Saturday, September 15, 2018

COLLEGE MKs

It's that time of year - Back to School.  Of course, my kids hear that phrase several times a day.

"Put the puppies back in their pen.  Let's get back to school."  

"Throw the dead rat over the wall, and let's get back to school."

But for many missionaries, there are some of our children who are too far away to hear those words from our lips.  They have completed their schooling at home and are now in a different country facing the "Back to School" frenzy all alone.  These are the MK (missionary kid) college students.  Some are very blessed to have their parents able to take them shopping for new clothes and school supplies before dropping them off at their dorm and catching the next flight back to the mission field. But there are so many others facing college alone.

I can vividly remember our first child leaving for college.  Of all days, it happened on Mother's Day.  After church, we hugged Shane, cried, hugged him again, and watched him walk out the door with his dad to drive three hours to the airport to fly 21 hours to the States to start a whole new life.  I cried for hours.  Then I cried through his Freshman year every time he would face a "bump" in his college road.  His first bad grade.  His first car accident.  His multiple times of being called into the Pastor's office.  Just because our children grow up with American parents doesn't ensure an easy field-to-America transition.  There are "100 Do Not's" for them to learn as well as "100 Do's." (How much easier it would if these were written down and the same for each kid!)  We as parents do our best to prepare them, but times have changed since we were in college.  Living in a foreign country, we can be as ignorant as our children in new American customs.

So what can be done?

Stanley, the oldest of the three we have in college

Pray.  Pray for the parents.  Pray for the students.  This new step in life isn't easy for either one.

Check Your Criticism.  There will be A LOT the MK doesn't know.  Do NOT criticize the child or the parents.  If you were to visit his home on the mission field, you would be able to see how competent they are in their normal setting.  MKs aren't dumb; they are just knowledgable in different things than you or your kids are.

Shae-Lynn often does her studies holding this cutey

Make Yourself a Mentor.  If you live near a college MK, make yourself available to them.  They need help getting a driving license, opening a bank account, buying a car, applying for a job, and a host of other things that mom and dad can't be there to help them with.

Share The Style.  You can be stylish without becoming worldly.  However, most third-world countries get first-world countries' clothes that have gone out of style...sometimes way out of style...so missionaries are limited by the selection there is.  Show the MK how to put together a stylish wardrobe that doesn't scream, "My wardrobe came from Grandma's attic!"  Having well-put-together outfits will go a long way to giving the MK confidence.

Stanley is a Junior at West Coast Baptist College

Tip and Treat.  You don't even have to live near a college MK for this one.  Nearly all college students consistently lack two things - money and food.  If I remember correctly, my college budget allowed $5 spending money each week.  Our dorm food could not be bragged about, and I ate just an apple for supper each day since I worked until midnight.  This is still what many college kids face, but many have parents not too far away they can turn to.  So, send a college MK a box of delicious, healthy snack foods, vitamins, and gum, and include some gift cards for restaurants, coffee shops, department stores, and gas stations.

Help the Holidays.  One of the stark revelations that hit me after our son went to college was that when his birthday rolled around, I wasn't there to make him a cake.  Birthdays.  Thanksgiving.  Christmas.  College MKs feel forgotten or left-out because no one knows it is their birthday, or they have no where to go for the holidays.  Send a birthday card with birthday money or a gift card.  Invite them to join your family for a holiday meal or an outing.

Shiloh working on his college correspondence courses

Consistently Communicate.  Make a point to regularly stay in touch with the MK.  Send a card the first of every month.  Text a "I'm praying for you today" message every Friday with a Bible verse.  Your consistency will remind that MK that they aren't alone.

Encourage and Encourage.  These college MKs need encouragement.  They will be corrected by teachers and employers.  They will be hard on themselves.  Deadlines will slam into them.  Problems will quickly find them.  They need a cheerleading team to encourage them.

In addition to correspondence,
Shiloh and Shae-Lynn also attend our church college

Maybe you will be the one that our MK looks back to one day and says, 

"Because of them . . . because they cared . . . because of their help . . .   
I stuck it out and didn't quit."