Saturday, May 5, 2012

What is in a word?

It’s described as a unique word with no equivalent in English. It’s origin is Portuguese and it was first used in the 13th Century. It's a longing, a melancholy, a desire for what was. It is “Saudade”.

Many immigrants and refugees search for words that adequately describe their peculiar longing for what they left behind. Not the war and evil that is a relief to escape, but the land, the people, the food – all that encompasses that which is home. Doctors and nurses working with large populations of immigrants and refugees often simply put it down as “depression”.

In one instance I know of a health center that desperately tried to find out through a survey what percentage of their immigrant and refugee patients had depression. The survey was unsuccessful.  It did not reflect the narrative that these health care providers were hearing from patients. One day a woman from Haiti said to them “Have you ever thought about asking patients if they are homesick”. The looked at her in surprise. No – they had not. With a quick change of the word they felt they were more able to get to the heart of the feeling - but is it depression? Depression is defined as a “Severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.” and that is not what is usually described.
What is described are feelings so deep that you can scarcely give words to them. Your throat catches and you try and describe intense longing and desire only to remain wordless. How do I know this? Because I have experienced it first hand. What we long to describe is “Saudade”.
The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness. ~ In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell
For many there is a clear recognition that they will never go back to the place where they feel most at home. They realistically accept this but not without “Saudade”. A Portuguese friend of mine recently told me about her father. He is in his nineties and came to the United States with a large family over fifty years ago. A year ago he went back to Portugal for what everyone thought would be a short trip. Now over a year later, he is still there. All the years he was in the United States he had “Saudade”. He has gone back so he no longer has to experience this intense longing; he is back in a place where he is viscerally at home in a land that he loves.

Third culture kids often struggle to give voice to their longing. Well aware that they are not from the country(ies) where they were raised, they still have all the connections and feelings that represent home. When trying to voice these, others look on with glazed eyes. Just recently someone said to me “But you’re not an immigrant! You’re American!” The tone was accusing and it was meant to be. What was unsaid was “Give it a rest! We know you grew up overseas. Big deal. You’re American and you’re living in America…” Ah yes….but I have “Saudade” I have that longing for something that “does not and cannot exist” and I know that. On my good days it is well hidden under the culture and costume of which I am now living. But on my more difficult days it struggles to find voice only to realize that explaining is too difficult.

Finding this word gives voice to these longings. I have often been looked at with impatience “Third culture kids are not that different!” says the skeptic. “We all have times of longing” but I would gently argue that the experience is different. We are neither of one world or the other, but between. Our earliest memories are shaped by sites,sounds and smells that we now hear only in brief travels or through movies and television. All of those physical elements that shaped our early forays into this world are of another world. and so we have “Saudade”.
It’s funny how the simple act of discovering a word that gives meaning to those feelings can validate and heal. That is what I believe “Saudade” can do for the third culture kid.

The above was posted by Marilyn and taken from the blog  
Not only does it sum up what a MK (missionary kid) or TCK (third culture kid) might think but it did a great job of putting into words what I feel most days.  Thank you, Marilyn, for voicing my heart.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Rachel Jones' blog post rings loudly with truth.  What do you think?

Some people tell me it is brave to raise my kids in Africa. They could get malaria or be bitten by a poisonous snake. They don’t have a Sunday School class. They can’t eat gluten-free foods. Their friends are Muslims. They live far away from cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.
My initial reaction is to be tempted to say, “Well, I think it is brave to raise kids in America.” I know my heart, my soul-shriveling tendency to love the world. I know my kids, how quickly they could be sucked into the idolatry of a nation whose church is the shopping mall and whose God is the latest iPhone.
But this kneejerk reaction is wrong because it assumes brave is the right word to use to describe parenting, whether in Africa or in the United States.
Brave is the wrong word.

Life As Fasting

Living overseas is a form of fasting. Fasting from the comforts of a would-be heaven on earth where there are hot showers, dishwashers and clothes dryers, fully-stocked grocery stores and someone else to teach piano lessons. Living overseas is fasting that says, “this much, O God, this much, I want to know you.” And, “this much, O God, this much, I want you to be known” (Michael Oh).
I want to know God deeply and I want him to be known so much that I will risk scary diseases, fast from my beloved family and worldly comforts, and teach my children to engage with neighbors of differing faiths. But to live and fast like that, to raise my children like that, isn’t brave.
When I think about mothering my three children who love this steamy, desert nation, I don’t feel brave. I feel dependent. Helplessly, desperately, breathlessly, clingingly dependent.


Any mother, anywhere in the world, could receive a phone call in the next five minutes about a car accident. A child could decide Jesus is an imaginary friend and reject truth. Another could fall into immoral living.
There is nothing brave about loving little people who will grow up and could choose to abandon the things of God. But for dependency on the promises and character of God, there is terror and anxiety.
Being dependent isn’t just for mothers living in Africa. The only way to parent is with faith that God is able to keep and hold our children. The only way to parent is to be dependent on his sovereign plan and tender care for them. Dependent on the strength of the everlasting arms to hold us, to hold our children, and to keep us in perfect peace with our minds stayed on Him.
No, brave is not the right word for parents.
Dependent is.

Taken from - written by Rachel Jones

WHO am I?

Coming to the field this time with three kids, I had an idea of what life would be.  I knew that I would basically be doing the same thing that I did in Texas.  I would still be homeschooling, taking care of my husband, cooking and making our house a home.  

What I didn't know was the joy that would be mine to be just exactly (and only) what God has called me to be - wife and mother.  Never mind that doing here all the things that I did in America is a hundred times more difficult and complex.  It is also many times more sweeter to do so.  Many days when I am juggling all that demands my time, I stop to thank the Lord for what He is doing in our lives.  

Is this the 'simple life' that everyone seems to crave?  Well, I can tell you one thing for very sure - nothing about living and ministering in the bush of Zambia is simple but it is simply a joy to do so.  

So, who am I?  I am exactly who God has called me to be.  What about you?  Has the world pulled you away from your first priority - being a wife and mother?  
Come back to who God wants you to be.