Often times, organizations question whether the spending time to train children for cross cultural service is truly necessary and worthwhile.
It’s important to note that research in the area of Mobility and International Relocation shows that one of the major reasons for early family repatriation is the overwhelming challenge for family members to adapt on the mission field.
Usually, the head of household remains in the same organization, works similar hours and holds a position in a similar environment, but the adaptation for the rest of the accompanying family is more challenging.
New routines, school, church, community and language means they are confronted with major obstacles to overcome.
Furthermore, the decision for an international move is often made without input from younger family members. This leaves them frustrated and with a feeling of loss of control and freedom in their lives that they have to remain abroad.
Mission Institute Children’s Program
One of the best kept secrets of the Institute of World Mission is its cross-cultural training program for children. For many years children who accompanied their parents to Mission Institute had to temporarily join their grade level at a local school or attend summer day camp programs.
Sometimes child care givers were brought in to “mind” the children. There were no set programs for specific age groups or cross-cultural training provided for missionary kids until the summer of 2001 when the first Children’s Mission Institute began.
What is Children’s Mission Institute and what is its purpose?
Children’s Mission Institute is a three-week training program where children learn first off that they are Missionary Kids (MKs) and that when God calls mom and dad to mission service, He calls the whole family.
Children’s Mission Institute is a place where children from everywhere to everywhere come together and experience at once how to get along through love and respect for each other’s cultural differences and thus form a bond of friendship through something they have in common – being a MK.
A sixteen day curriculum of lessons, reading, crafts, culture trips, and games provides an opportunity for children to recognize who they are as missionary kids; understand that change and transition is part of life and what they are going through is normal and in the process discover ways to cope and deal positively with change.
Personal and family values, discovering ways of managing stress and culture shock; experiencing creative ways to resolve disagreements are some of the daily lessons integrated with examples of Bible characters who moved from one culture to another.
Learning that saying ‘goodbye’ is part of life but saying a proper goodbye is even important in order to thrive in a new country and culture. Making new friends and learning to fit in is part of being adaptable.
Keeping expectations flexible and maintaining a positive attitude helps to make the adjustment smoother. Acknowledging the loss of friendships but being open to building a forever friendship with Jesus is key to thriving in a new country.
Finally then, the goal and purpose of Children’s Mission Institute is to help build strong resilient MKs who know and believe that even if they “settle on the far side of the sea,” even there, “God’s hand will guide them and His right hand will hold them fast” (Psalm 139:9-10).