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BIBLICAL YOUTH WHO LIVED IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY

by Dr. Danny McCain presented to Hillcrest Reunion Dallas Texas on July 6-8, 2012 Introduction
Nearly all of you have experienced something that I have not. You have had the privilege of being missionary kids. You grew up for at least a part of your life in a foreign country and for most of you, at least part of that time included Nigeria. In fact, I am not sure how well qualified I am to talk to you.

I have raised missionary kids but never been one. I live in a foreign country but have never lived in a missionary compound. I was raised in Louisiana while most of you were raised in Africa. (Perhaps being raised in Louisiana qualifies as a mission field.) I live in modern Nigeria which has 100 million cell phones and Internet in most places. Most of you lived in Nigeria in the good old days.

However, it was people like you who helped call me to international ministry. One of the persons I admired most as a teenager was Dr. Dale Yocum from Kansas City. He resigned from being the president of a Christian college to become a missionary in Korea. That really impressed me. One of the things I noticed about him and other missionaries is that their children seemed to have experienced very rich and rewarding childhood lives. As a young father, I became convinced that I wanted my children to have the privilege of living a part of their lives in a foreign country. I thought it would make them bigger and better people. And that was one of the things that first got me to thinking about going overseas to minister. My call to ministry in Nigeria was not a powerful vision of the lost heathen on the other side of the ocean. The first thing that got me seriously thinking about service in a foreign land was people like you missionary kids who demonstrated that you had lived rich and rewarding lives overseas. So I am grateful for the opportunity to say thank you to a group of missionary kids. I did not know any of you or your parents in those days but I knew people like you and they had a positive influence on me. And I suspect that many of you with your positive missionary kid experiences have influenced other people to consider taking their children overseas.

Personal Background
Since I am not a missionary kid and have not shared many of the experiences that you have shared while growing up, let me explain a few words about my background.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country


I was raised in the state of Louisiana, lived for eleven years in Florida, four years in South Carolina, six years in Georgia, and two years in Kansas. I have pastored churches for eight years in the US. I have a BA, two MAs and a PhD, all in Biblical studies and theology.

In 1986, I began thinking about university ministries. Evangelical Christians have done reasonably well at doing campus ministries, with organizations like Campus Crusade and InterVarsity and similar organizations. However, my question was: Who is taking the gospel to the heart of the universitythe classrooms of the university? With these thoughts in mind, I invited some people together to discuss these opportunities and out of those discussions, we created the International Institute for Christian Studies (IICS), whose basic purpose was to develop and enhance academic Christian studies projects in public universities. Over the next couple of years, we developed the organization and got a memorandum of understanding with the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Port Harcourt to start a Christian studies academic program in the university. In 1988, I moved my young family to Nigeria. We had no missionary training; we had no orientation; we just showed up and moved onto the university campus and started this program. We created a part-time two-year diploma program in Christian studies, primarily designed for pastors and Christian workers. We soon discovered that God had given us a very interesting and strategic project. We had 98 people apply for the program. Sixty-nine were accepted and 54 enrolled. These people came from 23 different denominations, most of them being Pentecostal. We soon discovered that God had given us an amazing ministry. Our particular approach to Christian ministry had many advantages.

We had instant credibility. We had theological neutrality. We had no visa problems. We had a very cost-effective ministry. We had access to government organizations like the ministry of education (and we were later able to develop ministries through the ministry of education). We were located in a place where leaders were being trained and the leaders of thought were already living and working.

After one year we realized that God was indeed in this ministry so we started looking for ways to solidify the organization and expand. We have expanded several ways.

We have expanded our staff. During this past academic year, we have had 45 academics serving in various universities around the world. We have expanded our focus. We originally focused on teaching Christian studies in a narrow sense, meaning Bible and theology. However, we have expanded to include other academic disciplines, including agriculture, education, medicine, law and others. We have expanded geographically. We now have academics in 20 different countries. In Africa we have staff in Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, the Gambia and South Africa.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country In the early days of the organization, even when I moved to Nigeria, I was the chairman of the board, the executive director and about everything else. However, as our ministry matured in Nigeria, I had to make a choice. Would I return to the US after a couple of years of successful ministry and become an academic missionary executive or would I remain in the field and develop the ministry on the front end? My gifts and skills made that an easy decision for me. Therefore, I gradually turned over various parts of the leadership of the organization to others so that I could focus on the leadership in the field. IICS has given me many titles over the years but my title is now International Director-at-Large. In 1991, due to circumstances too numerous to mention, the Lord led us to move to the University of Jos to create a similar kind of program. That solved one of our immediate problems which was education for our children who at that time were 14, 12 and 9. Once I got to Jos, I had the opportunity to interact with the various missionary families and agencies. That is what brought me into the Hillcrest community. My children all graduated from Hillcrest. My wife, Mary, served for some years on the Parent-Teacher Association committee at Hillcrest. My own contribution has primarily been preaching at the Hillcrest Chapel and a few times at the Hillcrest Staff retreat. I reviewed the records that I have on my computer this morning and discovered that since 1999, I have preached 54 sermons to either the Hillcrest Chapel or Hillcrest Staff retreats. I trust that this bit of background and personal context will help you be able to understand who I am and provide a basis for you to interpret what I say.

A Note about the Content of My Presentations


I read in my quiet time this morning from 1 John 4:4 which says You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. This stimulated a series of thoughts. John was trying to help them understand a group of people claiming to be followers of Jesus known as the Docetics who were teaching that Jesus had not come in the flesh. John is offering them so encouragement and one of the statements he gave to encourage them was the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. The thought that I had this morning about that statement was this: That is not very profound. In fact it is very obvious. The issue of the superiority of God is not in question. Every person who would ever read Johns epistle would know that God is greater than these Docetics who were misrepresenting the truth. I then had this thought. Most of what John said was obvious. He was simply reminding them of the truth that they already knew. I then had this additional thought. That is what you are going to do this weekend at this retreat. You are going to remind those who are there of the truth. If you have come to hear profound new truths from me this weekend, you will surely be disappointed. I am not a profound preacher. If I have any gift at all, it is the gift to see and explain the obvious. Therefore, I want you to know that it will be my job not to present to you some new and profound truths that you have never thought of before but simply to remind you of things that you already know in such a way that they will be a blessing and encouragement and challenge to you.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

Background to Series of Sermons


In the year 2000, I evaluated the sermons I had preached that year and discovered that I had preached only two or three sermons that might be called biographical sermons. I live in Africa where story telling is an important tool of communication. Therefore, I decided that during the coming year I would preach more biographical sermons. A day or two later, someone from SIM called me and told me that the preacher they had engaged for their annual missionary conference in early January had had to cancel. They asked me if I could fill in. I agreed and decided to preach a series of biographical sermons from the Bible. I selected four characters who had served God in some foreign country during a part of their careers and preached biographical sermons from each of them. As I was invited to speak at other missionary conferences over the next couple of years, I continued to develop sermons on Biblical characters who served God in some place other than their home nation. I got some positive feedback from these so eventually took that material and put it in a book called Serving God Away from Home. Since this conference did not have a theme and the organizers graciously allowed me to speak to you about anything I felt was important, I thought that I would attempt to follow up on that SIM conference approach. However, rather than preaching about Biblical characters who served God away from home, I decided to concentrate on Biblical characters who lived in a foreign country for a portion of their lives. Have you ever thought that there were third culture kids in the Bibleyouth who were reared for a part of their lives in a land other than their home country? Is there anything that you who have also lived in a foreign country can learn from these Biblical characters? Who are these Biblical youth who lived in foreign countries? They fall into two general categories. Some were taken to a foreign country when they were young. Others were born in a foreign country from parents who had been brought to that country, usually against their will. Although they may have been born in that land, they were not truly citizens of that land and because of their parents true citizenship did not grow up purely as indigenes. I would guess that most of you fall into one of those two categories. The presentation will follow this format:

An overview of some Biblical youth who lived overseas Some of the privileges of missionary kids Some of the negative things faced by missionary kids Some qualities and skills developed by missionary kids Some concluding observations about and challenges to missionary kids

Biblical Youths who Lived in a Foreign Land


I will now review a few relevant details about several Biblical youth who spent at least a portion of their youth in a foreign countrya country other than the home country of their parents.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

Joseph
We believe that Joseph was about 17 years old when he was taken to a foreign country. His entry into Egypt was quite traumatic.

He entered as a slave. He worked as a slave once he got to Egypt. He was mistreated in the home in which he worked and suffered sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse as a young man. He was eventually thrown into prison where he spent several of his early adulthood years. Joseph turned out to be very successful as an adult. He essentially became the number two person in the government of Egypt. He helped to strengthen Egypt as a dominant power in that part of the world. He helped to save the lives of thousands of people, including his own family by his wise administration of the seven years of abundance and seven years of famine.

Joseph is one of the most successful characters in the Bible. I think we would all agree that growing up in a foreign land, even while suffering some real tragedies, did not negatively impact him. He became very successful in his career. Here is one preliminary point of application. Perhaps some of you have experienced some things that are parallel with that of Joseph.

Perhaps your leaving your home country was as traumatic as Josephs. Perhaps you were mistreated and abused in the foreign country where you served. Perhaps you suffered years of family separation like Joseph did.

If you have suffered these kinds of experiences, Joseph has good news for you. You can overcome all of those problems and become very successful in the ministry that God gives you.

