By: Reece Hester
I am a psychology major with a minor in communications, a senior graduating this December, and I love life. As a disclaimer, I grew up in the missions field, although, I wouldn't say I was a missionary as much as my parents are.
My family moved to Southeast Asia, Cambodia and Phnom Penh. Growing up in this mission field has had its ups and downs. I grew up experiencing and seeing Christ active throughout the world in many different ways. I’ve seen God’s narrative play out in ways that might be seen as crazy or taboo in the United States. Although I could tell many crazy stories, I’ll just stick to some simple ones.
Growing up as a missions kid (MK) brought many blessings and struggles in my life, especially transitioning into the culture of the United States. Now, most people want to hear about God overseas, which I will share. But there is a testimony of God’s story in my life when I came to the United States. I graduated from high school in Cambodia in 2020 and started my college education in the fall. One of the major challenges in my life was figuring out where my citizenship and perhaps my loyalty belongs. I asked myself if I was American or if I was Cambodian.
I was a hidden immigrant. Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, is a great book for those who grew up outside of their passport country, I highly recommend reading it. Especially if you hope to be a missionary one day. But I struggled with identity, who was I? Well, I quickly discovered that I was a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and that is who I serve.
Another major lesson you learn from living around the world is that people are much more similar than they are different. Cultures around the world are unique and have their stories. But something I’ve seen across the globe is how similar human beings are. That the realities of being human are what connect us. The love of dancing for example, when my family moved to Cambodia, my father taught some country dancing to Khmer kids, and the Khmer people taught my family Cambodian-style dancing. We bounded and conversed back and forth. This is a transcultural perspective, but most of all that is the love of God. We as humans, as people of God, share life, we co-create the culture and world around us. We bond despite our differences. This allows for a foundational connection and similarities that allow for communities to come together in love.
There are also many common misconceptions as to how the mission field is viewed. Missions are not going around and helping poor sad people. Mission work is about going to other countries and finding people who need love and help. It's about enacting the same way Christ came for us. Christ came to help us with our struggles, Christ died for us.
In the same way, missions are about going to those who are in need, in need of love and help. In Cambodia, my father saw a lot of problems with the education system. He saw that children were struggling to support themselves and learning ways to help their families within their own culture and country. So, my dad and God worked to improve the education system so these children could find inventive ways to help their families. Dad used scripture to teach English to Cambodian children. He then learned how to help children read and write in their own language in the villages. He then helped those who live in these villages to build their own schools.
Like Christ came for us and helped us with our needs, Missions are about meeting in places of suffering and need in others while demonstrating God’s love. In return, Cambodian children learned how much God loves them by how far God’s people are willing to go to improve their lives. Cambodian children are now able to make it through middle school and high school. They see that God’s people are willing to take responsibility for other people’s needs and go a step further than just reading words from a religious book.