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Welcoming missionary kids on Home Assignment

H served as a CMS worker in the Middle East with her husband A and their children. Here she gives some excellent practical ideas and insights for how you or your church can make the time on Home Assignment smoother and more enjoyable for all.

For many children re-entering Australia (or visiting from CMS involvement in North Australia) is a hard process. They are missing their friends, their home, their familiar toys, books, pillows and so on. Visits to the location where their link churches are situated is often built up to be a lot of fun, and because they only go every 2–3 years for a short amount of time there are indeed lots of opportunities for this. However starting a new school or going to several churches is hard work for them and not always enjoyable. Here are some tips for helping missionary children feel welcome.

1.

“Welcome home” – this is such a strange phrase for a Missionary Kid (MK), especially if they have spent most of their life overseas or in North Australia. Where they are now visiting is not ‘home’. Please say something like “Welcome back” or “It’s nice to see you again” or “Welcome to Melbourne/Adelaide/Sydney etc”.

2.

When you meet the children for the first time, introduce yourself before launching into a conversation. Even if you are from their home church and you met them on their last Home Assignment (HA). Three years is a long time away and there will be many people the children have forgotten.

3.

“How you’ve grown” – this such an obvious statement. Over three years children will have grown and changed quite a lot. A child will not know how to answer this statement so avoid saying it.

4.

Before your CMS link missionary arrives at church make sure the children’s minister or Sunday School leader know the MKs are coming. Ensure they are well prepared to meet them, introduce him or herself to the MKs, take them to the right room and introduce them to some kids (preferably some kids who will be sensitive to having new kids around).

5.

During the service please don’t expect the MK to participate up front – they may cope with standing up the front for a few minutes while the missionary family are introduced, but should not be asked to talk except with prior arrangement.

6.

If a child looks like they are interested in talking to you ask them about what they like reading/doing/listening to/what their school is like – the more specific the question the better answer you are likely to get. A question to avoid is “How’s life in the Middle East/Tanzania/Chile?” Remember that life in the host culture is the norm for our children, so that question is too hard. Some kids may not want to talk to you though, so be accepting of that too.

7.

If you have children the same age as the visiting MKs introduce them to each other, perhaps prime your children before the arrival of the MKs so that they understand where the MK/s have been and why they are visiting. Maybe even invite the MKs around for a play date (especially if you live in the area).

8.

One of the joys of living in Australia is the postman! However our kids don’t get many letters and they love checking the mail box – write them a letter! Or you could recommend a book and lend it to them. Do with the same with a movie or a game.

9.

Some people love to give gifts and we appreciate people’s generosity. However there is a limit to the luggage people can take back with them, so a family pass to an attraction in your city would be a great idea. Examples in Melbourne might include the Zoo, Eureka Tower, the Melbourne Show, a children’s concert (Colin Buchanan is always a hit). You will be able to think of similar examples for your city or region.

10.

Please don’t be offended if the MKs are not at a particular service or event. Remember that every Sunday for about 12 weeks they are meeting new people at different churches. Each missionary family will have different strategies for their children (eg. the children only appear at one service a week and no mid week events)

11.

If in doubt talk to the parents about how their child is adapting.

CARE

Pick one or more of the above suggestions and work out, alongside with other church members, how you can put them into practice when your CMS link missionary returns on Home Assignment. You may want to link to this article on your church website.