Incipient Third Culture Kids

In preparation for teaching the children of missionaries at Faith Academy Mindanao, I’ve been reading some books about so-called “third culture kids”. The idea expressed by this term is that the children of missionaries identify fully neither with their parents’ birth culture (in our case, the United States and/or Canada), nor with the culture of their host nations (in Naomi’s case, that will be the Philippines, at least at first). Rather, kids, from whatever parental culture and in whatever host culture, share with each other a set of common experiences that constitute a “third culture”. There are many advantages and challenges that come with this status, but if parents and child approach it in faith, it can be a powerful tool for Christ’s kingdom, giving TCK’s a higher and broader perspective, freedom from provincialism, language skills, cultural adaptability, and abilities of empathy that other people may not have gained from a less adventuresome childhood.

The process of disruption that characterizes many missionary kids’ childhoods can be painful, as they form relationships and then have to move on to a new placement, or back on furlough, or back to their host country.

Naomi, being the most social of our children, has experienced this most keenly. Being on deputation right now has meant staying with host families, often pastors of REC or other like-minded churches. Our kids find much in common with kids in these families, and friendships form. Naomi hit it off with Martha, the daughter of one of the pastors of Reformed Covenant Church of Ithaca, NY. We stayed with their family for three days and two nights in June, and Naomi was very sorry to leave. We’ve encouraged her to strike up a penpal relationship with Martha.

On our current week-long trip to Scranton to visit Grace REC and the NEMA Council, we took two days to go up to Ottawa so that Sora could get some documents authenticated by the Canadian government and the Philippines Consulate. On the way back, it occurred to us that Groton, NY was only a little bit off our path south to Scranton, so we called up Pastor Jones and Mary to ask if we could stop by.

We did, and the kids didn’t waste any time resuming their friendship where they had left off in June. Within a few seconds of walking in the door, Malachi and Isaiah were waging a Nerf gun war against Ezekiel. Isaiah was playing board games with his hosts. Hosanna and Naomi were being girly with Martha. And everybody was having a marvelous time.

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This is typical of TCKs: once they enter into friendships, they progress to deeper stages of intimacy more quickly. But there is a cost: the separation from such new friends is painful, and TCKs often develop ways of managing these losses, sometimes avoiding forming relationships which they know will only be severed or made more distant soon. We’ve seen this with Naomi as well, and she is self-aware enough to give voice to it.

REC Diocese of the Central States Synod

No, this is not a picture of us in the Philippines. The palm tree is in Florida, where we went this week for the Diocese of the Central States’ synod meeting. It was a joy.

There were many familiar faces whom we have met before in our missionary deputation months past. Fr. Franklin Sanders and his wife Susan saw me eat spicy Mexican food for the third time, and chuckled at my wimpiness in the face of jalapeños.

Fr. Chris Herman moved me to tears yet again with his simple, direct, and oh-so-profound account of how God has worked through his ministry to the nursing home he visits: how he brings Christ’s love to those whom our heartless society has abandoned and warehoused until they can be buried, and how Christ has turned that gift around and blessed him and the other members of Christ Our Hope through those they share time with in that nursing home. Fr. Chris is a very special and very dear man to me. He was one of my examiners for my diaconal orders. I wear his stoles every time I vest. They are hard stoles to fill, but God is good.

We were delighted to meet Fr. Paul Edgerton from Church of the Redeemer in Wilson, NC. His parish was the first to pledge support for our mission without even meeting us first, so it was great to put a face to his name. And what a face! If Fr. Chris radiates the love of Christ, Fr. Paul is all about the joy of Christ. He was so enthusiastic about our ministry that Sora offered, only half in jest, “Do you want to get up and give our presentation to the synod for us?” Fr. Paul is always teasing. He spotted my Greek and Hebrew Bible. “I love it! A language nerd!”

Matt and Sora with Fr. Paul Edgerton (center)

Fr. Charlie Camlin was there to greet us again as well, though Deacon Kell and deacon-postulant Josiah Jones and his wife Story were prevented by school teaching duties. Theirs is another parish dear to our heart, and Sora was very glad to meet Fr. Charlie. I had visited his parish without her and told her midwifery stories.

