Missionary Kid Part 1

By Sandi B.

I was born and raised a missionary kid (MK), but I never allowed myself to really think about it until last year (when I was 54 years old) — believe it or not. That’s because we were told from as early as I can remember that we must not do or say anything that would reflect negatively on Dad. I was not sure I could honestly look at my life without dishonoring my Dad or God…. When I let myself think, it was like a dam broke….

On October 6, 1953 a little baby girl was born to the Nelson family in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Philippines. That was me. I was one of five children. As a baby I had bad colic and cried for the first three months — so I was often placed in another room at the other end of the house to cry by myself, or the house girls (maids) would put me on their backs while they skated our wooden floor with their feet on coconut shells, which gave the floor a beautiful shine and kept me quiet at the same time. Once the colic passed, I became a very outgoing, happy little girl.

I grew up in a simple, rural settling way out in the province — sort of like Little House on the Prairie gone native. My parents were a doctor and nurse medical team. We lived on a compound of missionaries who all worked at my Dad’s hospital or in the area doing other things. Of course, all my friends were the children of the other missionaries on the compound.

We only had electricity when Dad fired up the generator every afternoon to do surgery. Our refrigerator and stove was kerosene (I believe), we ironed with a charcoal iron, and a wringer washer and dried our clothes on the line outside, and used kerosene lamps at night after the generator was shut down.

We had to be very careful how much electricity we used when the generator was on as it was shared by the hospital and the other missionaries. We also had an old crank telephone. One ring was my Dad. Anyone could pick up the line and listen. We had no TV, and as children played outside until we dropped. We used to lie on our backs and watch the stars and think “deep thoughts.” We heated our water on the stove and poured it into a big tub for our bath while Mom told us stories of when she was a child. Our roads were dirt and gravel and very rutted — so travel was slow and bumpy. To my childish mind, that made the trip more interesting. I actually preferred gravel roads to boring paved roads. We called all the other missionaries “Aunt” and “Uncle.” I guess this was to make up for the fact that since we were torn from our real families, we were taught to pretend everyone there was family instead. It sounds like the perfect place to raise children, and in many ways it was. I was a happy little kid. We thought we were normal children growing up in a normal family.

The first time I saw America and my blood relatives was when I was three years old and we went on furlough to the States. As my maternal grandparents lived in New York in a small town, we just moved in with them for the year. That was the only year I knew my Grandpa. I don’t have many memories of him. Then we went back to the Philippines for another four years, through my second grade. The missionaries started a little three-room school on our compound for all us children and that’s where I went to school. A teacher came out from the states to help the moms teach us. That freed up most of the moms to do their missionary work.

My second trip to America was when I was going into the third grade. Again, we went to live with my Grandma in New York. I started to think maybe I was from New York...but wasn’t sure. After one year, we returned to the Philippines for another four years — through my seventh grade. My best friend was Susie — born two weeks before me. We were inseparable — until our fifth grade year when the mission board moved her family to another place to minister and my heart broke in two. I tried so hard…. My parents opened a dorm to take in other missionaries’ children so they could attend our little school. Our dorm had children from first grade to eighth grade. Then off they were sent to the big schools 600 or more miles away for high school: Brent in Baguio or Faith Academy in Manila.

By the time I was in seventh grade, I had no classmates, and my brother had only one classmate. So I was sent to boarding school at Brent for the second half of seventh grade. Boy was I homesick!!! Wow!! I didn’t know it would be that hard. When I wrote my first letter home, I remember being told by my older sister: Don’t tell them how you feel, it will just make Mom sad.” I said, “I won’t lie to Mom and Dad”….I asked them to please let me come home, but if it wasn’t God’s will, to please send my pink blanket. On Dad’s next business trip he had a pink blanket under his arm….I knew the answer — I was now a boarding kid. I’ve made my self be “fine” ever since. After all, going to boarding school was “normal.”

We went back to the States for my eighth grade — but this time we went to California. YIKES!!! I was terrified! I remembered New York and the church kids, but California?????? That’s where my paternal grandparents had moved, as well as my Dad’s brother and his family. So that’s where we went. This time my maternal Grandma flew to California to live with us for our furlough year.

Every furlough we traveled as a family all summer visiting all the churches that sent monthly support to my parents so they could be missionaries. We would line up as children on the platform and sing for the churches, I would play the piano, and we looked like the perfect missionary family. No one would have ever guessed that we kids were hurting. If asked, we would have said we were fine. We became experts at being on stage and making our Dad look good — because we loved our Dad and we loved God. And it was our job to make Dad look good and be perfect children.

Adjusting to living in America as an eighth grader, I was like a fish out of water….People moved fast, ate fast, walked fast, talked fast, and I had no context to understand what was going on. I felt so odd in youth group and thought I looked funny. They sang popular songs and talked about TV and I was clueless….But I fit in as best as possible. That’s when I realized, I’m not FROM anywhere. I don’t belong anywhere. People would ask me, “Where are you from?” I would give them a stupid look and gape because I didn’t know what I was supposed to say…”Malaybalay, Baukidnon??? New York??? California???

I was glad to leave and get back to the Philippines where I understood the culture. Of course, for the rest of my schooling, I was in boarding school — this time at Faith Academy in Manila — a large school for missionaries’ children. My dorm mates became my family. When decisions had to be made (big or little), I made them by myself — I couldn’t call Mom and Dad and letters took too long. They really were not there for all those growing up important years. I talked over deep things with my friends who were in the same boat. We went through all those things teenagers go through but without input or guidance form Mom and Dad. I only went home for Christmas break and summer break — and I was SO GLAD to be home, I just smiled and enjoyed being with them like a sponge soaking up water — but we never talked about heart issues.

Graduating from Faith Academy was like a death….It meant saying goodbye, maybe forever, to our adopted brothers and sisters knowing we may never see each other again. It meant saying goodbye to a life I understood and entering our own countries feeling like aliens. I sobbed getting on the jet for “home”….terrified of California where I knew we were headed. I have gotten very good at saying goodbye — I’ve stopped trying to make a close friend. I guess I have learned that’s one way to protect my heart….

I got to live with my parents for my freshman year of college, and then they returned to the Philippines for another four years. Now I was placed under my Aunt and Uncle’s guardianship. I thank God for my loving Aunt and Uncle who took me in and gave me some stability. The next time I saw my parents was two weeks before my wedding, after I had already graduated from college. They missed all those years, too, including the special time of finding my husband Lawrence Blanchard and planning my wedding. My husband and I went to seminary after we got married and right out of seminary we became missionaries to the Philippines for three 2-year terms. Specifically, we went to work at Faith Academy as boarding parents — because I understood what the kids were feeling and wanted to be there for them. Besides, I felt obliged to be a missionary and it was a life I was trained for...My husband was curious and wanted to see mission for himself first hand before entering the pastorate.

When we were at Faith Academy as boarding parents, we noticed that some parents dumped their kids in our dorm and NEVER WROTE THEM ONE LETTER. Some were heads of their mission. When we raised this issue and said that something was wrong — long before we could put our finger on it — we were requested to leave this issue alone. That’s why we left. The Filipino church we were a part of also told us they wished the missionaries would go home — that we don’t really understand them and they don’t need or really want us (just our money). They told us to go teach our own people about God. They were right. We were given the release by God to come home by some Filipinos who spoke the truth.

The High Cost of Being a Missionary

Being a missionary requires parents to sacrifice their children for the Lord’s work. We were often quoted the verse about forsaking houses, lands, CHILDREN, etc. for the Lord’s sake...and of course, we couldn’t question God. So we couldn’t question this. I’ve come to the conclusion that this verse has been seriously misinterpreted (among others) — partly to justify sending children away in order to pursue a career. I think what this verse is really talking about are adult children who do not choose to follow the Lord, or are rebellious children, or when we have to choose between what God clearly commands vs. family opinion and things. But if the whole Bible is taken into account, God is very clear on parents raising their own children (Deuteronomy 6:7-8). He is also very specific on leaders being men who have their children in subjection (1 Timothy 3:4-5). That means, they need to be parents who are there for their children and discipline them when they need and teach them daily — not send them away for someone else to raise or to raise themselves as best they can.

In our family, all that was sacrificed for a career with the best intentions — serving the Lord. I have only recently realized that the world missions movement teaches that child sacrifice is what please God — but I do not believe the bible teaches this. Children are a gift from God to the parents who are supposed to raise them in every respect to become godly men and women. We were turned over to others to raise for much of our lives….some were good and some were not — but for the most part we raised ourselves. We made some major life decisions as teenager which later (sometimes years later) Dad would sometimes reverse without much, if any, explanation — causing great heart break.

