MISSIONARY KIDS GET REBOOTED INTO CANADA
They are Canada’s secret immigrants – the children of missionaries who grew up in foreign lands only to return to their native shores as confused teenagers.
Now, an annual get-together of such kids (that’s held each summer in Calgary) is helping overcome the jolting transition that affects these youngsters.
The retreat is named ReBoot, and Calgary’s Ambrose University is one of only two locations in the country to introduce and host such a program for returning missionary kids – known as MKs.
Cyndy Ingram is director of ReBoot Alberta and knows first-hand how hard it is for young people to return to Canada knowing so little about their homeland. Her own three kids spent almost 10 years growing up in Ivory Coast in West Africa, where she and her husband worked as missionaries during a time of civil war. Their eventual return into Canadian society was hard.
That knowledge helps her understand what these returning missionary kids go through.
“They are sometimes called third-culture kids. Someone, for example, who has a Canadian passport; so, technically, Canada is home so that’s one culture,” she says. “But, they don’t grow up in Canada. They’ve grown up in another culture, yet they’re not really part of that other culture, either,” said Ingram.
ReBoot brings such kids together for an intensive, week-long camp in which they experience a crash course in understanding their own country as well as having the chance to meet youngsters in the same situation as themselves.
“We have fun with it,” she says. “We have a Jeopardy game and ask questions like, ‘ What’s a doubledouble?’ ‘ What’s shinny?’ It is really fun. We also do a miniature Amazing Race and have the kids learn to navigate Calgary Transit or open a bank account,” she added.
This summer’s ReBoot took place over a week in mid-August and involved about two dozen youngsters, from a variety of Christian denominations involved in missionary work. Many of the kids had returned from years spent overseas in order to attend university in Canada or to start work full-time.
“Sometimes families find their time overseas is done and they all come back together, but we also have kids who come back on their own while their families remain abroad doing missionary work,” said Ingram.
“We talk about the loss they experience and how to transition through that in a healthy way. As an example, we had one youngster who had grown up in the United Arab Emirates and, at 18 years of age, he left his school, his friends, his home, his family and his pets and came back to Canada for a completely new start. That’s a lot to ask of an adult, much less a teenager who is still dealing with identity issues,” she said.
“So, they sometimes feel like a fish out of water. They are not in the environment they have grown up in.”
The program, which is now in its fourth year, is a partnership between the Canadian MK network and the university’s Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives. Students, who board for the week at Ambrose, pay about $475 each toward ReBoot, with extra costs covered by various fund-raising initiatives among the religious denominations.
One of the most important aspects of the week is for the young people to understand they are not alone in this challenge.
“These kids bond so fast,” said Ingram. “They come and often they are a bit reticent and don’t know anybody, but by the second day they have this whole new group of friends who get them, who understand their life and what they are dealing with.”
So, they sometimes feel like a fish out of water. They are not in the environment they have grown up in.
Children of Canadian missionaries sometimes have difficulty adapting to this country — that’s where ReBoot camp comes in.