn't look back on much of his childhood with fondness.

And I've read other stories of missionary children, things (horrible things, much worse than getting hit with a belt) that happened to them at the Christian missionary boarding schools they attended. Things that have left them with a lot of healing to do.

So I'm wondering, why is this? When the Bible tells us to go and make disciples of all the nations, certainly it isn't asking us to throw our children to the wolves in the name of self denial and sacrifice. I wonder if the apparent corruption in these boarding schools still happens, or if improvements have been made over the years. And how on earth did some of the worst abusers, supposed missionaries, even get hired for these schools?

It makes me so sad that so many children have essentially lost their childhoods, their faith and sometimes even their innocence all in the name of missions. I don't believe it has to be that way by any means, nor is it God's intention. Kevin and I have talked about someday wanting to live somewhere in East Africa (ideally Ethiopia) for awhile, who knows if/when/how that would ever happen. I am quite convinced that a child could have a rich, full, happy childhood living in a different culture. So when I read some of these stories I think of all the missed opportunities, lost time, and the misguided intentions of so many well-meaning adults. It is just so sad, and I hope that some of the mentalities that contribute to this have, indeed, changed.

(In my next post I think I will give some of my own random opinions on why these things have happened.)

11 comments:

shells said...

i think sometimes missionaries are so focused on their 'calling' that they forget family. you see it happen all the time with people in fulltime ministry (my worship leader husband included!). i think god has called ALL of us to things, but it should always be god, family, job. and i think people replace god with 'god stuff' sometimes. just my opinion. i have learned that raising my kids is the MOST IMPORTANT thing i can be doing right now, atleast in my life. hope you are over your preggy sickness!

darci said...

I actually just ordered this book off amazon a couple days ago..I was raised a pastor's kid and I think suffered from some of that..neglect for the cause of Christ. It is sad, but I think very common, for kids of parents in the ministry to be forced into little boxes of perfect 'Christian' behaviour..not always even by the parents, but by those who judge the parents by "oh you're a pastor, missionary..whatever". I FIRMLY believe that once God gives us family (husband, kids..) our FIRST and most important "ministry" is to those gifts..just my two cents.
darci :)

darci said...

ps, I second the 'hope you're feeling better' wish..I can so relate..ugh! so hang in there. :) darci

Rachel said...

How sad, I truly hope that it isn't like that for children of missionaries anymore. Our pastor would spend the time before and after his sermon hanging out with his kids in the nursery. It was so neat seeing him in his dad shoes! I hope more missionaries/pastors take that stance for their families sake.

5KidMom said...

I don't mean to sound judgmental, but as a SAHM, I'm sure you will probably agree. Why are these kids being sent away?! They need their parents, regardless of occupation! I understand that missionaries often find themselves in remote locations with little to no resources for education, but home schooling is far from a new idea. I would never presume to say I know what a person's calling from God is, but I can not fathom my loving Heavenly Father asking someone to sacrifice their children in this way (I know, I know...Abraham and Isaac). The scriptures are abundantly clear that our kids are our most precious gift from Him. I'm afraid that there were, and possibly still are some confused folks out there.

sbarbie said...

I read your blog mainly because I appreciate your desire to live by Christian principles. The fact that you are concerned about how some Christian missionary groups or organizations treat people, particularly young ones, shows that you recognize that there are standards to which true Christians should conduct themselves. When asked what is the greatest commandment from God, Jesus said: "You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength." (Mark 12:30) If a person loves God the way Jesus indicated, he will be most willing to obey and serve Him. I often wonder what it the motivation for the missionary work of some religious organizations. Is it merely to increase their numbers or is it to educate others about Bible truth? Imitators of Christ obey the command to make disciples (Matthew 28: 19, 20) out of love for God and their neighbor. True Christians have a deep respect for the Bible, accept it as the Word of God, and believe what its says (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3: 16,17). They demonstrate that God’s Word is more important than human ideas or customs (Matthew 15:1-3, 7-9). They try to live by the Bible in their everyday life, so they do not preach one thing and then practice another (Titus 1:15, 16). Clearly, any religious organization that tolerates such abuse and neglect among any of its members is one that should certainly be avoided (2 Timothy 3:5).

Bek said...

I served a two year mission before I was married and had kids (this is the practice in our church..very few serve once they have kids and if they do..they usually have older kids...). I think it would be very difficult to do it the other way. I know it CAN be done...but it would be hard. ALthough..there is a great blog about a family living in Haiti that is doing a really good job.... it is inspiring to read... here is the link...you should check it out... http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.coml

There is also a quote from a really great talk given by a leader of our church. It is "no other success can compensate for failure in the home". This means business, church, whatever....if you "fail" in your home, it isn't worth it. That always seemed like a good standard. I think most people think it applies to working to get money, but it can apply to working to build the kingdom.

Good points and now I need to go read this book!

shells said...

I think we have to be careful as Christians not to judge either. Thirty + years ago, things are very different than they are now. No one really home schoooled, etc. It is easy for us to look back and say they did something wrong when we are not in that situation. Maybe those were rules? Maybe it was unsafe? Maybe education was very important? Dont get me wrong, I wouldnt send my children away, it would be hard, but he obviously didnt like going, so we only hear one side of the story.

richlisad said...

Good article written by a missionary brat at http://www.theooze.com/articles/article.cfm?id=1209

David said...

I am a missionary kid. I have been home schooled all my life. I am blessed in that my parents have always considered me and my brothers and sisters missionaries not only missionary kids. We have always been involved in the ministry.

H Grafe said...

HI AGAIn :-), I just responded to your random thoughts... here's some of mine... The Devil really wants to mess things up somehow when his territory is being overtaken. Also, it is amazing how God can use our blundering ideas/ways to still bring people to him. Although we now realize our pioneering grandparent (or parents)missionaries were wrong about certain things... God certainly used them to bring lots of people to Himself. Also you would find, if there was a way to search, about hurt PK's (pastor's kids), hurt TK (teacher's kids), hurt BK's (businesspersons' kids), hurt LK's (laborers kids).... probably even hurt SAHM's kids... (stay at home Mom's) etc. "stuff" happens everywhere... sad but true... sinners (both forgiven and not) live everywhere.

 

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