You might be a missionary kid if: 1. The US is a foreign country 2. You don’t know how to work a seat belt 3. When you find a bug in your food, you calmly pick it out and finish eating and 4. You recognize someone while watching National Geographic. According to Statistical Abstract of the United States (2006), the net international migration to Oregon in 2006 was 61,482 individuals. I was one of those individuals. My family was returning from three years of living as missionaries in Uganda, Africa. We came back because both of my grandfathers were in critical health conditions. But the place I was returning to did not feel like home, and I was not the happy carefree child I was expected to be.
For years I tried hiding from how God was arranging my life, and who He’d created me to be. When we arrived back in America, I was in seventh grade. At an age where most people start trying to figure out who they are, I tried to be the opposite of who I was. Oh sure, on the outside I played my part as a good little missionary girl I was expected to be. But as John Updike said, “Celebrity is the mask that eats into the face.” When we visited churches I would smile and tell them stories of my time in Africa. I would wear my wrap-around skirt to Sunday school, letting everyone know I was different. I sang for offering and I sat through more potlucks than I can count. But I was not happy.
After seventh grade, my family decided we would not be going back to Uganda. Instead my dad became the pastor of a tiny church in Springdale, OR. We moved to a neighboring town, and my siblings and I were enrolled in Corbett public school.
Eight grade was a very difficult year. While I was thrilled to be in a regular class room again, I found out that, due to my time in Uganda, I was a few years behind my peers socially. People thought I was nice, but also very naïve and a little odd. Then came Isaac. He was funny, a quarterback, and claimed to be a Christian, and I fell hard. Isaac was a jerk. He found out I liked him, told me I “pissed him off”, and started multiple, nasty rumors. When the year ended, my parents refused to let me go back to Corbett for high school to get me away from Isaac.
Although my parents probably did help by pulling me out of Corbett, I did not appreciate it. I became very depressed, and completely withdrawn. Freshman year, I started at Open Door Christian Academy what was the worst year of my life. I was awkward and seemingly apathetic, but underneath, completely angry. The girls in my class were preppy, and I didn’t even know how to use a hair straightener. I discovered that, while I disliked the attention I had received as a missionary kid, I hated this even more. In getting a normal house, a normal school, and a normal life, I discovered that I had suddenly become a nobody. Oh sure, I still went to church, youth group, and Sunday school, but again, I was not happy.
While I portrayed myself as the goody-two-shoes pastor’s daughter, I was secretly harboring several sins. I found myself caught in several addictive behaviors, but I defiantly hid those too. Thankfully, God brought me out of hiding and into freedom.
Now I am in a phase of freedom, letting go and letting God have control. The start of this freedom began in Corbett Children’s Theater. In hiding behind various characters, I was able to be myself. I began to make good friendships with people who encouraged my walk with God, and I was able to confess the areas of my life where I needed serious help. I felt like Jean Val Jean and my new life was one, not of forgetting who I was, but moving past it.
According to the New Dictionary of Christian Ethics & Pastoral Theology, “Christ frees, not by releasing such a person from his (or her) obligations and by allowing him to do whatever he wishes … but by providing the motive and the inward strength of will to keep the commands of God.” Or, as Hartley Coleridge said, “But what is Freedom? Rightly understood, a universal license to be good.” I began to care about youth group and church. Although it took until the end of junior year, I was able to start reaching out to my classmates and let them become my friends.
Freedom is like a back massage. It makes you comfortable and helps you live life in a relaxed manner. You are subject to someone else’s hands, but trust that they will get all the knots out. As I have continued on the path of freedom, there’ve been times when I’ve just wanted to hide again. But that’s not the life God wants me to have. My freedom came, not from trying to hide myself, but from hiding myself in God.