02 February, 2017

My TCK ministry?

I had a "penny drop" moment this morning. I've been putting together our monthly news/prayer letter and the theme that's emerged this month is TCKs (Third Culture Kids). This morning I had some doubt about the content of the newsletter, it seemed to be full of "us" as opposed to what you expect from a missionary prayer letter, and that's about "their ministry".

But later as I looked at it again, I realised that the line between "us" and "ministry" is quite blurry in some ways, especially in this wresting season. I also suddenly realised that I am "doing TCK ministry".

Now I know that "doing ministry" is very much Christian-ese, but hang with me for a moment. When we started applying to become missionaries, we didn't have a nation or people group in mind. David felt called to teach missionary kids. That's what he thought God was telling him he's made him to do. So that's what we put on our application. I've never felt called to teach, or to do ministry with missionary kids. In fact "kids ministry" really isn't my thing at all.

OMF does not just accept one member of a married couple and then let the other tag along. They want to know that each are called into this challenging lifestyle. Which is a very good thing, because sometimes it is only that sense of calling that keeps you here and if only one of us had it, we'd be in trouble.

So of course during our interviews before accepting us they were asking me about "my calling". What would I do? My answer, if I remember correctly, was along the lines of "I can put my hand to a lot of different things, I don't really mind, but I think it would be more along the lines of support ministry rather than front-line evangelism or church planting." I definitely sensed that God called me to a missionary life (he'd been pursuing me since I was about seven), but not to a specific people group or ministry.

Periodically, even now, people assume that I also teach at CAJ. But I'm simply not interested in teaching there. It isn't my gifting or my passion. 

However, this morning I realised that I, too, am inadvertently "ministering to TCKs". It's happened through having my own kids. Of course I am "ministering" to my own TCKs. But I'm influencing other people's kids too. How did I miss it?

Maybe like this:

Despite living close to school, we don't have lots of kids hanging out in our house, like some people do. That's mostly due to the personalities of our older two boys, who are on the introverted side of the spectrum. While we would love to have more kids (though not tonnes) in our house from time to time, it hasn't happened. 

I'm not formally involved in any kids/teen ministry. I don't have a formal role at CAJ or at church.

However, this is happening:

I regularly attend prayer meetings at school, where we pray for our kids, the staff, and other parents.

It is hard to see, but we had the wrestlers, coaches, and supporters from
13 schools squished into these stands from about 9 to 5 last last month.
Lots of opportunity to be with wrestlers and their parents.
I'm friends with many mothers from school (and quite a lot of other mums too). I try to be an encourager, because I know, from the trenches of motherhood, that it is tough.

We've had boys involved in sports all year long for years now and that means we've made friends with a number of other parents. We support and encourage one another, again, from the trenches of parenthood.

I'm hanging out all season with the two wrestling teams. That is more than just cheering them on from the stands. To do this, I usually travel together with the team or some of their parents and siblings and then sit cheek-to-jowl for a whole day with them. I get opportunity to encourage the wrestlers, to congratulate them, instruct them, console them, and even admonish them (eg. you need to eat something or you need to make sure you give that uniform to your mum to wash).

Here are some stories from the past weeks to illustrate:

On Tuesday afternoon I went with the high school team to the other side of town for a wrestling dual: an hour-long competition between two teams. I was the only spectator there for our team (it was in the other team's gym, so they had over a hundred spectators). While the guys were warming up, I was able to spend time with the four high school girls with the team. Two of them are wrestlers, but this was a boy’s school, so they had no bouts that day. The other two are student team-managers. They help the coach out with a bunch of things including recording matches, writing notes about the bouts, cleaning mats, managing equipment, etc. We sat together for at least half an hour before any wrestling began. It was fun to chat. My favourite question was, “So how do you cope as the mum of only boys?”

This guy has stayed at our house numerous times during
the last two wrestling seasons. He lives too far away
to make it in time to catch the team bus early on
Saturday morning, so he stays with us.
His mum works on Saturdays so is unable to make it to
meets, but I always feel like God has given us the freedom
to be there to cheer, not just for our own boys, but for
those whose parents can't make it.
Last night I heard that one of the wrestlers had been very busy, almost hyperactive at training last night. Today I dropped in to a special chapel service at school (another story, but it is what they call Spiritual Life Emphasis Week at school this week). I happened to see that guy and asked him about last night, he said that he'd overdone it on the coffee because he'd not had enough sleep the night before. But it was nice to just make a mid-week connection.

Last week at the middle school meet we had a girl get concussion. She was devastated and didn’t want to quit wrestling because she’d been undefeated in the season up till that point. I was able to tell her there was no shame in having to bow out with injury.

On the same morning I was able to pass on eating advice to another wrestler. He hadn’t been listening to his parents, but I told him that he needed to eat between bouts, especially protein. His dad was sitting there cheering me on!

Being with the middle school team has been interesting, because I have a little bit of status as the mum of our eldest son, who is a little bit of a hero on the team (he is undefeated so far this season). I clearly remember the struggles he had as a middle school wrestler and I’ve been able to encourage them a little, I think, in telling them that our son has persevered through all that to get to where he is today.

Not to mention that I just love sitting on the sidelines cheering for these hard-working kids.

I'm so thankful that, through being a mum to our own boys, I've been able to be a part of so many other kids' lives, even though "ministry" to this age group isn't really my gifting.

No comments: