Thankful to be an MK
By Jonathan Bergen
Recently, I was asked what the best and worst things were about
being a missionary kid (MK). As I thought about, it I came to realize
that many things fit in both categories—for different reasons.
One thing that was hard as an MK was how often I had to say
goodbye to family and friends. We first moved to Germany in
December of 1985. I can still clearly remember seeing my third
grade class wave to me in the school parking lot, knowing that in
a few short days we would be in Germany. As an eight-year-old
all I knew was that I was leaving friends and family. I had no idea what to expect on
the other side of the Atlantic.
The trip over was fun—flying for the first time—having a layover in Iceland where
we had to walk through the snow to get from the plane to the terminal. After arriving
in Germany, we lived for a month with a missionary family with whom my parents
would be planting a church. About a week after we got there, my parents sent me
to a German public school. I walked the half mile to school with the kids of the
other missionary family. Neither of them were in my grade so I found myself in a
classroom full of kids who did not understand my language and I did not understand
theirs. Even the teachers understood little English. So I learned to say Was ist dass?
(What is this?) and point to things and then try to remember the strange words they
said. Looking back, I now see this was the quickest way to learn the language, but
for an eight-year-old it was tough. Most kids turned out to be friendly and helpful
and it wasn't long before I made friends and became comfortable in the language. In
the years that followed, God would give me opportunities to share my faith with my
classmates and teachers.
Leaving grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was also hard. In 1985 there was no
email or Facebook. Making overseas phone calls was very expensive. My grandfather
figured out that if he wrote letters on the thinnest paper he could find, he could add
a Kool-Aid packet with the letter and still just use one stamp. This was always a treat
for us since we did not have Kool-Aid in Germany. Outside of letters, cards and the
rare phone call, we had little contact with our family in the States.
But God provided us with a new family. The missionaries in Germany were a tight
knit family. We called the other missionaries “Aunt” and “Uncle.” We would all get
together at a camp facility in southern Bavaria every three months or so for a weekend
of fellowship. The MKs would run around in the woods while our parents played
Rook. “Uncle” Bruce would give us haircuts since he had trained as a barber before
becoming a missionary. Christmas and Thanksgiving, those times one traditionally
spends with family, were spent with other missionaries. The bond that was created is
one of the things I put in the category of favorite things about being an MK.
Another difficult thing about moving back and forth between countries was that
the cultures were so different. As a kid I mainly just noticed the little things like the
unavailability of grape soda or Reece's Pieces and that the cereal aisle only had three
20 BIMI WORLD
Number 3, 2011