It was also good to meet other rectors to whom we had spoken on the phone. Fr. Scott Houser shared an appreciation of classical languages, since his daughter is a classics major at U. of Dallas. Fr. John Heaton and I talked shop about classical Christian schooling (he’s the headmaster of an ACCS school in Lynchburg, VA, and I’ve spent 8 years teaching at Mars Hill Academy in Cincinnati.)

During the first service of Holy Communion on Thursday, Bishop Morse began the offertory sentences. I reached for my wallet as usual, and then stopped short when the bishop continued: “… this offering will be given to Matt and Sora Colvin to support their ministry to the Philippines.” Once again, we are floored, and have not the words adequate to the way we have been loved and commissioned and blessed by this church.

The highlight of the meeting for me was getting to cast a vote as a member of the diocesan clergy in the election of my own pastor, Fr. Peter Manto, as suffragan bishop. We’ll be out of the country when he’s consecrated, so I’m glad to have had the opportunity to participate.

Visit to St. Matthew’s REC

Last weekend, we were blessed to visit St. Matthew’s Reformed Episcopal Church in Havertown, PA. The Ven. Jon Abboud and the Rev. Roderick Lee welcomed us into their service and gave us time to speak during announcements and the Sunday School afterwards. This is a parish that has a long record of outstanding support for missions. Pastor Lee can also be added to a long list of RE clergy who have visited the Philippines during their time in the navy or marines.

Mrs. Bonnie Abboud was welcoming and helpful, encouraging us both before and after our presentation. The ladies of the church sent us on our way with food for the road and prayers for our safe travels.

Everything went very smoothly with one exception: we forgot to take any pictures! We’ll be looking to get some when, Lord willing, we return on furlough in some future year – or at the diocesan council for REC-NEMA this week.

Things We See On the Road

We calculated that we will have covered over 6,000 miles in October and November. That’s a lot of time in the car! We have gradually become better and better at traveling. Some improvements are delightful ways to make the time pass faster: Tolkien audiobooks by Rob Inglis, for instance. Others are ways of mitigating the necessary evils of the road: our hosts in MD gave us a large plastic container for kids to use when they feel…

I continue to spot exotic cars. The tally so far is three Ferraris (all the modern California model), three Bentleys, three Dodge Vipers, and just yesterday, a Jaguar E-type in the parking lot of a Chinese buffet:

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The owner saw me taking a picture of his car, and offered to lift the lid for me:

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We’ve also seen some amusing signs along the way. I found this one hilarious:

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This one is highly unusual, but very considerate. I didn’t know those female icons could turn sideways, let alone be with child.

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We hit the road again on Wednesday, flying out of Dayton to go to the REC DCS Synod in Florida. (Not sure how Florida is part of “the Central States,” but there it is.) More pictures coming.

Supporters Encourage Us

After our visit to Covenant Chapel (REC), we received an email from some new supporters who wanted to encourage us. They gave us permission to share it with others.

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Dear Matt and Sora,

We were privileged to hear your presentation at Covenant Chapel REC today. What a unique combination of special gifts for both of you. We have never heard about a midwife ministry before and are convinced after today that it is an unique way to reach the unsaved, especially the Moslem women who are receiving a woman led benefit that they require and cannot normally receive. Nothing can be more powerful to a woman than to have someone to guide them and protect them from the dangers of child birth. That is a witness that a hundred sermons could not reproduce. And to combine that with a teaching and preaching ministry with such unique credentials on the Pastoral level is an example of the amazing Grace of God. We praise God that both of you have the same calling for the fulfillment of the special and unique gifts that you have been given. It is our desire to commit $XXX a month for your ministry and hope that some day we might be in a place to commit more. Please let us know how to proceed in the monthly support.

Thank you for your commitment to your ministry. It cannot be an easy thing to walk away from the security and safety of America and Canada to minister to the [majority] world and we would like to be a part of it, however small.

God Bless You,

Ed & Cheryl K.
Pequannock, NJ

——-

You are indeed a part of it, Ed, and not a small one. We will remember these words when trials come. That is something that the wiser and older missionaries have told us: “When you’re experiencing culture shock, or depression, or frustration on the field, you need to remember why you’re there, and that you have a real calling from God and His Church to be there.” It is incredibly helpful for that reminder to come from others. So we’re going to save this email and pull it out when the going gets rough.

