Schools for the children of missionaries have a unique role to play. School becomes more than just a place to learn – it becomes the place where you belong, where your friends are “third-culture” kids just like you.
“Third-culture kids” (TCKs) straddle two worlds – the society where their parents grew up and the society where they are growing up – feeling as if they don’t quite fit in either place. TCKs have a culture all their own, and school friends become family, as they understand each other like no one else.
One such urban missionary school has 13 students ages five to 12 from the United States, Korea, Sweden, and Switzerland. Despite being from all over the world, the students have a bond forged from their shared “third-culture” circumstances. The purpose of the school is to provide quality education, extracurricular activities, and a welcoming social environment to TCKs while their parents carry out ministry.
The daytime school currently meets in less than ideal circumstances in the basement of a missionary’s house. Because there is only one room, TCKs of different ages have to rotate in and out at different times, meaning the parents have to come to the school a couple of times a day for drop-off and pick-up. The only bathroom is located upstairs in the missionary’s home, and the only outdoor play space is on the roof, which gets too hot to use in the summer months.
The school’s board chairman and teacher recently decided it was time to look for a better location, so they started praying for God’s direction and provision. The small staff includes just one teacher, a teaching assistant, and a cleaning person, but they were hoping that a new building would create space for more teachers and more extracurricular activities for the TCKs. God provided an answer almost immediately when the board chairman for a local seminary offered a building for them to rent. The property, an old house located in a mixed residential and business neighborhood, is perfectly suited for a school with two large, walled yards outside for playtime and sports. The school will use two large rooms, two small rooms, and a large enclosed verandah in the back half of the home, while a national family currently occupies the front half of the house. The new property is centrally located, no more than a ten-minute drive for families.
When word got out that the school would be moving to a bigger facility and needed staff, God provided several people who expressed interest in serving as teachers long term. For now, a short-term missionary will teach three mornings a week as soon as the building is ready. Some families were worried that they wouldn’t be able to afford the increase in school fees for the new facility, but again God provided as their supporting churches were able to cover the extra costs.
The school has also asked TCK parents to get involved in day-to-day operations. Parents handle all the administrative and financial duties so the teachers can focus on classwork. As soon as the new facility is ready, one mom will teach computer classes, other parents will teach music classes including piano and violin lessons, a dad will teach Tae-Kwon-Do, and one woman will teach soccer. Students will benefit from this shared responsibility and community spirit as parents come together with teachers to serve the school. With such a friendly, supportive community, these TCKS have found a place to call their own.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger