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Families on Mission: Let’s Ask The Kids

Being called to live and serve cross-culturally presents families with unique adventures.

Meet Dylan and Mary and their three teenagers: K (girl, 17 years), B (girl, 15), and J (boy, 13). They are Canadians, but they used to live in Central Asia, and now they live in Austria. They use aliases and initials in their communication because some of their ministry is sensitive and requires extra security and privacy. We recently invited them to share some thoughts about being a globally connected family. 

What are some smells and sounds that remind you of other places? 

B: Whenever I smell cigarette smoke, I feel like I’m instantly back in Central Asia where we used to live. 

K: There’s an air-raid siren that goes off every Saturday here (for practice), and it reminds me of the Muslim call to worship. I have a friend who is Muslim here and it reminds her of that too. 

J: Anytime I smell a campfire, I’m reminded of summertime with our grandparents in Canada. Those are happy memories. 

How has living internationally shaped you? 

K: We go to an international school, so our friends are from Croatia, Korea, and really all over the place. We slowly pick up funny mannerisms and pieces of culture from each other. It’s completely different than it was for our parents, who grew up in small towns in Canada with other people like them. We are very used to being integrated with all the other religions. 

B: In the Austrian dialect they say “oyda” often as a bit of an extra word. It really doesn’t mean anything, but the way you say it expresses how you feel. Now we all say it too. I like that we can experience the cultures instead of just learning about them based on what the internet tells us. 

K: When we see things online about countries we’ve lived in, it seems all negative and it creates an overall fear of people groups or whole countries. That makes me mad. Here we actually get to know and experience the real people from those countries and we don’t shape our biases on what the internet says. 

J: When I make a friend, I never consider how different they are. We just become friends based on how we get along. I celebrate their culture and they share their food with me!

What has been hard about living internationally?

J: It’s fun to go back to Canada every other summer, but it’s not always fun to go to all the churches. They ask so many questions. 

B: People think we are Canadian because we speak English but we don’t relate to the world as Canadians. We come from a mix of cultures. 

What about your experience, Mom and Dad? 

Mary: We are closer as a family because of our experience. We understand each other like no one else around us can. We still fight, but we all know we need to support each other because sometimes all we have is each other. 

Dylan: As parents, we still compare things to Canada, but for the kids this is what they’ve known. They don’t feel like they live overseas because this is just where they live. Our new global perspective has shaken up our traditions and reshaped our thoughts about life and discipleship. 

Mary: We feel like Ausländers (foreigners) everywhere we go. In Central Asia, we were the blonde family that everyone stared at, and here, because we speak English, people assume that we can’t understand their language. But we can. We often feel misunderstood. It’s challenging when we go back to North America and it’s challenging here too.  

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