Calgary Herald - - TRAVEL - CHRIS NEL­SON

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.

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