Moses
Moses is one of the people who was actually born in a foreign country to parents who were aliens in that country. His family had actually been in Egypt for generations but they still maintained their own identity and were viewed as strangers by the local people. Moses was born during a very traumatic time. The male children were all being killed by the Egyptians at the time of his birth. However, his courageous mother figured out a way to keep him alive. She put Joseph in the little ark in the water in a place where she was reasonably sure he would be found by someone and that person would save his life. It was actually Pharaohs daughter who spotted Moses and decided to spare his life. She called for an Egyptian woman who would nurse him and the closest one available was his own mother. After Moses was weaned he was taken to the palace of Pharaoh were he continued his maturity and his education. He probably spent most of the years of his childhood and his young adulthood in Pharaohs house. However, he had spent those crucial infancy and early childhood years with his mother and his mother eventually had more influence on him than his foster home or the boarding school.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country Moses suffering a common problem that missionary kinds and third culture kids experience. Did he belong with his birth people or did he belong to his adopted people? Moses was eventually forced to make that difficult decision and chose to identify with his birth people even though he probably had very few actual memories of living among them. They were his people and he felt more at home with them than in the palace. After defending one of his people by killing an Egyptian, Moses had to flee to another country for 40 years. This no doubt further confused his identity. However, Moses eventually returned to Egypt and was the instrument that God used to deliver his people from the slavery of Egypt. As such Moses became one of the most successful leaders in the Bible. Although Moses did suffer some trauma as a result of his growing up in a foreign country and did experience a lot of grief, ultimately it was his knowledge of both his birth culture and his adopted culture that helped him do the job that God had called him to do. God used all of the experiences of Moses life, the good and the bad, to make him who he was and to prepare him to do what he was supposed to do in life. Here is a preliminary application.

Perhaps some of you experienced a lot of trauma shifting from culture to another. Perhaps some of you experienced an identity crisistrying to figure out which culture you really belonged to.

Remember that God has allowed you to experience all those things, the good and the bad, the joys and the griefs, the blessings and the problems, to prepare you for the unique ministry that you only will be able to accomplish in this world. This knowledge will help us stop questioning why and start looking for the howthe how to use these things.

Daniel
Daniel and his three friends, Shadrack, Meschack and Abednego were apparently captured during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem as young men and taken to Babylon. Like Joseph, they were taken to a foreign land against their will and no doubt experienced profound grief as a result of these experiences. They had gone from being part of a royal family to being captives and little more than slaves. These young men were given the opportunity to go to school in this foreign country. It was in the school that they had a very significant cultural crisis. Would they eat food which would be a violation of their conscience or would they remain true to their conscience even if it brought severe repercussions? We know the answer to that question. Although these young men experienced some cultural and religious adjustment problems, they adjusted well to the culture and did well in the foreign school.

They learned to speak the language perfectly. They even took on local names. They went to work for the government that had captured them and torn them away from their homes.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country


They continued living in Babylon for their entire careers. They were very successful in their careers, performing better than the people who were native to that area. In fact, they became the best in the nation at their jobs.

Once again, these people who were taken to a foreign culture became some of the most successful people in the Bible. Here is a preliminary application: Perhaps you also suffered some cultural and moral confrontations during your youthful years living in a foreign country. However, Daniel proves that you can combine the best from your culture and the foreign culture to become the best in your profession.

Nehemiah
This is another example of a person who was born in a foreign country to parents who were aliens in that land. Although Nehemiah was not an indigene of the country, he was able to get one of the most responsible jobs in the nation, serving as a steward to the king. In addition, he was able to get that job without one of the common qualifications for such a job. He did not have to become a eunuch which was a pretty standard practice for those who worked in the kings house. This suggests that even though he was raised as a foreigner in that land, he learned the culture and customs of that country well enough to even serve in the home of the king. That is an amazing demonstration of cultural adaptation. Nehemiah developed such a reputation for honesty and competence that when Nehemiah requested approval to go back to his home country and rebuild the city of Jerusalem, the king granted his request. Not only did he agree, but he funded the whole project. Nehemiah returned to his home country and had a remarkable career rebuilding the walls and governing the troublesome city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah is also one of the most successful persons in the Bible. He experienced enough problems in his life but his foreign experience is what gave him the opportunity to return home and become tremendously successful. Here is a reinforcement of a point that we saw earlier: Just because you are a foreigner or were born in a foreign land, that will not keep you from being successful in your work. In fact, it may enhance things.

Esther
Esther was an example of a girl who was born in a foreign country of foreign parents. Like many of the other third culture kids in the Bible, she experienced a lot of problems, one of the most serious being that her parents died which meant that she was reared by uncle. It is tough enough to live in a foreign country but when you loose your parents in a foreign country, that makes things doubly tough. When there was a vacancy in the position of queen, Esthers uncle, Mordecai, urged her to apply for the job and she did. She apparently had learned the ways of the Babylonians so well that she could speak the language without an accent and could conduct herself in such a way that no one ever suspected that she was not a Babylonian.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country Eventually Esther ascended to the throne of queen even though she was a foreigner and a member of the hated Jewish rate. It was in that capacity that God used her to preserve her own people from annihilation and also to get rid of some of the enemies of her people. It was because she was born and reared in a foreign country that she was able to do what many Israelite kings and military leaders had not been able to do. She was able to preserve her people because she had been born and raised in a foreign country. And because she used the assets she gained while serving in that foreign country, she has become one of the most beloved women in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Here is one preliminary point of application: Even though you may have been reared in a foreign country and may have lost your parents or suffered other major traumas in your childhood, you can still be very successful in life. Simply turn those things that contributed to your problems into assets.

Other Biblical Characters


There are other people in the Bible who grew up in a country different from their home country. The young slave girl who advised her Syrian master Naaman to see the prophet Elisha was apparently taken to a foreign country in a very dramatic way. However, even in those circumstances she did something very positive. In the New Testament, the best example of a third culture kid is the Apostle Paul. Paul was raised in Tarsus of Jewish parents who would have considered Israel their home land. While living in Tarsus, he learned to speak Greek like a native, something that he was to use throughout the rest of his life. When Paul was probably still a teenager, he traveled to his home land for a rabbinical education under the scholar Gamaliel. He lived there for several years. It is likely that he left Jerusalem and went outside of Palestine for his practical skills training of tent making. He was apparently not in Jerusalem during any of the times that Jesus was there. Eventually Paul returned to his homeland of Israel where he began working to punish and re-convert the Christians to Judaism. After he became a believer, he briefly passed through his home town but went back to his childhood home and spent almost ten years there. After that, he began a ministry of evangelism and discipleship that took him to many different places in Roman world. It can be argued very strongly that the Apostle Paul would have never been able to do the things that he did without the very mixed up cross-cultural life he lived as a child and young adult. His cross cultural experiences, including the traumatic ones, did not hurt him. They actually proved to be a very great blessing to him in doing the ministry God called him to do.

Positive Things about Being Missionary Kids


Opportunities to Travel
All of the youths in the Bible had opportunities to travel.

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country


Joseph and Daniel traveled from their homes to their adopted countries. Moses traveled to Midian after fleeing from Egypt. Nehemiah traveled back from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Many people consider traveling as one of the privileges of wealthy or powerful people. Poor people do not have the opportunity to travel. However, traveling is one of the privileges of children of missionary children and other third culture kids, most of whom would not be considered rich. I can only speak with authority about my own children. My children have traveled to many parts of Africa and have seen some of the most amazing things. Is there anything much more exotic that swimming in the crystal clear springs in Yankari on a night when there is a full moon shining through the trees and the sounds of the baboons and other nocturnal animals are pouring out from all directions? One of the most memorable vacations we ever had was when we joined the OBrien family and hired two public transportation vehicles to take us from Lagos through Cotonue and Lom and on to Accra where we stayed a couple of days and then drove back. We did not have to plan many activities. Just taking the trip was entertainment enough with its hot and sweltering vehicles, the corrupt border crossings, the constant threat of death from the speeding drivers, the checkpoints mounted by hungry and thirsty officers and so many other things. My children have gotten a pretty good tour of Europe on a shoestring. I will not yield to the temptation of telling you about it. My children have even been able to travel all over America. We traveled around a good bit raising funds and doing other public relations work. On two occasions, I was able to get 30day Delta passes for my children. These enabled us to fly anywhere Delta flew in the continental US on standby for 30 days. We flew all over the country, from Florida to Seattle, from San Antonio to Boston. Once when we were flying from Dallas to Salt Lake City, I was sitting next to my son, Daniel and we were talking about his upcoming birthday. I was saying, Daniel, where do you want to go for your birthday? Do you want to go to California or Detroit or Miami or where? We continued talking about the possibilities until finally the woman sitting next to us could take it no longer. She interrupted us and said, Are you people rich or are you airline employees or what? How can you just go anywhere you want to go for a birthday? Well, the answer was that we were not rich. We were just lowly missionaries who probably had the least salary of anyone on that plane. However, we were people who had the privilege of traveling around to many different places. I am not a missionary kid but I am a missionary dad. I have had the privilege of visiting 38 countries and preaching or speaking in 15 of them. And most of those places where I have traveled I have gone at the expense of someone else. For example, my wife and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. It just so happened that I am doing a research project in the university with a lot of fundingenough funding for me to have my way paid to international conferences. Therefore, last month, I was able to take Mary with me to Italy where we spent one

Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country day in Venice, three days in Padova and a little over three days in Rome for a ridiculous small amount of money. That is pretty good for a country boy from Louisiana. When most of you look back over your lives, you can see that you indeed lived privileged lives because you too have traveled a lot. And traveling is one of the best educations you can ever have. Traveling enables you to search out and find truths that you would not have otherwise. Traveling is one of the best educations because you are combining your eyes and ears and sense of feel and smell and taste in experiencing things. And when these are all joined together, that is the time when the maximum learning takes place.

Opportunities to Meet Important People


All of the Biblical youth that we are looking at eventually became senior leaders themselves. However, even in their youth most of them were able to meet significant people.

Joseph met the Pharaoh and started working for him as a youth. Moses grew up in the Pharaohs home. Daniel and his three friends met kings and nobles and senior government officials. Esther was no doubt still a youth when she became the queen. During her lifetime she met the most important people in that part of the world.

Lets face it. We all like to meet important people. It is entertaining telling our children and relatives about the big people we have met. During the course of my work in Nigeria, I have had the privilege of meeting two or three military governors, and one deputy governor. I have also met and became friends on a first-name basis with an elected governor in Rivers State. I have also had the privilege of meeting two former heads of states including General Gowon and General Obasanjo. I treasure a hand-written note which Obasanjo sent me from prison. I have also once met Abiola who supposedly won the June 12 election in 1993. I have had the privilege of preaching to two sitting Nigerian heads of state including the present one. And I have had the privilege of taking my children to many of these places. A few months ago, I took my wife and daughter to Abuja where we stayed in the Penthouse of the Protea Hotel. This included three massive bedrooms with jucucis in each one. It was an exotic place. And I stayed there for free because the next day I went and spoke at the Aso Rock Chapel with the president and other senior government officials present. None of my childrens cousins can testify to such experiences. A few years ago, I was in the KLM lounge in Amsterdam airport when I saw three men dressed in babanrigas. I went up and introduced myself. One of them was the Emir of Gombe. My daughter, Laura, was with me. I brought her over and introduced her to the Emir. Most American kids do not get to meet an emir in their lifetimes but my MK daughter did. My choosing to live in Nigeria has also opened the door of opportunity up for my son, Daniel, who has a video business in Lagos. He has interviewed several heads of state, including

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country President Obasanjo and President Yaradua. He has traveled to several countries with Ambassador Andrew Young shooting exotic scenes and interviewing important people. None of these things would have been possible if I had chosen to remain a pastor of a church in rural South Georgia. Do all these things make me or my children better persons? No, not necessarily but they do enrich their lives and give them stories to tell their children. God has done the same thing for many other missionary families as well. Read practically any missionary biography and you will read about interaction with heads of state and the privilege of meeting many other important people. The Book of Proverbs warns us about the dangers of trying to draw too close to big people. However, the Bible also shows that these Biblical youth who were raised in foreign lands met and were able to do greater ministries because of the important people that they met. Thank God for the privilege of meeting important and significant people. They often open doors or opportunity and ministry for us that we could not otherwise have.

Opportunities to See God at Work


If the five Biblical youth could meet with us, one of the things we would want to talk to them about was the amazing acts of God they saw throughout their lives.

Joseph saw the hand of God deliver him from the prison to the palace in a matter of days. His story would be worth a movie today. Moses witnessed the dividing of the Read Sea, which is the greatest miracle in the Old Testament. This was not witnessed while he was a youth but no doubt his youthful experiences help put him in a position to experience such things. Daniel interpreted dreams that a king could not even remember. He also survived the lions den. Esther could narrate to us the amazing story of how she went from being an ordinary Jewish girl to the queen who became the savior of her people.

These are the kinds of things that happened to these Biblical third culture kids. Even more exciting than meeting famous people is the opportunity to witness or even experience the supernatural. Not too many of us have witnessed the supernatural on the scale that the Biblical youth experienced it. However, many missionary kinds have witnessed things that can only be explained in terms of God directly intervening in our lives. Missionaries sometimes live closer to the grass roots where people depend upon God more. That is fertile soil for the supernatural. Perhaps the most amazing thing that my children have been able to see is Gods supernatural direction in our lives.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country


They have seen the beginnings of International Institute for Christian Studies and they know it was God who did it. They have seen and heard of the supernatural way that God provided money for us in the early days of our ministry and even recently. They have seen the amazing way God worked in getting us to move from Port Harcourt to Jos. They have seen times when I wanted to do one thing but couldnt, only to learn later than what I wanted to do was not nearly as good as what I was forced to do as an alternative.

A couple of years ago, our house was attacked by armed robbers. They came in and forced my children and others who were in the house to lay down on the floor in the living room. They took Mary and me upstairs to look for money. There was no electricity in the house at that time so everything was very dark. Two robbers were guarding the people lying on the floor. They were very nervous and kept saying that they needed to get out of there. In the mean time, we were slowly looking for money upstairs. At one point, one of the robbers came upstairs telling the two robbers in our bedroom that they had to go. We all went back downstairs and within a couple of minutes they left. There were many parts of the incident that we can now look back on and see the hand of God. I will tell you only about one. I have had an African grey parrot for 23 years. She stays out on the porch. During the middle of this robbery when the robbers downstairs were so nervous, this parrot suddenly started laughing. And the voice of the parrot sounds exactly like mine. Obviously, we do not know what was in the mind of the robbers but can you image what nervous young men, probably little more than teenagers, would think when in the middle of their robbery a male voice starts laughing at them not more than ten feet from where they were. It was at this time that the young man ran upstairs and told the others that they had to go. We cannot prove it but all the circumstances fit together to demonstrate that our armed robbers were driven away by my laughing parrot. Perhaps the most important legacy I want to leave my children is the memories of God at work. I am sure that many of you have experienced some of those same things. You have seen God at work in a more powerful and profound way than most people in the world. And you are a richer and better person for it.

Opportunities to See and Experience Amazing Things


Joseph experienced some of the lowest and highest experiences in the world. He experienced what it was like to be a slave. He also experienced what it was like to be a national ruler. Daniel had similar experiences. He no doubt experienced chains in coming from Jerusalem to Babylon. He faced the possibility of death when he rejected the kings food. However, he was able to do things that none of the other wise men could do. He was able to not only enter the kings presence but spend meaningful quality time with the king and even advise the king. Most of the other people that we have looked at have experienced similar things. Their lives were richer because they spent a portion of their childhood in a foreign land. And it was that experience of living overseas that opened doors for them to experience the most amazing things. I have already told you about some of the amazing things that my children have done. Let me tell you about one more.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country Laura graduated from Hillcrest in 2000. Both Carmen and Daniel came back to Nigeria for her graduation. As I mentioned earlier, I had met the Emir or Gombe once in the Amsterdam airport. He had invited me to come see him and I had. In fact, I had visited him several times. A month before the graduation I was in Gombe and told the Emir that I would like my family to meet him. I told him I could come on a Sunday afternoon at 5:00 PM. He suggested that I come at 4:00. We got there at 4:00 and there were a lot of people around. I was a little disappointed because I was afraid that we might have to wait a long time to see this man. Sitting in a waiting room of a Nigerian big man was not exactly my idea of a holiday with my family. However, when I went in to see the secretary and asked about all of these people, the secretary said, The Emir has invited them all here to meet you. In a few minutes we were invited into the Emirs palace where we met him and his council of chief and his courtiers. We made speeches and then he took us outside where for the next hour, we experienced a durbar that was put on by the Emir just for us. The previous durbar that was organized by this Emir was for a man by the name of Jeb Bush. The next durbar that was organized by the Emir was done for a head of state named Olusegun Obasanjo. My children realized that day that being missionary kids was indeed an interesting experience that allowed them to experience many amazing things.

Opportunities to Experience Richer Lives


All of these things suggest that the missionary kids life is richer and fuller and such a life makes missionary kids bigger and better people. When my children used to come back to the US, they did not like to go to Sunday school with other children because even as children they realized that people their own age had very narrow and shallow lives. If God in his wisdom allowed you to be a missionary kid, then you should get down on your knees and thank him for that privilege. When Daniel finished high school, he was tired of Nigeria. He felt that it was a backward place that had wasted his life. He was impressed by technology and modern things and that is not exactly what Nigeria was known for. In fact, he was a little embarrassed by the fact that he did not know all of the things about America that other people knew. (One time I remember my daughter Laura asking me, Daddy, now what is a nickel?) Therefore when Daniel went to a Christian college for his freshman year, he really did not tell anyone he was raised in Nigeria for months. However, one day near the end of his first year, he mentioned something about this casually to his roommate or one of his friends. His friends were fascinated. They sat in his room for hours asking him questions and listening to the stories he told. That experience helped him to realize that his life had been richer and fuller than most of the people that he was now spending time with. He is now back living in Nigeria. He has developed a successful video production business that would not have been possible without the many years he spent as a third culture kid. I am sure that if you look back over your lives, you will be able to say that you have lived well and experienced many wonderful things. A missionary experiences more in 20 years that most people will experience in a life time. And a missionary kid probably experiences more in the first 18 years of his life than many of his or her cousins will experience their whole lives.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country Missionary kids not only see God at work, they get a more accurate view of the world. One of the reasons that I wanted to take my kids to a foreign land is that I felt that life in America is very privileged and artificial and does not represent what most of the people in the world experience. I wanted my children to see what life is really like in most of the world.

I wanted them to see the dirt and the grime. I wanted them to see the disease and the death. I wanted them to see the poverty and the privation. I did not think so much about violence and armed robbery but it has been an enlightening experience for them to be exposed to those things as well.

In addition, I wanted them to see the positive things about other cultures.

I wanted them to see the relationships of people in another culture. I wanted them to see and feel and understand the way other people felt. I wanted to see the beauty and blessings of other peoples and cultures.

It was my conviction that if my children could experience those things, they would be bigger and better people as a result of it. And I have not been disappointed in them. Carmen, my oldest daughter, after finishing college, moved to New York City to work for a publisher of childrens books. After a few months, she wrote to tell me about some of the things she was enjoying in New York Citythings she had missed while growing up in Nigeria. I wrote her back and told her that I was sorry that she had missed out on those things as a children but I was happy she was now able to experience some of these things. She quickly wrote me right back and said, Dad, please never apologize for taking us to Africa. Every good thing I have ever done in my adult life and every good thing I have experienced is a direct or indirect result of your decision to take us to Africa. I am convinced and I believe they are convinced that the lives of my children have been infinitely richer as a result of their years spent in Africa. I am an optimist and like to talk about the good things of life. However, life is not all about good things. There are problems out there. So we will now move on and talk a bit about some of the negative things that missionary children experience.

