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Grieving and Graduating

Living the life of a TCK is both a privilege and a challenge.  A TCK is simply a "Third Culture Kid".  Missionary Kids (MKs) are TCKs, but so are many military kids, embassy kids, and kids whose parents work for companies around the world.  The short definition of TCK is “A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his 
or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture."  A TCK integrates aspects of their passport culture with their host culture, creating a third culture.  According to the website TCKid, 90% of TCKs feel out of sync with their peers, 90% report feeling as though they understand other cultures better than the average American, and 80% believe they can get along with anybody.  TCKs are well-rounded, adaptable, and in general are good employees.  Probably their biggest struggle is the state of constant transition and the need to make new friends every year.  Let me explain.

A TCK may be born outside of their passport country or brought to their host country at a very young age.  But every two to four years they are taken back to their host country.  Every time they go back to their passport country they literally feel like they've landed in another world.  Back in their passport countries they feel like, what is often referred to as, hidden immigrants.

A TCK may attend the same school most of their life, but all of their peers are also doing the here-a-few-years/there-a-few-years thing.  So every given year they have a new set of classmates.  Thankfully, not every single person in the class changes, but there is a definite lack of continuity.  Not only that, but their teachers may stay only one or two years, so the average TCK doesn't go through high school knowing that they will have Mr. So-and-so every year for History.

Jean M. Larson in a chapter in Raising Resilient MKs writes in a chapter entitled Transitions and the MK, "Transition cycles for the TCK have two important overlays to consider:  high-frequency mobility and the transcultural experience.  The continuous challenge of changing cultures, with differing cues and relationships is coupled not only with their own mobility but also with the mobility of other cross-cultural sojourners -- friends and acquaintances.  These people may be on a different cycle, but their lives have intersected for a span of time.  This high-frequency mobility produces a continual need for readjustment in order to cope with its kaleidoscope of change.  The resulting lifestyle is extremely intense."

This may give you some insight into why the last two weeks of the school year at Sahel Academy are so intense.  Many kids are leaving to never come back.  Some of those kids are graduating; the parents of others have been transferred.  Some of the kids will be gone a few weeks or a year, but will be back.  Some will be staying, but their friends will be going.  There is a lot of happy anticipation for the future and the changes, but also a lot of grief for the partings.  When you are from the USA and your best friend is from Australia, there's a pretty good chance you may never see each other again.

Just last Friday (May 29) Jesse, one of the 11th grade students, died unexpectedly.  He had been ill for some time, but was thought to be getting better.  Then he collapsed at school and was rushed to the clinic (a small private hospital) where he died later that evening.  

Sahel Academy is a small school where everybody knows everybody else.  When there are 10-15 kids in your class, classmates tend to be very close.  So this has had a huge impact on the entire community.  Yesterday we attended his funeral.  Tonight is the Junior-Senior Banquet.  Thursday night is graduation and Jesse's brother is a senior.

Our daughter, Suzanne, a graduate of Sahel Academy, a TCK, a mom, and an excellent writer has written an open letter to Sahel students and staff at her blog.  Please take a few minutes to get a feel for the emotions running high at Sahel Academy this week:

Can you please pray for the family of Jesse and for all of the Sahel Academy students and staff?  Pray that they will grieve well.  Pray that they won't be afraid to ask hard questions, but pray that they will find the answers in Jesus.  Pray for them to be able to celebrate Jesse's life and the graduation week at the same time.  Pray for all of those making transitions to new places while saying a very permanent good-bye.  The other good-byes are said with the very real possibility of some day running into those classmates as they journey through life.  Pray that everybody will be comfortable with the tears and higher emotions this week.  Pray for all of the students and staff to be understanding of the different ways in which we grieve.  Pray for parents helping their kids work through this.

Suzanne's graduating class 2009

Daniel's graduating class 2007

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