But we trusted Dad as we trusted God and did what he said. We didn’t feel free to share our hearts and questions with others who were not Mom and Dad — and Mom and Dad were unavailable. But we kids all got the message — Filipinos (missions) and Dad’s reputation were more important than us kids….we were sort of in the way. Being sent away to boarding school made us feel invisible, in a way. This has had an effect on our self-esteem, because we knew that, although we were dearly loved, we were at the bottom of the list. We didn’t dare think this, much less voice it. Or we will have sinned by dishonoring our parents. We have been caught in a trap….and we’re all trying to deal with it in our own way. This was reinforced by the “care packages” that would arrive from the churches in the States filled with old clothes and even tea bags that were used “only once but still have plenty of good tea left for you.” We used to laugh and have fun with the funny clothes. But we got the message.

Last year, I tried to remember times with my brothers and sisters when we were growing up and realized I DIDN’T HAVE HARDLY ANY MEMORIES because we were separated early on and there weren’t many memories, except those few furlough years and vacations. I was feeling guilty for not being a good sister….We were pretty much all on our own.

I missed mother-daughter time. We had house girls that did the house work and cooking and missionary teachers did our schooling so Mom could work as a missionary (which was expected on her). So I learned about growing up on my own in college and after I got married. I remember two years where I got that precious time with my Mom — eighth grade and my freshman year of college. But we missed out on so much….What we did have were great family vacations. We lived for those vacations. We traveled a lot and that was fun! Vacations were wonderful! Thank God for vacations!! But that was “fun time.” We didn’t really talk about life issues and what was in our hearts. We thought Mom and Dad were perfect. They never fought or raised their voices. How could we bare our imperfect, sinful hearts to them without disappointing them and destroying our few sweet moments together?

These days, many missionary moms have chosen to home school their children and not send them to boarding school. Other mission agencies strongly encourage the moms to work alongside their husbands and send the children away. I don’t think my Mom was ever given the option to home school us. We were lucky we had a school on our compound for the early grades until it slowly disintegrated. When my husband and I were boarding-parents, we saw children sent away as early as first grade. My little brother was sent away starting in sixth grade and my little sister was sent away in second grade. It has hurt her with lifelong scars that I don’t think my parents have been able to face. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness from your children when you thought you were doing God’s work.

So, my sister has been deeply wounded for lack of the truth. My brothers, sisters and I survived — to one degree or another. But I personally know MKs who did not make it. They ended up turning their backs on God because their parents sacrificed them for God’s work. They lost their faith and never recovered.

Many other MKs have been seriously scarred and hurt — but we’ve all lost time we can never regain, memories that never happened, being from somewhere, belonging, having a home….And when we are together, we can’t say what we really think because the truth is too painful….It’s much easier to pretend we’re all OK (because that feels more like we’re honoring Mom and Dad and God) than to discuss the truth. I find I am still trying to find a way to reclaim what was lost….but that isn’t possible. It feels like we’re left in limbo to fend for ourselves as best we can...but God isn’t done yet. He is still healing my heart.

The Double Standard

Being a missionary kid was confusing. We were told one thing, but life often was very different. When we were growing up, we lived on a separate compound, went to only White schools and were forbidden to even think about dating a Filipino. And we wanted it that way. That seemed normal and logical. My parents wouldn’t dream of placing us in the local Filipino school (thank God). When interracial dating occurred in another missionary family, the whole family was sent home. It was never explained to us missionary kids why we suddenly lost our friends. When we were growing up it was absolutely wrong to race mix — although we never really knew why. Then suddenly things changed in ABWE (my parent’s mission organization) and it was OK for Americans to marry Filipinos.

A missionary lost his wife and married a Filipino “Bible Woman” (a “Bible Woman” taught the Bible to other women and children). That was a mystery too. What was once so wrong was suddenly OK. I thought our standard was based on Scripture, but began to see that it was based on the culture of the times. Once the Supreme Court made interracial marriage “legal” in 1967 suddenly it became right. Now that society has changed, it now appears that race mixing is suddenly not only accepted, but promoted in the churches. Who makes the laws? God or the Supreme Court?

I believe now, before God, that I know why we are not to race mix. The bible teaches that God created each race as good and distinct for His own purposes. Everything He created was good, but He also set the boundaries of “kind after kind.” His creation command stands firm: “kind after kind” (Genesis 1) and “do not mix the seed” (Leviticus 19:19). It is obvious that the different races are not the same kind. If we allow race mixing to continue, we will destroy our family line, our race, the other races, and God’s purpose for each of the distinct races which He created.