Negative Things about Being Missionary Kids


I have tried to draw a picture of some of the advantages of having lived or spent a portion of your life overseas. However, I do not want to give the impression that everything is good and easy. The Biblical characters that we have looked at demonstrate that not everything about living in a foreign country was positive. I do not want to concentrate too much on this but I will mention three things that are illustrated by these five Biblical youth. I believe that these same things or similar things are often experienced by missionary kids and other third culture kids.

Family Separation
All of these Biblical youth suffered because of family separation.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

Joseph was separated from his family when he was 17 and things were never the same after that. He had been part of a big family and had been surrounded by love and companionship and good times when all of a sudden, he was ripped away from all of those things and his family, as he had known it, was gone forever. Daniels experience was no doubt similar. Yes, he became a great administrator and a highly admired Biblical hero but he did so at the cost of spending part of his youth and perhaps all of his adult life separated from his family. Moses was taken from his mother when he was somewhere between three and five years old. Can you imagine the agony and the grief of this small child when he was being torn from his mothers arms to go with strangers he did not know? Yes, he went to the palace and experienced many good and even exotic things but that wonderful warm personal closeness of his biological family was lost forever. He later returned to his people and he was reunited with his sister and brother but a huge portion of his childhood and most of his young adult years were sacrificed.

The family is the smallest and closest and most important unit that God ever created. There is nothing that can replace it. It is an unfortunate reality that missionary work has often been disruptive to families. When the missionaries first came to West Africa, many of them essentially gave up their families. Many of their children remained back at home or would go back home when they were six years old. These tough decisions were made by godly parents who felt that this was the only way that the gospel could go forward. Later, when missionary schools were started, children as young as five or six years old were torn away from their grieving parents and left in boarding schools where life would never be the same again. Most of those boarding schools were staffed by wonderful godly missionary substitute parents but some of them were staffed by harsh manipulative deceitful losers. Again, missionary parents were told and believed that this radical separation from their children when they should have been there teaching and mentoring and molding the charactersall of this was necessary in order to obey their call to the mission field and fulfill the Great Commission. I have no desire to criticize those people. That generation of missionaries in Africa produced some of the most successful missionaries in the history of the world. I do not think that there is any more successful missionary example than the Christianizing of Africa during the last 150 years. So we have to be careful about criticizing success. I think that all of us recognize that there has been a collective growing sense of what is right and wrong for families and missionary responsibilities in this world just as there has been a growing consensus of opinion on issues like slavery which eventually led to the human rights movement. Many of us would view certain human rights issues differently than our parents or our grandparents. And, it is likely that our children and grandchildren will view certain issues differently than we have viewed them because the collective conscience of the Christian world continues to develop.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country However, one thing is sure: these missionary families and their children made great sacrifices to plant the church in Africa. In retrospect, some of those parents and some of those children would say that the sacrifices were too great. However, hindsight is much better than foresight and we can only accept the fact that your parents made the decisions they felt were best for Gods kingdom at that time. As I told you I was not a missionary kid and so cannot fully identify with many of the things that you experienced. However, I can identify with one thing, to at least some degree. I was one of the few Americans who enrolled in a boarding school. When I was 14 years old I went to south Florida to go to school when my parents lived in Louisiana. I got on a Greyhound bus and rode by myself for 30 hours, changing buses five times, in order to get to the school. All of this was rather new and exciting to me so I did not really feel the separation from family like my family diduntil the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was a big holiday in our family and one of the wonderful things about it was that deer season always started on the day after Thanksgiving. And on the Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving, my uncles and cousins (and there were many of them) would gather at my grandparents house and sit around and smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco and drink coffee and talk about deer hunting and the LSU tigers and the corrupt politicians in Baton Rouge and Washington. On that Sunday afternoon as I sat there in my dormitory room in Florida and thought about that family gathering that I was missing, an overwhelming sense of grief and loss came over me. There was this aching and longing and an incredible sadness that descended on me that I could not shake off. It was in that moment that I really understood the word homesickness. My family and especially my mother had experienced this for months but it was now catching up to me. I now realize that this was a regular experience for the missionaries and their children. I can imagine that I experienced only a little taste of what you experienced. And many of you were torn away from your parents when you were six years old. Many MKs were left at home and could not see their parents for years at a time. This, my friends, is a great sacrifice. It is something that no parent or child should ever have to experience. I have been told that this is something than MKs really struggle with, many years later the irreplaceable loss that they experienced in being separated from their parents for such long periods of time. Yes, there are many privileges of being a missionary kid but there are sacrifices that were made that your cousins will never understand. Fortunately, the experiences of my family in Nigeria were not nearly as dramatic as some because our children were able to live with us until they returned to the US for college. However, I will read to you an essay my daughter, Carmen, wrote for an English class during her second year in college. She wrote this in the third person. It should be self-explanatory: Last year she had started dreading their departure three weeks before they actually left. She was miserable, wallowing in the homesickness she knew she would feel when they were gonegone out of reach of phone, two or more weeks from a letter. She would be by herself. Maybe this year she had subconsciously decided she didn't have enough time with them to dread them leavingUntil, suddenly, suddenly, it was here. She hadn't thought about them leaving and here they were going. Now the boxes were piled

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country mountainously in front of the check-in counter, and relatives were crowding about to say goodbye. Carmen will board her plane to Washington DC, and they will board theirs to Amsterdam and then on to Nigeria. And they will be gone again. Her family will be gone again, and she will be all alone again. Carmen doesn't cry. When she graduated from high school she really wanted to cry, but she couldn't. When she heard of the death of a friend's father she wanted to cry, but she couldn't. And yet sometimes there comes a point, when something so ridiculous, so frivolous drops the last straw, and breaks her back. Then the tears flow, and she can cry over the things that really need crying over. They're leaving, they're leaving. Carmen thought of all the stuff that she thought her parents would take care of while they were in the countryschool bill, orthodontist check-up, just little things that are hard for her to take care of by herself because she cant' get in touch with her parents when they are in Nigeriaat least she can't get in touch with them quickly. And all of a sudden they are leaving, and Mom is sickthe American doctor was supposed to help her this summer, but his treatment didn't worknone of this stuff is taken care of, and Pat, the strange hippie dud who is NOT family but helps Carmen's grandparents, was strutting around acting like he knew everything about international travel, and Papaw, her grandfather, was stuttering, "Praise the Lord" about everything. Carmen stared emptily around her, at all the bustle, but she felt a deadly quieta void about to be. They are leaving. Leaving me here by myself. Why can't I be alone with my family to say goodbye? Her plane was leaving in less than an hour, but everybody was still scurrying around getting things done. Leaving. They are leaving. That straw came, her mother's gentle reprimand for being so cold and rude to "Mr. Pat." And then came the contortions of the face and then the hot flow of water over the cheeks. It came harder and harder, and Carmen's mom tightened her arm around her daughter's shoulder. Carmen wept, hot tears saltily tracing their course over her face, sobbing, gulping and sobbing. When was the last time she had cried like this? But now she was crying in front of the whole world, the whole world gathered in Atlanta airport to watch the Olympics, and they see as a side-item, a young woman in a jean skirt and a Ghana vest crying her heart out in her mother's arms. But Carmen was past caring what some distant stranger thought. She passed through the metal detector with nose running, and puffy eyes. She didn't care what anybody thoughtexcept Pat. It galled her to have that strangelooking unrelated hippie see her cryover her family leaving hershe had a Right to cry! It was time to go already and a cousin tightened her arms around Carmen's waist in a futile effort to comfort her as she left her family. She wouldn't see them for a year, hear their voices for a year. Oh it wasn't really that long. But now, at the moment of departure, it seemed a catastrophe. Mom and Dad pressed her to them; she had made them sad too. Oh what a horrible person she was! Sister and Brother hugged her awkwardly. Carmen didn't do this. Carmen did not cry like that very often. The line of Olympic tourists inched toward the plane, tearing Carmen away from her family for another year. She wiped her red nose and puffy eyes, waved and then turned around and headed steadily toward the tunnel that led her to the planepushing back the pain, the homesickness to a little ball that would sit in the back of her head until next year when she would have to say goodbye all over again.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country The separation of missionary families does indeed raise questions.

Perhaps some of you look back at family separation as one of the biggest traumas of your life. You do not have to feel bad if you resented that separation. That would be the normal reaction of any child who was reared in a normal loving home. Perhaps some of you now wonder how your parents could have been so cold and hard as to dump you into the hands of other people, in the name of doing Gods work. Perhaps some of you have wondered whether the heavy sacrifice your parents made was worth it.

These are legitimate questions that most children of missionaries will probably ask some time in their lives. Let me just review some points and make a couple of additional observations. Do not be too hard on your parents. The separation hurt them even more than it hurt you. They were victims of their own commitment. To leave your family so you could concentrate on your work was the common belief in those days. They were attempting in the best way they knew how to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. If they had a flawed understanding of the best way to do that, that was only one of the many flaws they had in attempting to do Gods work. The fact is that all missionaries are human beings and are susceptible to making mistakes. However, we should recognize that if they did indeed make mistakes it was a mistake in attempting to obey God the best way they knew how. Recognize that the collective conscience of the world has continued to develop. Do not attempt to hold your parents to the same level of understanding that the collective world holds today. All of us are victims of the society in which we were reared. Nearly all of us think like those around us. Your parents did that and you also do that. It is possible and even likely that some day your children might look at some of the things that you have done as oldfashioned and not very helpful in raising them. We simply pray that our children will forgive us and know that the mistakes that we have made have all be made with the best intentions. Be careful about allowing the negative experiences of others to create a negative attitude in you. Obviously, the separation from family was far more difficult on some than it was on others. We should not underestimate the trauma that such long and forced separation had on certain children. However, dont borrow trouble. Dont allow the negative experiences of a few to create negative attitudes in you toward your parents. Paul gives this wise advice: We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Obviously this is not an

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country absolute rule. There are times when we can benefit by comparing ourselves among ourselves. However, the point Paul is making is that we should not do this in a negative sense. We must recognize that God has made us all different and God has allowed the various circumstances in our individual lives to help mold us into what he wants us to be and do. Therefore, comparing ourselves among ourselves often is not a good thing to do. We should support those who struggle with such things but we should sympathize and empathize with them from a point of strength. Accept the trauma of family separation and allow God to use it in your life. I heard some advice when I young that I have tried to follow all my life. It was simply this: Accept those things that are beyond your control as having come through the hands of a loving God and learn from them. Rather than fighting the negative things that are beyond our control, we should accept them and try to learn all we can from them.

