The topic of third-culture kids (TCK) is like talking inside baseball. It’s a topic that most Christians have never heard of, much less considered, even if they do support missionaries. Yet, unlike change-ups and four-seam fastballs, it’s no game. It’s a dynamic that is present within missionary families and sending organizations. SAMS is pleased to announce a new program aimed at helping families with TCKs.
SAMS Associate Missionary, Kim Miller, is mobilizing a new TCK Care program specifically designed for SAMS missionary families. After serving with SAMS in Honduras for 14 years, Mike and Kim Miller learned first-hand the joys and challenges associated with raising a family overseas. When they repatriated to the U.S. in 2020, their daughters faced not only cultural adjustments but significant grief and emotional challenges.
Third-culture kids are those who are raised in a culture other than their parents or of the culture of their nationality. Because of this, ‘home’ is a complex concept for missionary kids whose citizenship is in one country, but their upbringing, or a significant part of it, is in another.
A recent Christianity Today article, ‘The Kids Are Not Alright,’ states that an estimated 425,000 foreign missionaries are serving around the world, and many are American. Regardless of their national origin, many of the kids of these families feel helpless.
Some are stuck in the United States having left because of the pandemic. Others are back in the U.S. to attend high school or college. There are other reasons as well, but the common thread is a loss of identity. With this loss comes grief, confusion, disillusionment, and even loss of faith.
In fact, a 2021 TCK Training survey indicates the level of trauma missionary kids experience is much higher—nearly double that of kids growing up in the United States. The real challenge is that these kids’ needs are often overlooked, according to TCK advocate Lauren Wells. “There is a myth that children are simply naturally resilient,” she says. “But resiliency is something that has to be nurtured and built and cared for.”
Mission societies, local churches, partners, and even families on and off the mission field are responding. While searching for resources to help their daughters process their grief, Kim Miller dove into the world of TCK care and discovered a new opportunity for ministry. Kim’s husband, Mike Miller, on the other hand, was motivated by his desire to see missionary fathers lead their families well and has been taking courses in spiritual formation and pastoral care. Together, the Millers will be using their past experiences and newly developed skills to serve SAMS missionary families.
The Miller family currently live in Florida where they continue to nurture families, support children impacted by trauma, and daily live their faith by pointing others to Jesus. The Millers will be phasing in this TCK Care program in early 2024. Please be prepared for more forthcoming information on this important program, and join us in praising God for the Millers and their heart for missionary kids.