Three things TCKs taught me not to take for granted

If you know international students or have friends who are third culture kids (TCKs), you know you can’t take anything for granted—not the terms or phrases you use, not your understanding of geographical knowledge and especially not your time spent together.


Catchphrases are cultural, so you may have to ask questions about what an offhand comment means. Recently a friend I’ve known for a couple years asked, “Do you want more to eat?” I replied something along the lines of, “It’s okay.” She nodded silently and then asked a moment later, “Does that mean you don’t want more?” Oops! That is what I meant, but I can see how my language could be confusing (a) perhaps in general and (b) especially to someone whose second language is English.

Even after years of knowing someone, language differences can interfere with communication. However, this causes you to engage constantly in order to deepen your relationships. You also grow accustomed to hearing or using terms from different languages, expanding your vocabulary and thus your world.

Geographical knowledge.

Next, your international or TCK friends might not know where Montana is, but that’s only because they grew up overseas and probably know where a lot more countries are than you do! And let’s reverse the scenario for a moment: you probably don’t know the names or locations for the provinces in China, Mexican states or other geographical subdivisions in all your international/TCK friends’ countries! I’ll admit I do not. Living in the United States, I’ve never had to know.

Of course, a few TCKS may know more American geography than born-and-raised Americans because of the educational curriculum they’ve used overseas or the places they’ve visited when they’ve come to the States. It’s excusable for international students and TCKs not to know where the state of Connecticut is since they might not have spent much if any time in the States, but when they do-bravo! I’ve met countless American college students who do not know. (In case you’re one of those people, Connecticut is in New England. It’s east of New York and above Long Island Sound, south of Massachusetts and next to Rhode Island. It’s in the northeast United States.)

Time together.

This overarches the daily interactions and conversations with international students and TCKS. Although they may hate goodbyes, third culture kids are used to having people come in and out of their lives, and they’ve been those transient people for others. They know how to value time with their friends.

As college students we have about four years we can expect to be together. After that, who knows where we’ll move on this small, round planet? Nevertheless, as TCKs and Disney fans know, we live in a small world. With international connections and often a penchant for travel, you never know when you may meet again! Years down the road when you bump into your friends in Colorado or Kenya, treasure those moments—as well as the ones you’re living now. We honestly can’t take time for granted.


My international and TCK friends have blessed me in countless ways, not the least of which is vicariously showing me more of God’s world. They’ve opened my eyes to see things from different cultural perspectives and have taught me how to count time as a blessing.

What have your international or TCK friends taught you?


What does it mean to be White in the United States? A personal account.

How often do you think about the color of your skin? How often do you notice the ways it affects how people treat you? I am White, and I try to think about this every day.

I surely do not have to think about my Whiteness. I didn’t realize it until about a year and a half ago, but now I choose to recognize it. I choose to examine the privilege I receive because of that as well. I also consider basic interactions with people of other colors and other white people.

Because I’m White, achieving status in the United States is much easier for me than my darker-skinned counter parts. (The hurtles and ceilings I encounter would have to do with my gender rather than my race, but I won’t get into that here.)

Because I’m White, I could ignore the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. I wouldn’t be personally affected.

Because I’m White, other white people assume I can read and speak English well without making me take special tests before I enter a specific setting. (This happened to one of my half-White, half-Latina friends even though she speaks and reads English perfectly, and I’m sure she’s not the only one.)

Because I’m White, I’m not the butt of insensitive jokes about blending in with the night, and people don’t ask if I’m wearing a wig or a weave.

Despite this, I choose to recognize my own Whiteness yet engage with people of color and the issues pertaining to them.

Though I am White, I intentionally befriend people of color and other nationalities at my workplaces. I want to learn about the world and operate outside of the sphere that’s filled with a lot of people who look like me.

Though I am White, I engage with the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. While my person is not affected, the body of Christ is, and thus I am. My friends are affected, thus I am. My neighbors are affected, thus I am.

Though I am White, I recognize the value of knowing multiple languages and consider the complexity that language and culture provoke. I also know that even in the United States, not all white people speak English and not all non-white people speak their language of descent. We must get to know people before we judge them.

Since I am White and was socialized in the suburbs where most other people were White as well, I need to be especially careful to think before I speak. I need to recognize the differences between culture and avoid insensitive comments or questions but not be afraid to ask good ones. This is easiest and most effective in the safety of good friends of color who know my heart.

I do not write this to emphasize my (limited) awareness of race relations but because I believe my old church’s motto that “people are significant and Jesus is more valuable than anything else.” No matter how racially homogenous our homes may seem, we all impact each other (at a structural level if nothing else, but I really doubt it’s nothing else).

As an aspect of my humanity, being White is complex. Hey, I’m beautifully and intricately made by God! And hey, sin messed up stuff too, like the ways we relate to each other based on outward appearances. Thus, today I challenge you to begin recognizing your Whiteness in all it means.

I’m calling us to a greater awareness of how God made our bodies, where he placed us in this world and how that impacts others. (For me sociologically, I’m a White, lower-middle class, American female. That’s a lot to process!)

When we understand who we are and our standing in this world in comparison to others, we can love others well, considering them better than ourselves, treating them as we’d like to be treated. Whatever our race, we all have privilege and some form of power. How will we use that to serve our neighbors, as Jesus commanded? If you’re White, how does that affect your daily life?

The Gospel in its simple beauty (John 3:16, Kinyarwanda translation)

I love the Rwandan translation of the Bible. Kinyarwanda is my favorite language right now, and although I don’t know much of it, I can understand some familiar Scripture passages by comparing phrases to my English Bible and using my two dictionaries. (I have one print Kinyarwanda-English dictionary and one on an app, and I also have friends who speak the language.)

But what is this language and how did I come to know it? Almost exactly a year ago, I began an internship in Denver, where I worked as an intern for the health coordinator in the refugee and asylee department. I also befriended several case managers, one of whom was from Burundi and had long been a refugee in Rwanda before coming to the States and becoming a citizen. This particular case manager friend, Zacharie, speaks six languages including English, Kirundi and Kinyarwanda, and last July he began to teach me Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda.

Although I can read some Kinyarwanda at a painstakingly slow pace, I still know minimal vocab and certainly do not yet know the words nuances since I only had a teacher during summer 2014. Yesterday I tried to make some headway in my vocab, however. I learned that buhoraho means eternal (see John 3:16) and iteka means forever (John 3:18). I had thought they meant the same thing, but Zach informed me that the former is an adjective (ubugingo buhoraho–eternal life) and the latter is an adverb (nzagukunda iteka–I will love you forever).

Uwiteka is a name meaning Lord or Eternal One. (Eternal One– isn’t that beautiful?!) Simply put, according to Zach it means God. Mwami is a name for Jesus meaning King or Eternal. Jesus is Yesu.

Don’t zone out of this language lesson yet–I’m just getting to the point, the Gospel as read in John 3:16. The word that stands out to me the most in this passage presented below is cyane, an adjective meaning “a lot” or “immensely.” The letter C in Kinyarwanda sounds like a ch in English. Try saying the word cyane aloud now. Got it? Okay, I think we’re good with words for now, so let’s dig into the Scripture itself.

In my simplistic understanding of the language, I can read John 3:16 in Kinyarwanda and receive it as a beautiful, deep truth. I’ll show you the various translations below: First ESV, then Kinyarwanda, and my understanding of each.

John 3:16 and 17: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

To someone who has never heard the Gospel like this before, those verses are powerful. But after you have been in church for your entire life and can say this passage while spying nocturnal sheep, it begins to lose its meaning. Personally, I gloss over it because I think I already know what it says.

Another con of knowing the English translation so well has to do with the language itself. In English the words “so loved” seem meaningless and archaic. “So” doesn’t mean anything anymore because everything is super sized in the States today. (Oops, I even used the modifier to describe how well I know English, and I didn’t even realize it! See, it’s practically meaningless now.)

Kinyarwanda is still fresh and thrilling to me, however.

Johana 3:16 and 17: Kuko Imana yakunze abari mu isi cyane, byatumye itanga Umwana wayo w’ikinege kugira ngo umwizera wese atarimbuka, ahubwo ahabwe ubugingo buhoro. Kuko Imana itatumye Umwana wayo mu isi gucira abari mu isi ho iteka, ahubwo yabikoreye kugira ngo abari mu isi bakizwe na we.

I can compare the translations phrase by phrase, clause by clause, and pick out which word means what based off the few I know already. My dictionary is always handy, of course. Kuko means because, Imana is God, yakunze is the third person singular and the distant past of the verb for love (gukunda), mu is a preposition translated in or into, isi means world, and cyane means a LOT: For God loved in the world a LOT, the passage begins. God loved the world a LOT, immensely.

While I want to learn more Kinyarwanda with the goal of communicating well in the language, I am glad that my simplistic understanding allows me to see the Bible in a new light, as if starting over again. Newness is, after all, what Yesu is talking about in the passage above.