Identity Confusion
The Biblical youth experienced confusion about who they were and where they belonged.

Joseph learned the language and adjusted to the culture so well that he could be confused for an Egyptian. However, when his family came, he had this torn gut feeling. Did he belong in this place or did he belong to his home country? Esther also illustrates this point. She was a Jew but living as a Babylonian. No one knew her true identity. Who should she identify with? She was a little embarrassed by the strange behavior of her uncle but he finally got her attention with these words: Who knows but what you have come to the kingdom for such an hour as this? Moses, however, is probably the best example of one who struggled with his identity. He spent his first few years with his birth parents but the rest of his growing up years until he was 40 years old with his adopted family. Later when he saw an Egyptian abusing one of his people, something rose up in him. Would he identify with his original people who were being abused or would he identify with those who had raised him and made life so comfortable for him? It was an identity crisis and he had to make an instant decision. He came down on the side of his birth family. However, I am sure that over the next 40 years he was forced to spend in the wilderness, he had many second thoughts about whether he had done the right thing and who he really was.

I am certainly not an expert on this but I am very much aware that one of the things that missionary kids struggle with is identity. Who are we? Where do we belong? Are we Americans or Canadians? Are we Nigerians? Are we some kind of hybrid? Although I was not raised in Nigeria and do not struggle with this like a missionary kid, I have at least experienced some of these same emotions as times. Although I had made two earlier trips to Nigeria, when our family was going there for the first time, I had some uneasy moments. As the plane was descending into the dark night of Lagos and my children were demonstrating various signs of stress, I got this knot in the pit of my stomach and I started having thoughts like What am I doing here? I dont belong in this place? These are not my people. I belong over there. Why am I here? When I got on the ground and I started interacting

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country with the Nigerians, those thoughts disappeared and I was OK. The next time I flew into Lagos the same thing happened. In fact for the next several years when I flew into Lagos from the States, whether I was with my family or not, every time the plane started descending into the skies above Lagos, I would get this knot in my stomach and I would start having these crazy questions and thoughts float through my mind. About five or six years ago, the plane was descending into the skies above Atlanta, Georgia and I got this knot in the pit of my stomach and I started having these strange questions, What am I doing here? I dont belong in this place? These are not my people. I belong over there. Why am I here? It was on that day that I realized that my adjustment to Nigeria was complete. It was also on that day that I began to experience some identity confusion like is typical in missionary kids. However, I can imagine that those who spend a large portion of their childhood in Nigeria or some other foreign country would have even more confused thoughts when entering or leaving either their home country or their adopted country. Jesus is the ultimate example of a third culture kid. In fact, the transition that he had to experience is so great that we cannot even comprehend it. Jesus original home was heaven and his family included God the Father. He was accustomed to all the splendor and glory and beauty of heaven. However, he came to this earth and began to experience all the confusion and frustration and pain and privation of the human life. Though we do not have much information about Jesus as a child, we have one scene of Jesus struggling to balance the two cultures that he was related to. His parents were very pious Jews. We know that because although they were relatively common people without a lot of wealth, Joseph took his family to Jerusalem at least once for the Jewish feasts. All pious Jews were expected to visit the holy city of Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals if they could. On one occasion, Joseph had taken his family to Jerusalem and stayed for perhaps two months. He and the people from his village started on the long five day trek back to Nazareth. Jesus was now 12 years oldold enough to have a little independence. However, after walking for a full day, they were not able to find Jesus at the end of the day so they had to walk back to Jerusalem the next day which meant that they were separated from Jesus for two full days. Here is the partial record of the event: After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:46-50). Do you see the struggle that Jesus had as a third culture child? He struggled between loyalty to parents and loyalty to his Father in heaven. He demonstrated amazing insights about his original culture, so much so that the scholars were amazed. His parents who did not have the advantage of experiencing Jesus first culture were quite surprised and a bit frustrated with him.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country There is one other scripture about Jesus that relates to identity. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to deatheven death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . . (Philippians 2:5-9). This passage is talking about the time when Jesus passed from his heavenly culture to his earthly culture. It was a very difficult translation. It is even difficult for us to understand.

How could Jesus be both God and man at the same time? Did Jesus give up his deity while he was a man? How could Jesus be both man and God at the same time? How could he learn to read and write when he knew all things?

These are indeed difficult questions. At least a partial answer lies in verse 8: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself. The word humbled literally means emptied. Theologians believe that when Jesus became a man he was fully man and fully God. He was not half God and half man. He was completely God. However, in order to fully identify himself with humanity, he had to empty himself not of his deity but of the exercise of certain divine rights and privileges. Although God knows all things, Jesus had to suspend his knowledge of all things in order to be able to learn like a normal human being. Although God is present everywhere, Jesus had to temporarily suspend that divine privilege in order to become a man and fully identify with humanity who can only be at one place at one time. When I lived in Port Harcourt, we had military administrators for governors. One day the military administrator was going somewhere and the vehicles in his entourage got tangled up in a go-slow (traffic jam). Rather than sitting there and allowing someone else to sort this out, the governor got out of his vehicle, went up to where the traffic was all tangled up and started untangling the confusion. After perhaps 20 or 30 minutes directing traffic, he got back in his vehicle and resumed his journey. As governor of the state, this man had enormous privileges. He had the privilege of sitting in his air-conditioned vehicle and sending out his commissioner of transportation to sort out the traffic situation. However, he temporarily suspended his right to sit there in that vehicle and let someone else do this in order to solve this problem. Was he the governor during the time he was directing traffic? Yes, he was. Did he have the right to not do that? Of course he did. However, he temporarily suspended the free exercise of his rights in order to solve a problem. We believe that Jesus has also done something similar. The idea seems to be that Jesus literally emptied himself of some of the privileges of his earlier culture to be able to genuinely identify with the new culture. This is not unlike what missionary kids are sometimes required to do. They often have to empty themselves of the practices and privileges of their original cultures to fit in and do a specific job in another culture.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

And here is the point: Paul says, Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. If we want to learn to have a proper attitude toward the cultures that we have been or are a part of, we need to learn from Jesus. He gives us an example and shows us the way. I do not have any major advice for you about how to overcome the identity crisis that missionary kids often struggle with other than to say:

The struggle is normal. The struggle is usually not fatal. The struggle is one Jesus himself experienced. The struggle is not unlike the problems other people have as children. The struggle is part of the price for the blessings you experience as a missionary kid.

Traumatic Experiences
Most of the Biblical youth who spent time in a foreign country experienced a lot of trauma in their lives, certainly more than those who remained in one place.

Joseph was first traumatized by his brothers, who actually put him in a pit to die. He was only delivered from that experience to be sold to slave traders who no doubt abused him. He was also abused by the slave owners in Egypt, and by the prison officials. Moses was traumatized by being taken away from his family as a child and then by his escape and exile from Egypt for 40 years. Daniel and his friends were traumatized by being taken from Jerusalem to Babylon by a conquering army and then being forced to stand up for their dietary principles. Nehemiah was traumatized so much he said that he wept when he heard of the condition of the city of Jerusalem. He also experienced many other difficult things in his life, including threats on his life from his enemies. Esther was traumatized when she realized that her people had been approved for genocide. She was forced to realize that her actions could result in her death.

Of course, all of these youth grew up to face all of the normal traumas of adulthood. Did these young people experience more traumatic experiences than other young people in the Bible? I am not sure I have enough information to answer that question. However, many of the traumas they experienced were directly related to the fact that they were living in a foreign country. Missionary kids and other third culture kids also tend to face more trauma than their cousins back at home. In addition to those traumas I have already mentioned, there are many other things: Missionary kids face more death than those who remain behind. It is certainly true that people die at the same rate in Nigeria as they do anywhere else in the world100% of the people die. However, death appears to be much more common in Nigeria. People die younger. They die from tropical diseases and AIDS and accidents and violence and many other ways. Children and university students die from malaria and typhoid. AIDS is destroying a large

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country portion of a younger generation of people. In the 20 years I have been exposed to Hillcrest, several students have died. I have a Fulani night guard who has worked for me almost 20 years. He says De people, de too dey die. Missionary kids, particularly those in Nigeria, have been exposed to a lot of poverty and disease and misery. Most missionary kids have experienced or at least been exposed to some form of armed robbery. This is certainly a traumatic experience. I would guess that at least 75 percent of the missionaries who have lived in Nigeria more than five years have experienced a traumatic armed robbery. Missionary kids often live in unstable political conditions that include violence. Some missionary kids in Nigeria lived through the Biafran War, which though it was not in that area, did have spill-over effects at Hillcrest. Some missionary kids who attended Hillcrest were evacuated from Liberia during that war. All of the missionary kids who have lived in Nigeria for the past ten years have heard the gunfire and seen the black smoke of Jos burning. Many of you have asked me how things are in Jos right now. It is difficult to answer that question. Since September 7th 2001, we have had at least five major incidents of violence, in which up to 50 or more people were killed. These include:

September 7th, 2001; between 1000 and 2000 people were killed in Jos November 2008; perhaps 500 to 800 were killed January 2012; 200 to 300 killed Christmas Eve bombing 2010; about 80 killed in the bombings and retaliation Post-Ramadan Conflict; 2011; between 40 and 50 killed in Jos.

