From Third Culture Kid to GC President: Life Lessons for Missionary Families

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Listening to the IWM podcast episode entitled “From Missionary Kid to GC President,” I was encouraged and inspired by the personal testimony and experiences shared by Pastor Ted Wilson. Like me, Pastor Wilson was a third culture kid, growing up and living in several countries. Pastor Wilson shared insightful stories from his childhood and adulthood, as well as from his family journey, that have inspired him throughout his life.

As a young child, Pastor Wilson lived in Egypt, where his parents served for more than 15 years, a significant portion of his childhood and adolescence. Consequently, Egypt was his home and has lingered close to his heart ever since. He still identifies himself as an Egyptian, a fact not known by many! Pastor Wilson noted the importance of making friends with those in leadership, reflecting on how his father was personally protected by a friend, the governor of Cairo, during the Suez Crisis — he and the rest of his family were safely evacuated. That friendship his father cultivated proved to be a blessing in a time of need. 

Adventures in mission service didn’t stop once Pastor Wilson reached his teenage years and adulthood. After he and Nancy were married, they moved to West Africa and then to Russia with their three daughters. Their experience wasn’t without struggle though! Pastor Wilson noted how it took time for Nancy to be willing to leave her family and friends in the United States. I found it encouraging to hear that struggles when deciding to go abroad and during one’s missionary experience are not unique but are shared by many missionary families. Although transitions can be full of challenges, Pastor Wilson noted how his children were a source of encouragement through it all, many times motivating them to continue serving. While it was a blessing to have supportive children, Pastor Wilson emphasized the importance of not neglecting the needs of our families during mission service. He and Nancy made it a point to involve their daughters in family decisions, which my parents also did with my sister and me when we were old enough to understand and express our opinions. While it is fundamental to have a vision for mission, I believe individuals and families must pray and consider how the decision to move will impact each member of the family.

Something that I resonated with from Pastor Wilson’s personal testimony was how his daughters missed their West African home when they arrived in the United States and didn’t quite fit in initially. I also struggled to fit in during all of our moves as a family across the world. I urge parents to prepare their children for the adjustment ahead of them. It is important to them, as it was for me, to know that I am different and that different is OK.

I appreciate Pastor Wilson sharing his lifelong missionary journey. In a special way, I also appreciate him emphasizing the times we live in since this year reminds us that as we get closer to Jesus’ return, it will become more and more challenging to share the gospel message with those around us. Conditions will become more unfavorable, and hearts may not be as receptive as they are now. As such, we should take advantage of our current freedom of religion and speech to tell our friends about God and the salvation through Jesus offered to us all.

Leaving us with an encouraging Bible text, Pastor Wilson urged us to include our own names when we claim Bible promises. We can do so with the verse in Joel 2:21: “Fear not, O [Dani] (in my case); Be glad and rejoice, For the Lord has done marvelous things!” 

By Daniele Kuhn

Dani is a TCK (Third Culture Kid) who lived 20 years abroad in Bolivia, Peru, Thailand, Canada and the U.S. She also served as a volunteer for short mission projects in Korea, Greece and the Amazon. She is currently studying dietetics at Loma Linda University. Her parents, Ronald and Jacqueline Kuhn, continue to serve as missionaries at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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