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Hi, my name is Kyubum Kim. I go by the letter Q and my wife’s name is Anna and together we are Q and A. Our girls are Lucia and noelia and together we live and serve in Medellin Colombia.
I was asked to share a little bit about my upbringing as a TCK — the challenges that I faced and the things that define me. I’m going to break up the story, the conversation, into three parts: my early childhood, teens, and college years.
Let’s start at the very beginning. I was born in Korea. My parents are Koreans and they are Korean missionaries from Korea to Peru. Matter of fact, they are still serving there, 30-plus years of service on the field. It has been awesome to see God do amazing things through them and through the Peruvian church. Honestly I don’t have much recollection from my early childhood. I remember emotions and most of the memories that are have are implanted, so for example photos and stories that I heard, I’ve been told. But otherwise I can’t really say that I was a little kid who stayed up in bed pondering the meaning of life or trying to figure out what it meant to be human, at least not until I was a teenager.
So as I grew older and as I matured emotionally and intellectually I did start to wrestle with this questionof identity. I suppose that is normal for human development to ask those questions. As you grow into your teenage years, but then again what is normal about tck. So let me put it a little bit in context. My parents made it a point from my early childhood to really give me a Korean identity. But then again I was living in Peru so I came to love thein people and culture, especially the food. And while we were living in Peru in a Korean family, the school that I went to was a US MK school, so I learned American geography, American history, American culture. I learned to think like an American, so things got a little confusing to the point that for the longest time I would put my hand on my chest whenever we would do the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, and it hit me one day — why am i doing this I’m not even a US citizen. Now things have gotten a little bit clearer, a little bit easier ever since I became a naturalized citizen. Now whenever the national anthem plays it’s easier to figure out when and how I need to put my hand on my chest to sing the National Anthem.
Anyways, digressing, you get the point. As a kid I struggled to figure out my identity and my allegiance. I had a Korean passport yet we lived in Peru. But the only anthem that I knew by heart was actually the US National Anthem.
However I think that many times we also miss out on another element of cultural identity often unspoken. I felt as a TCK cultural pressure from the church as an MK. Not only do you have to fit into the church culture but you have to fine-tune your behavior to go along with the cultural expectation of each country’s church. So around this time my parents started to change their expectations and tone on me inheriting their Korean culture. They realized that no matter what they did, whether it was speaking Korean at home, eating Korean food, or having to go to Korean school on Saturdays, or having play dates with other Koreans, I will never be the Korean that they expected or knew what that meant. So around that time they started to change your tone. They taught me the importance of my Korean inheritance, but they changed their emphasis to making sure that whatever culture I molded into, I would be Christ-centered. So what my parents did well was adapt their parenting to fit into God’s will. In doing so they showed meekness, they showed me meekness even though they had the power to imprint their identity on me. They chose to allow God to imprint His identity on me.
Which leads to my college years. I went to college knowing who I was. My identity was firmly planted in Christ and while I knew I belonged to Christ I really didn’t know for sure what that meant. So through various circumstances, classes, people, events… I learned about the transient nature of believers on this earth. While it is important to build meaningful relationships with people and learn about God’s creation now, all of this pales in comparison to what will come in the future.
In conclusion it’s purely God’s grace, I can’t explain it another way. There are so many variables in life, especially in a TCK’s life. I can’t even guarantee that what worked for me is going to work for your TCK. The one thing that I can share that is going to be true in all circumstances is God. So as a TCK parent now, God is the only one that I can turn to for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, insight, and foresight. And I would encourage you to study what each of those words mean.
But finally when we knock, God answers. And sometimes it comes in the form of a Grow2Serve TCK parenting course.