These statistics do not include the killings outside of Jos which continue at a disturbing pace. Just to change these things from cold statistics to reality, let me tell you about the losses of those close to me.

A colleague who taught for me at the university, helped to get me involved in a major ministry of training CRK teachers and even traveled with me to workshops was killed. My mechanic was killed. My painter was killed. My next door neighbor of 19 years was killed. My student who sat six feet from me in my classes was killed.

And when you expand this to those who work for me, it is worse.

The man who cuts my grass had a cousin killed. The lady who helps my wife in the kitchen lost her brother, her brother-in-law, her cousin and her father had his stomach cut open but survived. My driver had three cousins that were killed. My security guard had three nephews that were killed.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country About six months ago, I learned that in the last ten years we had lost 59 policemen to violence in Jos alone and this does not include soldiers. One of those died only a quarter of a mile from my house, defending the university community in which I live. During all these crises, we see heavy black smoke over the city of Jos and there is regular and constant gunfire. The city of Jos is a divided city right now. Nearly all Christians who live in Muslim areas have moved to safer areas and vice versa. People do not drive in certain parts of the city right now. I personally have driven down Bauchi Road from the north side of town to the Terminus area only once in the last 18 months. The city of Jos is also filled with soldiers and police. We now have 15,000 soldiers and policemen in Jos. There are checkpoints in dozens of places in Jos. You have to allow at least twice as long to get somewhere now. And sometimes the checkpoints can delay traffic for hours. Our HIV AIDS rate has skyrocketed from about 4 % to 17 % in Jos in the last couple of years. We believe the reason is the presence of so many soldiers. No vehicle parks in any church parking lot any more. All vehicles have to park as far away as possible from churches. Even in the university, we do not use our normal parking lots because they are too close to the buildings. In addition, going to churches or banks or government buildings is like going through the security at the airport. Most churches have these wans they use to screen people before allowing them into the church. This is the reality of living in Jos right now. Can you imagine what these experiences do for children and young people? It is a sad reality that all the children in secondary school (or high school) right now have known nothing but violence since they have been in school. It is also sad that children on both sides are learning to hate those on the other side. And though missionary children are shielded from these things as much as possible, they still see the smoke and hear the explosions of the bombs and the chatter of the gunfire. These kinds of traumatic experiences have several effects on people. First, one can become accustomed to them. That is both good and bad. It is good in the sense that you must continue to live and function. It is quite amazing how life does go on quite normally in Jos right now. Classes are taught at the university; people go to the market and buy things; weddings and funerals take place. People adjust and continue to live. However, it is bad when you think that you can get accustomed to hearing gunfire and being around violence. Second, being in the middle of violence can create all kinds of emotions and feelings. I am no expert on these things but even short term exposure to violence can cause psychological and emotional problems. In 2008, our family experienced an armed robbery on a Saturday night. Armed robbers had invaded our home and threatened to kill us. We actually passed through that pretty well. In fact, we stayed up until 2:00 in the morning talking and laughing about the experience. There were a number of funny things that happened. The next morning we went to Hillcrest. As we were driving out of the campus, my foster daughter started cryingfor no reasonjust crying. Soon, others in my vehicle started crying. The emotions and fears of those preceding hours were finally catching up with my family. They were weeping and sobbing almost uncontrollably. The violence had drained so much emotional energy from my family that many of them experienced

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country an emotional collapse for the next few minutes. I thought we had weathered the robbery quite well but these things can have many different effects on you. Thirdly, post-traumatic syndrome is not something that only soldiers experience. It is something that missionaries and others who live near violence can experience also. And this is something that can manifest itself years later. I do not have the answer to the emotions and fear and anger that occasionally surface in our lives related to various kinds of traumas that we experienced as children. However, I will just say this: God was with us during those crises and God is with us now. The Bible has promised us that God will not allow us to experience anything that is beyond our ability to handle. The fact that we have experienced such traumas is actually a testimony of Gods confidence in us to overcome such things. And actually, as I said earlier, life goes on quite normally. We live without fear. Quite honestly we are more afraid of dying in an automobile accident than we are being killed in a crisis. Many other people, who have not lived overseas, have also experienced much trauma. It can be just as dangerous living in the US as living in Nigeria. There is a key scripture I want to conclude this section with: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:34). I will make six simple statements based upon this passage that I hope will help us understand why God allows us to experience trauma in our lives.

The world is filled with hurting people. God expects us to help hurting people. Whenever God gives us a job, He always prepares us for it. God prepares us to comfort other people by comforting us. We do not need be comforted until we suffer. God, in his wisdom, allows us to suffer so he can comfort us and we, in turn, can comfort other people. Can you teach a person to play the piano if you do not know how to play the piano? Neither can we comfort people very effectively if we have not been comforted.

It is in our hurting and being healed that God gives wisdom about helping hurting people. In 1976 our first child was born. His name was Nathaniel and he absolutely revolutionized our lives. Unfortunately, four months later he got sick with spinal meningitis and died. It was a very traumatic experience. However, it prepared us to minister to people in ways we would could not have without that experience.

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In Kansas City, I learned that a young man had died from spinal meningitis. I called his father and talked to him. In the early part of the conversation he was quite non-committal and unresponsive. However, when I mentioned that I had also lost a child to meningitis he then opened up and poured out his heart to me. He later told one of my church members what a wonderful pastor I wasonly because I reached out to him in his time of trouble by identifying with his suffering. I have preached the funerals of several missionary children in Jos. There is something about my own experiences that has given me the authority to talk to them about such things and they listen. Many of my students have lost children. My own losses give me the ability to sympathize and empathize with them.

I know that many of you have suffered some great traumas as missionary children. However, remember this. There are younger people who have also experienced those same kinds of things. God may have allowed you to experience these things so that you will be well prepared to minister to others who have similar experiences. You did not ask for this assignment but God in his infinite wisdom has granted it to you. I pray that you will be faithful in fulfilling it. Here are some questions for your reflection?

Did you experience a lot of trauma as a missionary kid? Have you been healed from those experiences? Are you willing to allow God to use these things in your life to be a blessing to others who are passing through similar experiences?

The traumas of missionary kids are real and must not be simply ignored or swept under the rug. We must face them, allow God to heal those memories and then be prepared to use our experiences to help others.

Qualities Developed by Missionary Kids


As I have reflected on the lives of these young people in the Bible who spent a portion of their youth in a foreign country, I have observed certain characteristics in them. I have not done any empirical research on this to determine whether there is a link between these things and modern missionary kids and third culture kids. However, I suspect that spending a significant portion of your life in a foreign country during the years when your personality and character are being formed will help to produce and develop these kinds of qualities and skills in your life. The first three of these are qualities and the remainder are skills.

Courage
When you look at these Biblical youth, perhaps the first thing you see about them is that they were all courageous. They did things that others considered dangerous. They were willing to take risks that others were not willing to take.

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Joseph was willing to resist the advances of his masters wife even though slaves had no rights. He was willing to speak the truth about seven lean years even though negative information was often not well received by leaders. He was willing to make people unhappy with the way he organized the storage and later distribution of the grain. Although it was not very smart, Moses did demonstrate courage in defending his fellow Israelite. However, the main place he showed courage was later in his life when he was opposing Pharaoh. Daniel demonstrates great courage as a youth in refusing to eat the food of the king. It is little wonder that he exhibits outstanding courage when he continued to pray even after a decree came that one could only pray to the king. Nehemiah had the courage to ask the king to allow him to go back and rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. He subsequently demonstrated real courage in implementing that job and being the governor over a troublesome bunch of people.

Where did all of these people learn courage? All of them had been forced outside the comfort and security of their homes as youth. When you are exposed to something new, it looses some of its ability to frighten you. Therefore, the greater the exposure to various people and parts of the world, the less fear one should have. When we experienced our first crisis in Jos, if we heard gunfire, we would quickly close up everything and rush home. However, now if there is fighting in one part of town, we just keep working. About a year ago, we were having a research committee meeting at Evangel Theological Seminary which is immediately behind Hillcrest. Just after we had started, we started hearing gunfire right outside the walls. We were a little nervous about this. However, we decided to continue working. For the next four hours, there continued to be occasional and sometimes rather serious gunfire not more than 200 meters from where we were having our meeting. However, we reasoned that they were not shooting at us so we continued our work. I think third culture kids have been exposed to enough that they have less fears than other people (or perhaps they have different fears). I believe that this is one of the reasons why they are able to demonstrate courage and face things that other people tend to run away from. During the past week, there has been a news items that has been making the news circuit in various ways. The US Ambassador to Kenya has resigned, stating differences in leadership style and philosophy with the president. As far as I can remember, this is the first time that I have ever heard of an ambassador resigning on principle. Most of them love their jobs so much that they will just suck it in and do what they are told even if they believe it is the wrong thing. However, even though this man who was a retired two star general and described his ambassadorship as his dream job he had the courage to quit. In the newspaper article I read about this, I learned something else about this ambassador. It so happens that he was a missionary kid who was raised in central Africa. Was there something about his growing up years far from home and the fact that he and his parents were exposed to many kinds of difficulties and dangers that gave him the courage to resign when others would not?

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country I think you can look back and see that there have been many other missionary kids who have demonstrated courage when others were running away. They were courageous because their knowledge and exposure helps take away fear. Esther was the queen when she learned there had been a plan to destroy her people. She came up with her own plan. She would initiate a meeting with the king. If the king refused her approach, she could be executed. She sent word to Mordecai with these words: Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16). This was the epitome of courage. One of the reasons that missionary kids can be so courageous is because they have seen their parents trust the Lord and therefore, they also learn to trust the Lord. Perhaps not every missionary kid is a fearless person but I think that the exposure one gets living in a foreign culture helps one to be more courageous than the average person.

Creativity
Another obvious quality in the five youths that we are looking at is their creativity. Somehow these youth were able to find creative ways to solve problems. Perhaps being away from the comfort and security of their homes had forced them to learn to adapt and learn to make do and learn to fix things that were broken.

Joseph was able to create a scheme of saving grain and distributing grain that had never been done before. It is likely that there had never been a seven year period of bountiful harvest within anyones memory. Therefore, had Joseph not been there to give his opinion, it is likely that all of that surplus would have been squandered. However, Joseph was there to provide creative solutions to problems. Moses demonstrates remarkable creativity in the way he was able to convince Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt. He also demonstrated remarkable creativity during the 40 years in the wilderness. He was not only able to keep the people alive in a very harsh and difficult environment, he was able to build a tabernacle that was beautiful and functional in a place where there were very few materials. Have you ever wondered where he got the tools and the raw materials to be able to build the tabernacle out in the wilderness? That took real creativity. Daniel was able to offer creative alternatives to the kings food. I am sure that this was the first time in the history of the school that someone had suggested an alternative diet. Daniel was able to offer a way where an experiment could be conducted that would not jeopardize the life of the principal. And all throughout his career he distinguished himself as an administrator by his new ways of doing things that were better than the old ways. Hundreds of people had talked about going back to Jerusalem and rebuilding the walls. This had been a topic of conversation for years. However, it was Nehemiah who figured out a way not only to go back and do it but to get the king to fund the whole project. Esther and her Uncle Mordecai figured out a way to save her people in a better way than any military commander could have ever done.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country Why were these people able to be so creative throughout their lives? Of course, we give glory to God for giving them this creativity. However, most of the time God works through the experiences and knowledge that we have. God certainly did that with the youths we have been talking about. These Biblical youths were creative because when they were in their developing years they had to learn how to do things differently than their parents had done them and with different and often fewer resources. They had learned to be flexible. They had learned to adapt to differing situations. This stretched their ability to think and helped to see solutions where other people saw problems. It is a common fact that missionary kids and third culture kids are more creative than other people. Missionaries have to learn to make do. Dr. Paul Brand was raised in India as a missionary child. He suffered many of the separation issues of missionary kids of that era. However, he returned to India as a medical doctor. And it was while he was on the mission field that he was able to discover the real problem that caused leprosy and create ways to respond to it. He became the leading researcher and expert on leprosy in the world. He learned all of this not in school but on the mission field. I can understand a little about this. When you do not have all that you need, you have to learn to adapt. When I lived in Port Harcourt, I bought a Volkswagen Beetle. I had a driver who would take my children to school every day and go with me occasionally to various meetings. One day, we were going down the road and the RPMs in the engine suddenly dropped. My driver immediately said, we have just broken an accelerator cable. He got out and opened by bonnet over the engine (which is in the back of the car) and he was right. However, the cable had broken right at the accelerator pedal so he pulled the cable out of the conduit it was run through and ran it around the left side of the car and through the drivers door. He wrapped a rag around the cable and held it with his left hand. He would steer with his right hand. I sat beside him in the passengers seat with my left arm around his shoulders holding the drivers door slightly opened so he could pull the accelerator cable through the door as needed. However, the driver still needed to have someone shift the gears so I did that with my right hand. Samuel, my driver, would pulled the accelerator with his left hand and let out on the clutch. He would run the RPMs up to the time we needed to shift gears and then he would shout out second gear. I would shift into second gear. I had been hoping that we could manage to get home like that. However, we were doing so well with this arrangement we took our time and got all our work done that day. Those are the kinds of experiences that will teach you creativity. I do not know the missionary kid community as well as you. The ones that I see better are my own children and their generation of friends. What I have observed is this generation of missionary kids is not satisfied with the status quo. They are constantly looking for better ways to do things. And they are producing new things. I am sure that you can look around at your friends and classmates and see that there is a higher degree of creativity among them than there has been in the general population. If you are a missionary kid, you are likely more creative than you cousins. Thank God for that and do not allow yourselves to be intimidated by those who say Oh, they want let you do that.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

Character
If you were to look at the 100 most well known persons in the Bible and were to select the five people with the greatest amount of character, I am not sure that you would do better than the five people that we have been looking at.

Joseph refused to commit adultery with masters wife even though he had natural hormones like all young men. He did not want to sin against God. He did not want to abuse his position. He was a man of integrity. Moses had one ethical problem when he killed a man who was abusing his people. However, he demonstrates remarkable integrity thereafter. He refused Pharaohs appeals to identify himself with the Egyptians. He refused to compromise with Pharaoh. He had received instructions from the Lord about what to do and he refused to take anything less. He had the moral character to lead Gods people in the wilderness for 40 years. Nehemiah was a man of impeccable character. Whereas most leaders were corrupt, he refused to even take the allotment of food that was legitimately assigned to him. He got out and worked with the workers just like everyone else. He refused to ask someone else to do something that he would not do. He refused to tolerate disobedience to Gods law. His reactions to those who were marrying outside of Judaism and the Sabbath abusers seem a little harsh by our standards today but they demonstrate the character he had. He was not willing to tolerate anything or anyone who failed to live by Gods word. If I had to select the single person that demonstrates character the most in the Bible, it would be Daniel. He refused to compromise his dietary convictions. He refused to stop praying when required to do so. He refused to practice retaliation or hatred against his enemies. He is described in Daniel 6:3-4 this way: Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. What do we need to say about Esther? There is no single criticism lodged against her in the book. She was a bit subtle in her planning but she was a woman of character and commitment. And her character is what gained the respect of the king and ultimately resulted in the salvation of her people.

What was it that made these young people such outstanding examples of character? I am not sure I can answer that question. However, they had all be raised by God-fearing parents who taught them well. They had all suffered for their faith. They had all experienced the supernatural and had developed a relationship with God. Therefore, there was an unwavering loyalty in them. There are certainly some remarkable exceptions of missionary kids who do not have much character. However, over the long haul I believe that we can see that missionary kids have the strength of character to do the right thing. I would guess that most of the missionary kids that you know also reflect that same kind of strong character.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

Skills Developed by Missionary Kids


The first three things I have talked about are basically attitudes and character qualities that third culture kids develop. However, the rest of the things that I will mention relate to skills that missionary kids and third culture kids develop. Living overseas during a portion of your youth forces you to do things that you would not be required to do if you were back in your home country. Therefore, this encourages the development of skills that others are not required to develop. I will briefly mention several of these skills that all overlap a bit with each other. I will allow you to fill in the illustrations.

Communication Skills
One of the things that most people living in a foreign country are forced to do is to learn another language. I am not sure exactly how this works, but learning that second language enhances ones ability to communicate. Most of our Biblical youth were good communicators. We dont know too much about the communication skills of Joseph.

Moses was a superb communicator. He knew how to communicate with God. He knew how to communicate with his people. He knew how to communicate with his enemies. He knew how to motivate people. He knew how to correct people. Daniel had good enough communication skills that he was able to be the top student in his class and then become the top administrator in the government. Nehemiah was good enough at communication that he was not only able to convince the king to allow him to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city but he was able to convince him to pay for the project. He was later able to communicate to the people of Jerusalem well enough that they were willing to follow him.

I think that one of the advantages that most missionary kids have is that they are indeed more capable of communicating. They are more articulate. They have had to force themselves to communicate in cross cultural communication and when they do that, this helps make other kinds of communication easier.

Interaction Skills
Closely connected to the ability to communicate is the ability to interact with others. People working cross culturally must work very hard at living and working with other people. Therefore, they develop reasonably good interaction skills. When you look at the Biblical youth who lived in foreign countries, they all could offer a workshop on how to interact with others. They were experts at public relations.

Joseph was able to convince the Pharaoh what was going to happen in the future and how to prepare for it. Moses was able to convince Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt. Daniel knew how to interact with his superiors as well as his colleagues and enemies. Nehemiah had outstanding abilities to interact with others at all levels.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

Esther was so good at interacting with others she was able to convince the king to bring her on as queen and also convince the king to save her people, even though her people were a rather troublesome bunch of people in the eyes of many people in those days.

The flexibility and adaptability that missionary kids develop usually give them better ability to interact with others. Missionary kids make good diplomats because they were forced to learn to get along with people that were different from them. In fact, quite a few missionary kids go into foreign service. People with multi-cultural backgrounds tend to have greater ability to understand and appreciate other people and therefore work with such people. The ability to interact with others is a tremendous gift in practically any discipline. Larry Davis who was with us on Friday night told me about his son, Bo, who is a Hillcrest graduate who went to some country in Africa, perhaps the Central Africa Republic, to evaluate a dead agricultural project on behalf of a university, Texas A&M, I believe. When he submitted his report, he was asked to go back and fix it. Bo have lived in Africa. He knew how to interact with African people. Therefore, this prepared him for this important responsibility. My son who works in Lagos has worked with quite a few videographers who have traveled to Africa to work. Most of them seriously mess up to use his words. They have no idea about what proper protocol is and many do not care. They just do their job but they often create public relations problems for their organizations. Missionary kids know how to adjust and adapt.

Negotiation Skills
The ability to interact freely with others also gives one the ability to negotiate. Each Biblical youth we have looked at was required to negotiate in their lives.

Joseph tried to negotiate with his brothers and with his masters wife without much success. However, nearly all of his other negotiations were successful. (Perhaps there is an important side point here: We learn from our failures as much as we learn from our mistakes. Joseph learned from his negotiation mistakes and became a great negotiator.) Moses was perhaps the best negotiator in the Bible. He was eventually able to convince Pharaoh to give him everything he desired. Nehemiah negotiated successfully with the king and with the people. Daniel certainly was able to negotiate with the school officials and even the king. Esther negotiated with the king to save her people.