When we attended the local Filipino church every Sunday, I couldn’t wait to come home and just be with our own kind on the compound. I always felt different — very different. Our differences went far beyond skin color. We don’t think the same, react the same, or even smell the same, for starters. Yet, we were supposed to think that there was no difference between us and the Filipinos except culture.

We were told that there was no difference between Americans and Filipinos and that the American was not superior. However, we lived differently — very differently and very separate. The Filipinos treated us like royalty. I remember being led to the front of the church  for a meal where they served us while the whole church watched. The Filipinos used to sing: “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” — meaning that they wanted to live like an American. The house-girls even called me as a teenager “Mum.” They knew we were different.

As an adult missionary, I felt the differences even more keenly. As a woman, I had a very hard time trying to belong there. I really tried. I began to really want to be with my own people, but felt very guilty for my feelings. So I tried to stuff them and feel like a missionary. I was so glad when we came home to the U. S. for good.

Why Did Our Parents Sacrifice Us?

We were sacrificed for world missions theology. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” So it comes down to the question, Is redemption and salvation for all peoples on the planet or only for all peoples descended form Adam? World missions theology is absolutely correct in their interpretation IF the context of Scripture is clearly for every race on the planet due to all races coming genetically form Adam.

But what IF only one of the many races could come from Adam? The bible clearly states in Genesis 5:1 that this is the record or book of Adam and his generations. All of the biblical covenants, including the New Covenant, clearly trace to Adam’s race. The honest answer to this question determines the interpretation of all of Scripture.

When we look back into the history of our nation, we clearly discover that America began as a White, Christian nation which forbade any other religion — especially Catholicism and the Jesuits. Interracial marriage was absolutely forbidden in the churches and many states. And God greatly blessed America.

Slowly the churches let down their guard, welcoming anyone and everyone with their belief systems into our once godly nation. We have accepted all their rules for society, promoting tolerance and diversity. America has become a melting pot of race, religions, and every evil under the sun.

States started issuing marriage licenses (licenses are permission to do something that would otherwise be illegal) so that the races could intermarry. California was the first State to legalize interracial marriage in 1948.

Then in 1967 the Supreme Court passed a law making interracial marriage legal. Now they are legalizing same sex “marriage.” And as God begins to judge us, we sing in our churches “God bless America.” How can He? Somewhere down the line the seminaries and pastors stopped teaching and being the guardians of the truth and were silenced or bought out by the 501(c)(3) tax exemption status.

World missions theology became acceptable because it seems so loving, when in reality it is misapplying Scripture and trying to change God’s purpose for His creation and actually promotes the destruction of God’s unique creation. We MKs are the collateral damage. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His calling and purpose are irrevocable. God doesn’t change and neither does His plan.

We MKs were sacrificed for world missions theology which teaches that all races came from Adam. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis said that if all races did not come from Adam, “How can they (Christians) justify sending missionaries to every tribe and nation?” God clearly created the races each good (Genesis 1) and each unique for His own purpose and glory.

But they do not all have the same purpose. God also commanded “kind after kind” — He didn’t want His creation mixed up. We have no permission from God to mix and destroy what He created as unique. God created Adam for a specific purpose — he was given the job of dominion to rule in righteousness and justice as God’s representative on earth and therefore, in order to carry our this job, only Adam was made in the image of God.

Only Adam’s descendants came from Adam, which I believe can be proved from the Bible, as well as history, to be the Caucasian race. We were the ones created in God’s image and given the responsibility of taking dominion to rule the world to bring it under subjection to God.

It is we, Adam’s race, that has failed miserable, broken His laws and commands and covenants, and we need redemption. The bible was written to Adam’s race about Adam’s race. “As in Adam, all die, so Christ will all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22) speaks of only one race — Adam’s descendants.

We have never really understood our purpose as a race or God's covenants with us and therefore have misapplied Scripture. If we, Adam’s would repent, come under God’s authority and start fully obeying Him and His laws and take dominion as God would have us, the rest of the world would fall into place.

But so far, we are trying to change God’s purpose and plan and give the responsibility, covenants and promises He gave to us to others...not understanding that Jesus HAD to die to redeem us and re-create us in God’s image to restore us IN ORDER to fulfill His original purpose for us.

That’s what the New Covenant is about. There is no Plan B. I’m not saying that other races can’t worship God or love God. They should. He is their Creator. But they don’t have the same purpose in God’s creation. And we have to leave that in God’s hands and take up our responsibility. God is a God of order. His creation has an order and it is our God-given purpose to maintain God’s order.