Moore Family to Portugal

Moore Family to Portugal


Maybe some have heard the term “TCK” or “Third Culture Kid.” There are two parts to the definition of “TCK.”  The first is that they spend all or a significant portion of their FORMATIVE years cross-culturally.  This is different from someone who was raised in one culture, then moves to another culture as an adult.  The latter knows and understands their home culture and experiences the differences between it and their host culture through that lens. A TCK, however, adopts elements from their passport culture through limited experiences or family traditions as well as elements from their host culture.  Notice the TCK’s country of origin is called the “passport culture” because while that is the country that has issued them a passport, it is not necessarily the country they identify as their “home.”  The elements they adopt from both cultures come together to create a unique THIRD culture that is only their own.  This can cause them to feel quite misunderstood and isolated in who and how they are.

The second part of the TCK definition is that they live highly mobile lives.  Does that sound like someone who moves around a lot or who has lived in a lot of different cities or houses?  Yes.  But even OTHERS’ mobility in and out of a TCK’s life counts as a destabilizing factor.  There is a lot of “leaving” that happens in the lives of Third Culture Kids – sometimes it’s them leaving, sometimes it’s their teacher leaving after one year, or their best friend who was there for 2 or 4, or their family’s colleagues who are also the acting grandparents or aunts and uncles while they are far away from their families, etc. etc.  Sometimes it’s short-term “leaving” like a furlough, and sometimes it’s permanent.

An added complicating factor to a TCK’s life is what is called an “expected repatriation.”  It is assumed that most TCK’s will eventually return to their passport country.  While some TCK’s struggle with “roots” as it is, this element adds another level of complication in establishing roots and “digging in” when you know that in a short while you will leave.  Repatriating for study or work or other motives is quite a challenge for some TCK’s, especially while their parents remain in the host country as missionaries.

All of these factors present some unique struggles for TCK’s, particularly in the areas of cultural identity (who am I? – because I’m not exactly like my passport culture, nor am I like my host culture) as well as grief and loss (it is argued that Third Culture Kids suffer more loss in their first 18 years of life than most mono-cultural kids do in their lifetime – consider the loss of persons, places, pets, possessions, and harder to define losses such as identity and meaning).

For this reason, some have made it a point to minister to these kids.  Recently, a seminar with solutions and suggestions involving these issues was made available to us through our kids’ international school.  And this week, Avery had the opportunity to attend a missionary teen retreat in Spain with about 15 other TCK’s.  The great thing about this group is that they “get” each other and form a quick bond.  We appreciate your prayers for her as she returns tomorrow… and your prayers for us as we raise TCK’s.  Yes, there are two sides to the coin.  One is a side full of benefits and the other is a side full of challenges.  Both sides are part of the same coin and one doesn’t come without the other.  Before you close this e-mail, we would certainly appreciate your prayers over our children and the things they go through.

(If the “Third Culture” topic is new to you or interests you, there are many books and articles available as well as many studies concerning this phenomenon.  Understanding this can help you better understand and pray for your missionary families and better minister to them while they are stateside at your church).

I’ll just end with this related story:
Beau took Avery to the airport at 6 a.m. this past Thursday.  She was flying to the missionary teen retreat with a friend who is 18.  We had checked the airline’s website and confirmed that Avery is old enough to travel without an escort according to their policy.  This was consistent with her friend’s experience of flying alone to and from this same retreat.  As it would happen, the person checking her in was determined not to let her on the flight without a legal guardian.  Despite what their website clearly stated, she cited another Portuguese law that requires a notarized letter of permission from immigration with both parents’ signatures.  Being a holiday, such a letter would have been an impossibility to obtain, even if it hadn’t been 6 a.m. At this point, the only two options were 1. call it quits and take home a very disappointed kid, foregoing the financial investment we had made up to that point or 2. buy a ticket and fly to Spain with her.  Beau bought the ticket.  He was in no way prepared to travel, having gone to the airport in “pajamas” (sweatpants and a t-shirt) and a ballcap with unfixed hair and unbrushed teeth; no coffee or breakfast as of yet.  Since it was a holiday in Portugal, it was his intention to come back home and have a leisurely morning.  Nevertheless, here he was flying all the way to Spain, then back, in his pajamas.  While those who knew the details of the story were thinking, “You get the father of the year award,” he imagined those observing his “sloppy state” in the airport were judging him… “This guy didn’t even try!”  Ha ha.  The things you do for your kids.

have a great week!


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