Missionary kids and third culture kids also usually are good at negotiation.

Organizational Skills
The Biblical youth we have been looking at ultimately proved to be some of the most organized people in the world. Joseph organized the government to be able to preserve and distribute the surplus grain in the famine years.

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Moses organized an entire national migration. Nehemiah is the ultimate administrator. I wrote a book once about his organization skills called Two Models of Leadership for Kingdom Building. Daniel became known as the best administrator in the Babylonian government. Esther, even though she was a woman who probably had little or no formal education, knew how to think and organize a project that proved to be very successful.

There is something about living in another culture that forces you to think through things and that is a good exercise for developing organizational skills. If you were a missionary kid you have probably been a reasonably good at organizing things. You were forced to do that as a child and that helped to make that a part of your permanent personality and makeup.

Reasoning Skills
If there is anything that is abundantly clear in the five Biblical characters we have been looking at, it is the fact that they all had superior reasoning ability.

Obviously Joseph had supernatural assistance in being able to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh but all of the other things that he did were probably a result of his natural reasoning ability. Moses demonstrated great intelligence in his dealings with the Pharaoh and also in dealing with his people. Nehemiah thought through the best way to approach the king and the king accepted his reasoning. He also figured out the best ways to build the wall and to manage the city after the walls were complete. Daniel and his friends were the top students in their class because of their superior reasoning ability. The plan to get the king to rescind the degree related to destruction of the Jews appears to be Esthers plan and not her uncles. It reflects a keen ability to think, even though her reasoning abilities had not been sharpened by formal education.

Why are people who spend time overseas able to reason better? I now have an educational psychologist living in my home so being exposed to her has encouraged me to be more careful about making statements without some kind of empirical evidence to back them up. However, it seems obvious to me that people who grow up with more than one perspective on the issues of life have an advantage over those with only a single perspective. Having the second perspective opens your mind up to additional possibilities and this stimulates the brain to be more engaged, thus producing better thinking. From anecdotal evidence, missionary kids do well in college. Their background has encouraged them to learn to think and figure things out. If you ever want a smart employee, hire a missionary kid.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country

Final Challenge
We have spent a good bit of time looking at five youth in the Bible who spent time living overseas during a portion of their lives. What can we concretely learn from them and what can we see in their lives that will help motivate us? Let me just summarize the most important things that I have said.

There is pain associated with being a missionary kid.


I did not need to convince you of this but I at least reminded you that there were things about living overseas as a child that were difficult.

There was the pain of separation There was the pain of identity. There was the pain of traumatic and devastating experiences

All of these things at times left one confused and filled with doubts and frustrations and sometimes anger and resentment. We do not need to ignore that pain or hide that pain or be ashamed of that pain. It is real. However, we do not also need to dwell exclusively on that pain. We need to try to balance up that pain by remembering that there were blessings associated with growing up in a foreign land.

There are blessings associated with being a missionary kid.


I also had the privilege of reminding you of the many blessings associated with growing up in a foreign land. There were many rather not-so-spiritual blessings like traveling and meeting important people and learning foreign languages and experiencing things few people experience. There were also deeper privileges like seeing God at workseeing and experiencing miracles of God, seeing God answer prayer, seeing God supernaturally heal people. One of the blessings that I did not dwell on is the blessing of relationships. You formed relationships in those childhood days in that foreign country that you still maintain today. My children, although they are all in their thirties, still maintain the relationships that they developed at Hillcrest. I am not sure that the people back in the world ever were able to develop the kinds of relation ships that missionary kids developed. Most of us would agree that the blessings far outweigh the problems.

God merges the pain and blessings to make us who we are and to prepare us to do our lifes work.
I am not a psychologist but even a layman knows that our personalities start with a few genetic tendencies but then we are shaped and become the combined summary of all that we have experienced. We believe that God has allowed each of us to live through the unique blend of experiences and relationships that has made us who we are. God then takes us, as we have

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country developed into who we are, and uses us to fulfill a specific role in life that no one else in the world can fulfill.

Lives of Peter, James and Paul


We have spent most of our time looking at characters in the Old Testament. However, I am going to conclude our time together by looking at three characters in the New Testament. As for as we know all three of these characters were together perhaps only one timeat the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. They are James, Peter and Paul. I want to try to illustrate how God prepared and used each of these men. James The James that is referred to in Acts 15 is not the James who was Johns brother and a disciple of Jesus. That James had died by execution in Acts 12:2. This James was the brother of Jesus. He was actually a younger half-brother of Jesus. He apparently was reared in a very pious and even strict Jewish home. James actually lived a very narrow life. The only places we see him is in his home town and in Jerusalem. These are the basic facts we know about him.

James was identified along with Joseph, Simon and Judas as brothers of Jesus. Somewhere in Galilee his brothers and mothers tried to see Jesus once but Jesus told his disciples they were his brothers. Jesus visited with his mother and brothers a few days in Galilee once. John and his other brothers attempted to get Jesus to go to Jerusalem during the festival period so that he would receive more exposure and become more popular. This appears to be some kind of selfish request on their part. Immediately after the resurrection his mother and brothers were in Jerusalem and met with the disciples for prayer.

Although I am sure that James loved his senior brother, Jesus, and respected him, at first he did not believe that he was the Messiah. It seems that it was only after the resurrection that James came to full faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. Peter We know many more details about Peter. In fact we know more about him than we do any other disciples. Here are the brief facts: He was a Jew raised in Capernaum just on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. He was a commercial fisherman who meant he developed some skills at catching fish and also selling fish. He became one of the first of Jesus disciples and traveled extensively with him, back and forth from Galilee to Jerusalem. He passed through Samaria at least once and probably twice. He also left Galilee to the north and went with Jesus as far as Tyre and Sidon.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country As for as we know, except for an occasional Roman soldier like the centurion and later Cornelius, all of his exposure both before Jesus and after Jesus was restricted to Jewish people. He was the leader of the twelve disciples both before and after the resurrection. Paul Paul had a very mixed up life. His parents were Jews who would have been indigenes of Palestine but they lived in Tarsus, a Roman city so Paul was raised in a Roman City. He grew up speaking Greek and interacting with his fathers associates. Though his parents were strict Jews, Paul had some exposure to the local educational system because he learned about Greek poets and other things. Probably as a teenager, Paul went to Jerusalem to study under the great rabbi Gamaliel. He was there for several years and no doubt learned to speak Aramaic very well and probably improved his Hebrew. At one point, Paul must have left the city of Jerusalem for some years. He apparently was not in Jerusalem during any of the visits Jesus made to the place because had he been there, he would have certainly seen or listened to Jesus. It is possible he left Jerusalem to go get his practical tent making training during that time. He later returned to Jerusalem and became associated with the Jewish hierarchy. He managed to secure permission to arrest and prosecute those whom he perceived as abandoning the Jewish faith and turning to follow this Jesus. Paul then had his conversion experience. After that, he spent three years in Arabia. He then briefly passed through Jerusalem, spending only 15 days there. He then returned to his home city of Tarsus where he remained for about ten years. After ten years, Barnabas came and invited him to join him in Antioch to reach new believers and disciple existing believers. And then Pauls ministry really began with the missionary journeys.

Ministry of James, Peter and Paul


Note the way God used each of these three men. James became the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. Remember James had been reared in a rather strict environment and had no exposure outside of Palestine. Jerusalem was a very conservative place so James was uniquely prepared to live and minister in that place because of his conservative background restricted to Palestine. Peter became the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter had much greater exposure than James. He had traveled all over Palestine and even in some foreign countries with Jesus. Nearly all of his ministry was to Jews. God did use him to open the door to the Gentiles by helping to bring Cornelius to the faith. However, Peters experience qualified him to be the apostle to the Jews. Paul says in Galatians 2:8: For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.

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Biblical Youth who Lived in a Foreign Country I want to point out one scene in Peters life. Paul and Barnabas had completed their first missionary journey and returned to Antioch. Shortly after they returned, the Apostle Peter came up to Antioch to visit the church there. Paul then narrates what happens in Galatians 2:11-14: When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? What happened? Peter was a good Jew and had learned the lesson that Jesus wanted all people to come to faithat least he had learned it well enough to bring Cornelius, a Gentile to the faith. However, when Peter got in a purely Gentile area, he was not comfortable and he reverted back to his old Jewish prejudices. Here is the point: Jesus had selected twelve disciples to carryon his work and had trained them in the best way he could. Jesus had essentially placed his blessing on Peter as the leader of the group. However, when Peter was forced to go outside of his comfort zone, he failed as a leader of the church. Therefore, Jesus had to find another leader. Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was comfortable among the Gentiles because he spent his childhood around them. He spoke Greek with a Mediterranean accent rather than a Jewish accent. He knew their literature and their customs and their fears and concerns. He had even been an enemy of Christianity and therefore knew how the enemies of Christ would respond to the gospel. And because of these and other reasons, the leadership of the ministry to the Gentiles which was 98 percent of the people of the world shifted to Paul. Why was Paul selected to become the apostle to the Gentiles and the real worldwide leader of Christianity? He was selected because he was the best person prepared for it. And he was well prepared for it because of the vast cross cultural experiences he had had as a child. Can you see how God uniquely prepared each of these men for their individual tasks? Can you also see the limitations that was placed on the ministries of each of these men had to do with their background and specifically how much exposure that they had had in their lives and particularly the exposure they had in their childhood?

Conclusion
You are a missionary kid or a third culture kid. You have been richly blessed by your experiences. Even more important, you have been uniquely prepared to do a special task that no one else in the world can do? Will you ask God to take all that you are as a result of your background and use you to do and be all you can be for the sake of Christ?

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