A Letter to the Grandparents of My Third Culture Kids

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A Letter to the Grandparents of My Third Culture Kids

I remember telling you we were pregnant. We had spaghetti because that’s what you served your parents when you announced each pregnancy. I requested it, but you cooked it because I already felt sick. And so, almost before I told you, you knew.

I remember telling you we were pregnant with twins. You knew I had the ultrasound that day. I stepped into your house and said, “We have something to tell you.” The plan was to show you the videotape of the ultrasound, make you guess why our baby had two heads. But, again, you knew before I told you. You said, “Its twins, isn’t it?”

grandma1

I remember you tattooing my massive stretch-marked belly with planets and stars and I remember you coming to see the high level ultrasounds and crying.

I don’t really remember telling you we were moving to Somalia. But I also don’t remember you ever saying, “Don’t go.” You had expected something like this for years, almost like you knew again, before I told you. I don’t remember telling you we were taking your grandchildren to the ends of the earth where there lots of guns and kidnappings, a place none of us could picture in our minds. But I don’t remember you saying, “Don’t go,” because you never said it.

We boxed our belongings and stored them in your basement, in your upstairs closets and empty farm buildings. We wrenched up our family and our roots. And we left.

I don’t know what that was like for you.

I can imagine. I imagine it felt like ripping and shattering. I can imagine it felt cold and black, unreal and yet too real. It seems so long ago, the actual leaving, but it also seems so near. I think because the leaving wasn’t truly that one day, it is every day since the first in January 2003.

Sometimes I want to apologize to you, for causing this pain. Sometimes I want to apologize for not sending enough updates on the kids or Skyping often enough, for having stand-in relatives.

But, though I wish there wasn’t pain involved, I don’t feel right apologizing. Because I don’t have regrets, not ultimately, not when all things are taken into consideration. If I could live two lives, one of me would stay put and one would be on this wild adventure I am on. But since I can’t, I won’t apologize for not being able to accomplish the impossible.

So instead, I will simply say thank you.

Thank you for not saying “Don’t go.”

Thank you for raising Tom and I with a vision for the world outside our immediate circles. Thank you for teaching us to work hard, to trust like crazy, to dream big, to love deep. Thank you for helping us pass these qualities on to your grandchildren.

Thank you for sliding down McDonald’s Playland slides, for gathering up snow pants when we show up for a month and the temperature is below zero, for washing extra dishes, for baby-sitting back in those days when we needed it. Thank you for finding used bicycles and even a stray cat for us to use/love.

Thank you for crying when we left but for never making us feel guilty. Thank you for making space in your homes for our boxes, space for our bodies when we are back. Thank you for giving your grandchildren a safe place to talk about their experiences, for being interested in their lives, for seeing that they are content and for not overturning that.

Thank you for all the trips to the airport, for welcome signs and welcome candies, for homemade quilts to warm our freezing toes, for bags of stylish clothes to wear while in the US.

Thank you for picnics and parties and fresh fish fry and bean-bag toss and lasagna and bowls of strawberries. Thank you for keeping family traditions and for slipping us in seamlessly when we are here to join. Thank you for sending some of those traditions in packages across the sea.

Thank you for visiting, for stamping your passport with a country few of your friends have even heard of. Thank you for learning about a region of the world you previously hadn’t paid attention to. Thank you for seeing our lives there, not just the black hole left in your heart, but the life we have built of work and friendships and home. Thank you for possessing the courage and humility it takes to acknowledge and appreciate that and to not insist that the only good place for us to live is near you (though that would be good too).

Sometimes people say to me, “Oh, your poor parents. So far from their children and grandchildren.” And sometimes I want to respond (tongue in cheek), “Its their own fault. They raised us to care about the world, to work for justice, to explore, to depend on God more than on ourselves.” Thank you for living this way and for passing it on the next and next generations.

Thank you for making it abundantly clear that no matter where we live, we are loved. I could never have asked for a better set of grandparents than you four. We love you and we miss you.

*Read more about Third Culture Kids in Between Worlds, by Marilyn Gardner

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65 Comments

  1. gwen dvorsak January 7, 2014 at 5:07 am - Reply

    What a great tribute your and Tom’s parents!! Love hearing the stories from Meg & Dave and Great grandma when i’m able to

    • gwen dvorsak January 7, 2014 at 5:09 am - Reply

      sit down and visit with them!! I think they would have been disappointed had you and Tom not followed your hearts!!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 7, 2014 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gwen, I feel so blessed for the family I married into.

  2. willtravelwithkids January 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    Thank you! This letter could have been written to my grandparents, who have all now passed away. My parents were raised to “go into the world” and my grandparents were just as supportive and faithful when my mom and dad did, in fact, take us and raise us in Africa. It’s a testament to their faith that they could surrender their grandchildren when their children were called to obey.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      On the one hand grandparents don’t have a choice, really. But on the other, they could make it so hard for those of us who move far away. It is something I feel more grateful for every year we are gone, that both our families are supportive and gracious about our choices.

  3. MaDonna January 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    This was great – but more importantly inspiring to me to write letters to let my own parents (and in-laws, too!) how thankful I am for them. Thank you!

  4. Daniel Maurer January 7, 2014 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Perspective … is always a good thing. (And ellipses are a good thing too!)

  5. Cathy January 7, 2014 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Beautiful!

  6. Sherri January 7, 2014 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Well written. We are also blessed with family that did not say ‘don’t go’. Now my children are stretching their wings and we are wondering where God will take them. It HURTS, but then we did the same thing to our parents. I would rather them be in the center of HIS will than be right beside me. Easy to say. Hard to live when the pain of missing them hits. Thank God (TRULY) for Facebook and Skype!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 8, 2014 at 5:23 am - Reply

      Its funny, and not really fair, but that’s something I’m afraid of with my own kids. Now that we have given them this international life, will they choose it for themselves? How far apart will we live in the future? But how can I feel sad about that when we have done it ourselves?!

  7. Tina/@teenbug January 7, 2014 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    “Its their own fault. They raised us to care about the world, to work for justice, to explore, to depend on God more than on ourselves.”

    Aww shucks. I want to be that kind of parent someday.

    I love that you are loved so well! (A stray cat to love?!! #amazing)

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 8, 2014 at 5:24 am - Reply

      Amen to that. We’ve got some great examples between my family and Tom’s.

  8. Ashley T. January 7, 2014 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    What a great post. Beautiful, and so true for all of us who have made this heart-wrenching decision to take our kids to the other side of the world away from their beloved grandparents. I am so with you on this and will have to share it with our parents.

  9. Bev January 7, 2014 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    My children’s grandparents are now deceased and we are retired missionaries. My third-culture children had the blessing of living in different countries. My parents never had a negative word that their only daughter was leaving and taking their first grandchild away. They visited us three times in two countries and understood our life and work. My in-laws were tremendous also. My husband and I never made it home to our mothers’ funerals. But I am blessed by thirty plus years abroad, living in seven foreign countries. Grandparents made such a difference in my two children’s lives. Thanks for your inspiring article.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 8, 2014 at 5:26 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing this Bev, it is so good for me to hear from your perspective, after 30 years. Wow. There is something so special, isn’t there, about grandparents and our kids? They have a unique relationship and I love watching it grow even over the distance.

  10. Ken & Keli Oldham January 8, 2014 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Your post echoes several of the things we have shared with our families over the last few years. Thanks for sharing these publicly and helping others to understand.

  11. Marilyn January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    So beautiful. Had to share with a few people — still need to share with my own mom as she could have written it in her day, and all of us kids have done the same to her. It’s the high and beautiful price you pay for raising global kids. Cheesy as it may sound, years ago I gave my mom the poem about the two lasting things you can give your children – one is roots, the other wings. They gave us deep roots in God, not in American soil, and we all sure have wings. It’s going down through the generations now. Thank you for writing this.

  12. Donna January 8, 2014 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    beautiful, beautiful, beautiful….

  13. Carolyn January 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much! I am one of those grandparents, and I cried as I read this because I miss our children terribly. BUT, just four days ago, my husband and I returned from another visit to them in Asia where they are proclaiming the gospel and serving Christ by discipling others. There was a gap of eighteen months between visits — way too long while little ones are learning and growing, but I’m grateful for the special visits we can enjoy. God has called us as the grandparents to hold the rope for them through prayer and many other ways — we are blessed.

    • Mary February 4, 2014 at 4:48 am - Reply

      Carolyn, our son just left for Asia with his four young sons five months ago. Your comment made me smile. Our son left all of us his supporters a piece of cut rope to remind us how important it is for us to hold the ropes with our prayers. How we miss them, but wouldn’t want them anywhere else for now. As Paul wrote, this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen!
      Thanks for this sweet blog! So good to be reminded that we are not alone in our experience

  14. Jennifer Fields January 8, 2014 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Wow, thank you for writing what has been on my heart in regards to my own parents and in-laws. We’ve lived in Venezuela and Spain and they have always been our biggest supporters (or should I say encouragers) and the ones who welcomed us home. Thank you for sharing our hearts beautifully!
    Jennifer

  15. Dan Iverson January 9, 2014 at 12:42 am - Reply

    Great post, Rachel. I cried here in Japan when I read your post about grand parents, and went upstairs to hug my daughter, our 4th of our 9 MK/ third culture kids we raised here. She and her family are with us for a while here before taking her 4 third culture kids to a hard/good place like where you are. She wrote a sweet note to Carol and me, to her in-law grand parents, and to her grand parents, as she cried reading your post. Thanks.

    I remember my mom to me on how hard it was sending the 5 (then later 9) grand kids overseas. We were home on our first furlough in church worship singing the hymn “Oh Zion Haste.” I was standing next to my mom singing, Carol and all the grand kids there together. We sang the last verse, “Give of your sons, to spread the message glorious, give of your wealth, to speed them on their way…” etc. My mom whispered to me, “Danny, I always sang that when you were a little boy, and said “Okay, God, if you want him to go, I will “give of my sons.” She continued with great, though whispered, passion, “BUT I NEVER SANG GIVE OF YOUR GRANDSONS!” I think she was joking. Maybe half joking. Years later I told that story at a meeting while on furlough in the U.S., without mentioning that my mom had gone on to heaven. Afterwards a guy came up to me and said, “Yes, Dan, that is really hard, sending your grand kids overseas. I understand how your mom felt. What does your mom think about it now?” With a twinkle in my eye I said to him, “SHE IS REALLY FOR IT NOW!”
    Thanks, Rachel, and grand parents, for your sacrifice that really is none at all.
    Blessings. Dan Iverson in Japan

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Dan, this is so great, to hear how the post stirred up conversation between you and your daughter. I feel like I can hear my mom’s voice in your mom’s words too. In a loving, gentle, and supportive way, but it makes so much sense that sending off grandkids is a different kind of difficulty. I’m also so encouraged by your children’s responses to having lived overseas. It is always, always good for me to hear from the perspectives of those who have done this longer. And thanks for the video! Fantastic.

  16. Dan Iverson January 9, 2014 at 1:00 am - Reply

    One more thing. Parents and grand parents (and kids) might be encouraged by this MK/TCK/PK 2-minute rap our 8th Micah did with his friends here in Japan.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKkIWz6iqrU

    In theological graduate school, as we considered overseas as our hearts were moved, Carol and I were so hesitant to leave the USA to come do what we do here. Main reason for our hesitancy was “Our kids!” “God wouldn’t want us to put them at risk, take them to a far away country? Would He?” We had a good dose of family idolatry. 27 years later we say, and the 9 kids all say*, “What a blessing it has been!” Yes, hard many times. But a tremendous net blessing. Enjoy the rap and be encouraged by it and what the kids say/sing/rap. *Note: All 9 did not always say all the time “what a blessing, I am so glad to be here.” A few had stretches of “difficult” to varying degrees, but NOW all 9, age 37 down to 17, all say “what a blessing!” I know not all have that experience. But that has been ours, and has been the experience of almost all the families we are close with doing the same thing, working in The Great Endeavor. Gospel-centered life and work and family, loving team structure helps that, I think.

  17. John January 9, 2014 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Rachel: Your post stirred up all kinds of emotions for me. My parents left their parents and families to go overseas and carry God’s blessing and justice to the nations over fifty years ago. I and two of my brothers were born while they lived far from home. Then as a young single man of 25, I left home to go to one of the most remote nations of Africa. I met my wife there. Fast forward thirty years and I am still living and working in the same country. A few years ago our two children went back to the US for higher education. They had to give us up to return to the place where God has called us. Now we have the joy of experiencing an unconventional twist to your story. Our daughter has just announced that our first grandchild will be born in August. And we are the ones who have chosen to be far away! Of course, we hope to go to the US for the birth of the baby, but I’ve been wondering how much of this child’s life I will miss. We have very uncertain Internet connections and Skype is nearly impossible, so it’s going to have be creative, old-fashioned ways of interacting with them unless thing improve. We don’t have a lot of resources to be able to visit our grandchildren regularly, so we will miss some of the important moments of their lives. We will make the most of every moment we have, but tears come to my eyes when I try to imagine what grandparenting from a distance will be like. Thanks for your blog. It helped me realize what my parents went through in giving me up, and it takes the sting and guilt out of not being there for our children as they enter this new adventure of parenting.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 10, 2014 at 5:40 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your heart John. Congratulations on becoming a grandparent! I do hope you are able to see the baby and experience her/his life more than you anticipate, or that the times you are able to be together will be rich and fulfilling. This idea just came to mind, I just learned about it yesterday actually. Our coworkers have a children’s book that is filled with family photos and when you turn the pages, the recorded voices of the people in those photos say things like: Happy Birthday! Or whatever the person wanted to say. Here is a link, it isn’t cheap but super sweet. Just one idea, thought I’d share! http://www.amazon.com/Tomy-Discovery-Forget-Photo-Album/dp/B0019RC632

  18. Mary Harvey January 9, 2014 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Rachel,
    This was a lovely post to share. I cried my way tthrough iit. I think we have done a good job as parents by not holding them back and trying not to make them feel guilty for living the lives they have chosen. I’m sure we have not always been successful at that! The amazement of having your grandchildren sing to you in Mandarin is unbelievable. They are living a life that makes them happy. We learn from their experiences and that is a wonderful thing. We have been to 2 countries we would never have visited had they not been there and we are planning a visiit to #3!
    Thank you again for sharing such a personal story.
    Mary Harvey

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 10, 2014 at 5:42 am - Reply

      I know our parents would say the same thing – Djibouti?! Visit where? But they have come and I’m so thankful. How wonderful that you are able to visit your kids, and that you can enjoy the grandchildren’s language abilities. That’s so sweet.

  19. Julie Flora January 9, 2014 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    As a mother of soon-to-be first term missionaries who don’t have children yet, thank you! I have prayed that God would send one of my children overseas in ministry – now the time grows close, and I pray for continued grace to smile as I wave goodbye, and let the tears fall later.

  20. Anita Mathias January 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Funny, I can imagine many people from Djibouti would love to be in Minnesota. You should have done an exchange!
    Just kidding. I would love to visit Africa, but not to stay. I admire you!

  21. Rudy January 10, 2014 at 3:36 am - Reply

    Lovely, but yet painful to read. My family lived in Asia for many years as missionaries, but unlike your beautiful parents and in-laws, our parents (for the most part) really ignored us and our children while we were away. It was hard on our kids… especially when other grandparents called or Skyped their MK friends. It didn’t make sense to them when other grandparents made the journey across the seas to visit and theirs did not. When only a few care packages ever made it to our P.O. Box from them. When home on furloughs, the grandparents of our children really didn’t take an interest in what the children’s lives were like in their new land or what they ate or the language they now spoke. Hurts. Not sure why they did this, but thankful for others who stepped in and filled the voids for our kids… and us.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 13, 2014 at 3:46 am - Reply

      I’m so sad to read this, I can imagine how painful that must have been/is. Glad you found others to step in, but I’m sure that doesn’t erase the hurt. Thank you for sharing.

  22. […] A Letter to the Grandparents of My Third Culture Kids […]

  23. Mary Spatz January 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    I am a mother /grandmother to missionaries in South Africa. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I read your article. Oh,how I could identify with your parents. I am so thankful that I let my daughter and family go even though it .. was very painful. I thank God that we were able to visit them many times over the years. i now have the privilege of being a home away from for my 2 Grandsons.
    .

  24. Andrea January 10, 2014 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    I too am a Missionary Mom/Grandma . Thank you for sharing . Although it is hard to let our child go it makes us so proud to see our children follow the Lords calling.. My daughter and her husband and two boys are missionaries in the Netherlands, all tho it is not a third world country, it is still very far away. They have adapted to the culture beautifully and know that this is where the Lord has called. We miss them terribly but are so proud of them. All I can say is thank God for Skype. May God Bless you and your family and the work that you are doing.

  25. Faith Segaar January 11, 2014 at 3:22 am - Reply

    My husband and I have a daughter , son in law , and four grandchildren in Haiti . We just returned from visiting them . We enjoyed our visit so much ! It is great to see your children and grand children walking in God,s way ! Yes, I did have some tears when they left . Yes, God,s grace has been sufficient ! It has helped my prayer life grow a lot !

  26. Edna Decker January 11, 2014 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your blog. I know as a grandparent of children/grandchildren in Africa how your family feels. This helps me understand how tmy children/grandchildren must feel too. I do believe God has called them to serve in Liberia so I praise God every day for their ministry, for encouragement, and for safety. This reminds me that we are not the only people in this circumstance so it prompts me to pray for others as well. God bless you. Tears are OK, I have them often but know that God is protecting them and understands!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 13, 2014 at 3:47 am - Reply

      Good reminder that tears are okay. Great to hear how the post stirs you to pray for others, what a sweet spirit. Thanks Edna.

  27. Grace January 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    This is amazing, and exactly how I feel about our 4 parents, too. What a faith inheritance they are leaving behind.

  28. Larry Pearson January 12, 2014 at 12:28 am - Reply

    We took my parent’s only three grandkids, left the farm ending both of our farming enterprises and went to seminary. We never left America but spent 30 years in ministry. Both of them are gone now. I could have written about them like you did. Wow!

  29. Lou Ann Keiser January 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    We did the same thing, with the only grandchild on both sides almost thirty years ago. No looking back, but that first day was AWFUL. We felt ripped in two. I have never asked our parents how they felt. That was back in the days before Skype, Internet, and personal computers and e-mail. We sent letters back and forth–with stamps on them. We’ve lived overseas ever since, ministering to those who have never heard the gospel. No regrets. We, too, are thankful for our parents’ support and love. It is truly a blessing!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 13, 2014 at 3:48 am - Reply

      Not only thankful for these grandparents, but for sure for email, Skype, all these new ways of staying in touch.

  30. Ruth January 12, 2014 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Our son and daughter-in-law knew before they married that they would be going to the mission field. In fact, the window on their car as they left their wedding reception (put there by older brother) said, “Uganda or bust!” We praise the Lord they are following Him.
    I am a grandmother of Third Culture Kids, three of them in Uganda. Two were born there and we didn’t see them until they were 8 months and 4 years. Our first phone call to them was $150!! We were shocked, but it was so worth it to hear our 19-month-old granddaughter recognize our voices. We soon learned of Skype. What a blessing. When they are back in the States (not “home” to our grandchildren) the time goes by so quickly. We cherish the in-person time we have together, but rejoice that God is using and blessing them.

  31. Kathy Fiveash January 14, 2014 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Eleven weeks ago tomorrow, we said goodbye to our daughter, son-in-law and our only grandchild, 3-month-old Ian. They are on a comparatively short survey trip, crisscrossing the massive country of Russia to determine where God would have them serve. They will return in five weeks.

    One phrase in your article that really jumped out to me was, “…leaving wasn’t truly that one day, it is every day since the first…”

    I am so thankful or modern technology, like e-mail, Skype and WhatsApp. I am also so thankful that our kids have them available and are willing to take advantage of this technology to stay in touch with us.

    Someone referred to “Oh, Zion Haste” in their comment. There is more to that song than mentioned. The last verse, in entirety, says:

    Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious;
    Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way;
    Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious;
    And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.

    In the process of getting to where we are today, I’ve learned that it’s a lot more fun to send someone else’s child overseas than your own!

    I trust that God will help me support them and never ever be a burden to them. I have decided to keep on loving the little people at my church and trust that somewhere in Russia is a “Grammy” who will love on Ian when I cannot.

    God is good. All the time.

  32. anotherTCK January 15, 2014 at 8:47 am - Reply

    This is beautiful. I grew up in Kenya with missionary parents, and unfortunately our grandparents DID say “don’t go,” and while they visited us once and we visited them several times, there was always a sense of being “the ones” who had left. It was incredibly confusing and hurtful as a child, and most passed away before I reached adulthood. As an adult, with children of my own, I understand better how hard it was on my grandparents, and how much my parents felt the separation, but I didn’t know about that then.

    What an amazing gift that your families have given you by releasing you and being proud of what you are doing without holding you back. And how incredible that you recognize that blessing.

    🙂

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 15, 2014 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      So sad to hear they felt that way, and then how that hurt lingered and confused you. I know, from putting our kids in boarding school, that letting people you love go far away is one of the hardest things to do. Hopefully I can have grace as I send them and as I am one of the ‘sent.’

  33. Tamika Rybinski January 15, 2014 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    This was so good. Thanks I have sent this to my parents and a few other people who would be truly blessed by reading this!

  34. Melanie Edwards January 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    My daughter sent me your grandparent blog on the eve of their departure to Ecuador with two grandkids. We ourselves left with two kids years before. In some ways it is easier to go then to be the one left behind. It took us four weeks to get a letter. I thank God often for Skype. It was good to be reminded that I am not the only one that says good bye. May God bless you richly, pressed down and overflowing. Melanie

  35. […] leave stuff and messes and memories. I guess it is what we leave at my parent’s and Tom’s parent’s when we come back to Djibouti. And they also leave a mom who feels like a failure and who knows she […]

  36. Tammy January 29, 2014 at 10:03 am - Reply

    🙂 Loved this! What a great idea. I am a TCK myself from Kenya and now have my own TCK’s (4 to be exact) in Sumatra. This brought tears to my eyes…it would in our parents as well. I have bookmarked your blog to read more soon. Thanks!

  37. […] Grandma Jeanne died last […]

  38. Susan Davis April 24, 2014 at 7:02 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel,
    I just found your blog. I loved this one about grandparents. I too am from Minnesota. In the 80’s when my children were young we spent 2 years in Belfast, N. Ireland, where my husband served at a Presbyterian church. My parents visited and as we were showing them how ‘safe’ downtown Belfast was, a 1,000 lb bomb went off a block away and we all scattered. Glass shattered in shop windows where we were walking, but no one was hurt, The attacked building had been evacuated as the bomb threat was called in (in case any relatives of the terrorists worked there.) My parents handled it with good humor and had no post traumatic stress. Their friends thought they were crazy for accepting where we chose to live. We were happy the children were in school at the time and didn’t experience the panic, noise and confusion of a bomb.

    Fast forward to 2000. Our kids are in their 20’s and it was time for another international move. (it’s a restless feeling once you have lived abroad, you must go back) We left for Zürich, to pastor an International English speaking church. We fit in, learned German had the time of our lives with diversity, close friendships and ministering to so many different kinds of people. We love the Swiss and their way of life. It’s sooooo organized and civil.

    In that time, our parents all died. The hardest thing in ex-pat life is to be away from aging parents. When I moved, I thought if I stayed 10 years and came back once a year, I would see my parents 10 more times. Fortunately, I was able to stay for several months each year and help them as they aged. In my world in ZRH, it was not unusual with my friends to go back to our passport countries to be with aging parents for months at a time.

    Now it is time to return to the states (with very mixed feelings) as age 65 is looming and Switzerland is perfect for rich people retirees, if you are not a citizen. Meaning, one needs lots of income to live. Clergy pension won’t go far here.

    We are not going back to Minnesota. We wouldn’t fit in anymore and you remember the winters? (Just read the ice is still on Lake Minnetonka!) It’s California or bust, a new culture in which to adjust and fit in. LA is extremely diverse and that is what we crave and need now after experiencing the crazy ex-pat life. Yes, living outside one’s passport country is life changing in every way. We have always anticipated not fitting into our passport country.

    Keep up your writing and best wishes of you and your family.

    Do I really have to join something to subscribe to your letter?

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 24, 2014 at 7:07 am - Reply

      Susan, thanks so much for sharing this. Enjoy California! I do remember well the cold, dark, long winters. Sometimes, I even miss them! About the newsletter – signing up doesn’t mean you’ve joined anything, it just means that you are giving permission to mail chimp (the email service I use for mass mailings) to send you something. If you do sign up, you’ll get a confirmation email that includes a link to a free e-book I wrote, but you won’t get any kind of spam or strange emails. I try to do one letter a month, usually on the first.

  39. debra May 29, 2014 at 10:47 am - Reply

    In our case, we are the grandparents who have gone to a distant land, leaving behind our two wonderful grandchildren. Our goodbyes are never easy, no matter how many times we do it but oh how sweet the reunions are!
    But live Does go on, for all of us, and we are so thankful for the many blessings we receive from our loving Father, because of our obedience.

  40. Vickie April 6, 2015 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you…
    for the tears
    the reminders
    the encouragement
    the validity of it all…
    Missionary Parent/Grandparent <3

  41. Mary June 30, 2015 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel,

    Yes, I can almost predict that one or more of them will choose to live far away from you when they become adults. That’s what has happened to our kids, and the joy we feel is beyond measure! Sure, we miss them, but knowing that they are continuing the legacy that began with us is a remarkable thing. We’re proud of each one of our children and the path they have chosen. Each one loves the world as God does, and sees far beyond the border of the USA. Family means so much to them, when we all get together it is enhanced by our separations.

  42. Holly July 8, 2015 at 1:23 am - Reply

    thanks for such a well written summary of the dilemma of living in two worlds. My family fully supports that I do missions, but I know it is not without pain. I was missing in Nepal in April for over a week. My daughter’s voice when I finally could call her was like a little girl, not my grownup 37 year old. My son was making arrangements to go and do search and rescue. I was fine, but not able to communicate at all. God gives grace to us, and to the family that endures the missing mom, for birthdays and other important events. God bless the ones who stay back and look after our things, and pray for our safety. it means so much knowing they are there.

  43. […] Grandma Jeanne died last […]

  44. Jack Taylor January 14, 2016 at 1:04 am - Reply

    As a grandparent who didn’t say “don’t go” to my kids I read this as if from my own children out in East Africa. My parents took me to South America. My own kids were raised in Africa and I didn’t realize how important that unsaid “don’t go” was for those 18 years. Now my grandkids are in Africa. When I left the tears belonged to others. I feel this article deeply and also am glad for the unsaid “don’t go.”

  45. Elenn February 3, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for writing this letter even though it’s been a few years! I went looking for something about third culture kids and grandparents today and cried all the way through while reading it. My husband and I are currently in the beginning stages with our mission organization as we plan to go overseas in a year or year and a half… taking our two year old and soon to be born baby daughter with us. Although excited about most every other aspect of our decision, I am struggling a lot with guilt about leaving my parents and taking their only grandkids away from them. Not that they say anything directly to make us feel that way and they know this has been on our hearts for years, but it is more what is felt and sometimes not said… I think the hardest part for me is that my one younger sister is also raising support and planning to be overseas long term and the other who will still be around struggles with mental health issues. So I really feel like we will be leaving them alone without any “life giving” family. Praying that God will work peace in all of our hearts about this as the time draws near and trying to trust Him!

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