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Visit to Covenant Chapel in Basking Ridge, NJ

Basking Ridge, New Jersey is the farthest east we have visited in our quest for senders. We were given a very kind invitation by Fr. Greg Miller to speak at Covenant Chapel (REC) during the Sunday school hour, and for Matt to give the sermon in the service.

Fr. Greg and his wife Lori welcomed us into their home around 8:30 PM, on a night when their daughter Esther was starting her first job. Like so many of our hosts past — the Crums in Catonsville, MD, the Jones family in Groton, NY — they put us up in their home in such a way that we wondered where they found to sleep themselves. Naomi and Isaiah were the kids accompanying us on this trip, and they were delighted with the Miller family’s collection of classic children’s books. Our kids went to bed around 9:30, but Fr. Greg and Lori stayed up conversing with us until 11:00. We arose to the finest breakfast we’ve had on any of our trips: French toast and bacon by Mrs. Miller.

Fr. Greg gave us the entire Sunday school time to present our mission. One of these days, we’ll record it for you with the slides. In the Holy Communion service, Fr. Greg kindly entrusted his pulpit to me. I did a reprise of my sermon on “Spit and the Love of Christ,” which you can download here.

Obligatory vestments shot:

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After the service, we were treated to lunch in the fellowship hall, where we discovered that parishioners Jim and Josephine Tyne were also friends with the Rev. Steve Schlissel and Craig Brann. (Indeed, I recalled James’ name from some past articles at Messiah’s website.) Pastor Steve, for those who don’t know, was instrumental in matching us with each other back in 1999.

Facing a 10 hour drive back to Cincinnati, we probably should have gone home after the fellowship dinner, but we couldn’t resist the chance join the congregation for its annual hike at Hacklebarney Park. I had naively assumed that all of New Jersey was one gigantic sprawling suburb of New York City, so I was amazed to see gorges, rocks, and waterfalls like those in Ithaca. And everything was arrayed in fall foliage. Naomi and Isaiah had a great time climbing the rocks for an hour before we had to take our leave and let our hosts go on up the trail for the rest of their hike. And no, nobody fell in.

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This final shot shows Fr. Greg, who is wearing a coveted REC polo shirt, and Matt, who is wearing a maple leaf hung upon him by the subversively Canadian Sora!

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Thank you, Fr.Greg, Lori, and Esther for your hospitality. Thank you, Covenant Chapel for receiving us so warmly and hearing our words with enthusiasm.

Christmas in October at Bp. Cummins

Without question, the congregation at Bishop Cummins REC in Maryland have been among our most encouraging and enthusiastic supporters outside of our home church, Trinity REC. Their heart for missions is very evident. Matt was invited to speak during Bp. Cummins’ summer missions week in early July. Sora was on call for births and was not able to leave Cincinnati, but Matt evidently did a good job of telling all of her birth stories because Pastor Crum asked him to bring the whole family back in the fall.

Bishop Cummins has a tradition of celebrating “Christmas in October” with a focus on missions. They had a Christmas tree in the narthex decorated with laminated “prayer card” pictures of their missionary families. Our children were quite impressed to find themselves on the tree!

On Saturday, Sora gave a talk about her vision for midwifery on the mission field. Members from Grace REC in Havre de Grace and St. Stephen’s REC in Sykesville were also there to hear her.

On Sunday, Sora spoke again about our mission during the Sunday School hour before the service, and Matt preached a sermon on James 1:22.

We were very glad to see Ron and Nancy Albright, who had hosted Matt when he visited in July; Walter Seymour, who has been a supporter of our mission since he first met Matt; Maria Czajkowski, the chairwoman of the missions committee who first contacted us — not we her! — to invite us to come visit; and of course, the pastors, Cedric Benner and David Crum.


(Matt, Sora, Hosanna; Mrs. Czajkowski and her nephew; Pastor and Mrs. Crum)

The Crums were our gracious hosts, vacating their entire upstairs to give us three (!) bedrooms, and feeding us as only Mrs. Crum can.

We hope we will have a long relationship with our friends at BCREC, filled with many good memories of service to Jesus together.