As a Missionary Kid (MK) in India, an overseas missionary in South America, a missionary back in the States, a mother and a grandmother ... today's guest blog comes from someone who more than qualifies to write something for The Missionary Mum! Rena Jarboe is the wife of the President and CEO of MMS Aviation in Ohio (where Mark trained as an aircraft engineer), where they have both served faithfully for many decades. She is kept busy with numerous tasks within MMS and the community but today she shares some thought's on the needs of a missionary kid.
Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.”
Many refer to the above verse as God supplying material needs. While this is true, I would like to suggest other “needs” in the missionary and MK setting. Some say missionary kids are deprived of many things. I beg to differ. My life was rich.
When someone answers God’s call to leave home and family and go to another country to serve Him there is a need for confidence and peace of mind that the move is indeed God’s call.
Family members left behind have deep concerns and need this confidence and peace also. Parents can be anxious for their son/daughter and wonder if they will be safe, healthy and have a fruitful ministry. There is concern as grandparents say goodbye to grandchildren. The fear of dangers and unknown diseases—some real, some imagined—that lurk in foreign lands come to mind as they send them off.
I was born in India to missionary parents. They left America in 1947, to go to an unfamiliar part of the world, knowing that they would not see family for six and a half years (they ended up serving twenty years in India). During that first term I was born, as was my brother, Billy, two years later.
There was a need for safety from harmful things like snakes and scorpions. In our village setting during the first term, Dad killed many poisonous snakes. None of us were ever bitten. The Lord woke up my Mom more than once in the middle of the night, only to find a scorpion under my bed, which she would dispose of. My brother and I had a close encounter with a 30 foot python. I had a scary moment with a cobra in the bathroom of a friend’s home—and the list could go on. God’s protection was evident.
There was a need for medical care. Our little village of Ghatkesar had a small clinic where some medicines were available. One night when I was two I developed a severe asthma attack. Being an asthmatic himself, Dad immediately recognized the symptoms. It was frustrating to get the medical worker to open the clinic in the middle of the night in order to get a vial of needed medication. We’re confident God intervened and Dad got the medicine and gave me the injection I needed. (Who knew that his training as an Army Medic would be put to good use in this way!) There are other providential medical provisions too numerous to mention here.
There is a need for family. As a missionary kid, I had an abundance of missionary Aunties and Uncles. It wasn’t until I met my relatives at age four, that I learned to discern between real Aunties and Uncles and my missionary ones. Having cousins, however, was a new concept. To this day, I keep in touch with missionary “relatives” (though many have passed away) and I cherish my memories with them. I also have a special Indian Uncle and Auntie, with whom I am still in contact. My life was and is rich.
There is a need for an education. While home schooling is a popular option these days, those curriculums were not available in the 50s and 60s. I received a good education in a British Boarding School for missionary children. While the separation from my parents was not easy (it was hard for them too), I had an abundance of friends from many different countries. It has been fun to reconnect with many of them recently, through Facebook!
Material needs were something that as a child, did not concern me. However, God provided for my parents. Their sending church took on their entire support for the first six years. Following a change in pastors, it was discontinued during their first furlough. God provided others to fill that need. Our living conditions during the first term in India were quite primitive with no electricity or water pumped to the house. On our first furlough, my brother and I were fascinated with light switches, flushing toilets, escalators, Christmas lights, etc. I think we drove our Grandparents to distraction those first few weeks as we flipped light switches and turned on taps and flushed the toilet numerous times just to see the water swirl and go down!
Only as an adult did I begin to appreciate my unique childhood. I remember on furloughs I just wanted to blend in, and not be noticed as an MK and someone different. This is quite normal. However, now I understand my childhood was something very special. I’ve lived in places with exotic names, such as Ghatkesar, Bhongir, Secunderabad and Coonoor! Not many can say they have traveled by ship multiple times from one side of the world to the other (it took a month). We had a pet monkey and our friends had a pet hyena. I have ridden on an elephants, camels and bicycle rickshaws and have watched snake charmers and scorpion charmers. I’ve seen work elephants in our yard being watered from our well—something quite scary for a three year old, but memorable. God provides unique blessings and experiences to missionary kids. I am grateful to be an MK.
Nowadays I feel the need for good Indian food once in a while and a daily cup of chai.