What a week! We left last week Sunday morning at 5:00am and made our way to Wheaton, Illinois. It was great to meet some of the other people who are preparing to serve at BFA this August (which one of our new friends pointed out is only 38 days away!). We've made some great connections with people of all different ages and stages and wow! What a group!! We're looking forward to getting to know each one of them better once we're all together in Germany. :) So, what was orientation about? They covered topics like taxes, transition training (dealing with acculturation/culture shock), ministering to TCKs and a whole lot more! I could give you the entire schedule, or I can tell you about the parts that meant the most to me. I'm going with the latter!
My role as Mom in Germany will take up far more energy than it does right now. Let's say you moved your family from Winnipeg to, I don't know, say Vancouver. You wake up in your new home and get ready to go to the grocery store. The whole time you're driving, you're thinking about how to get there (go down the block, turn left, drive to the second set of lights...). Now imagine that when you get there, everything's in a different language, location, size, and sometimes even a different name. In your hometown, in your routine, you get out of bed and wake up when you get to the grocery store! Which one takes more energy? Everything is going to take more out of us in a new place. How do they do things at the post office, at the grocery store, at the doctor... And the rules! Oh, the rules in Germany. This last week felt so busy and draining, but I don't think it compares to how we'll feel in a new country.
One of the other topics we covered that I really enjoyed was about Third Culture Kids (TCKs). "A TCK is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_culture_kid)
Anyway, we talked about the benefits, challenges and life-long impacts of being a TCK. Important for us to relate to the students at BFA as well as our own kids. The facilitator for this session went through the benefits and challenges for things like mobility, relationships, world-view, cross-cultural skills, transcultural experience, linguistics, development, leave-taking and grief. So for world-view, some of the benefits were that kids grow up with a 3-D viewpoint, have a knowledge of the world around them, and they empathy for kids who are struggling. Some of the challenges could be dealing with the pain of the reality of world events, being impatient with others, and arrogance (whether it's real or perceived). That's really just the tip of the iceberg - it was such a great session. I was nearly in tears for some of it as I thought about how this will impact our kids.
I know one of the things that people find difficult is the concept of parents sending their children away to boarding school. It was so good to hear from a couple of young women who grew up with parents on the mission field. Both of them said they wouldn't trade their boarding school experience for anything. It has impacted both of them positively (one of them went to BFA) and now they are ready to give back to the kids they way they were given to.
One final thought on the week came from a Brazilian man. One of the TeachBeyond staff translated his words to us during our morning devotional. He read from John 15 verse 5: "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." This was a beautiful and timely reminder to me that on my own, I'm insufficient.