By Kellie Moeller
As more and more veterinary professionals explore the idea and calling to international work or ministry, common questions arise that are related to their children: How will they adapt? What are the options for education? What are the benefits for children raised outside of their home country? Is my family prepared to serve?
These family concerns are real issues. Yet these very concerns often become the greatest blessings as families respond to God and step out to reach the world for Christ. Aptly called ‘3rd Culture Kids’, for their ability to function in a variety of cultures, children raised overseas develop a unique skill set that sets them apart.
3rd culture kids reap a multitude of benefits from their life experience overseas.
- Cultural adaptation skills. As soon as they begin their life abroad, kids start to understand that life, assumptions, and the way people think can be different in each cultural context. This develops adaptation skills that they will have for life. In any situation, they will be able to assess and respond to cultural nuances.
- Foreign Language skills. Knowing more than one language puts your children in the top 43% and knowing three languages puts them in the top 13% of the world’s population.
- A rich educational experience. Whether children are schooled at home or at an international school, they have a richer experience due to the language and cultural impact that would not be experienced otherwise.
- Spiritual sensitivity from working alongside the ministry and having an understanding of the universal need for Christ.
- A balanced view of materialism. Most fieldworkers experience living with plenty and at times, living with less. As children experience the often simplified living situation overseas compared to the more extravagant lifestyle of their home country, they gain a greater appreciation for living with abundance or minimalism.
- A global mindset. Having lived as a minority in multiple cultures, 3rd culture kids are able to live, work and fully function within a diverse environment. They have greater patience and understanding of those who may be ‘different’ because of their cultural backgrounds.
- They become people- centered rather than location-centered. An overseas lifestyle often requires travel and sometimes moving or working in a variety of places. The catalyst of relationships is no longer based on location, but focused on the intimacy they have with parents, siblings and even other fieldworkers who they have contact with.
- A greater appreciation for “family”. Having experienced world travel and international living, the value of family crosses all borders. Distance is not a barrier to long lasting and strong family ties.
Although raising a family overseas has many benefits, it also has unique challenges, and not everybody is called to hop on a plane with their kids. Adjustments to living in another country are difficult for the entire family and transitions can be overwhelming. But our confidence remains in God who equips those He calls, and that includes equipping our children. As you consider a future life overseas, He will be faithful to prepare you and to prepare your entire family for that experience. The long-term benefits will far outweigh the momentary afflictions.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18