Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Missions from Korea 2014: Missionary Children

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Missions from Korea 2014: Missionary Children

Article excerpt

The education of missionary children (MKs) is an important responsibility for all who are involved in mission. If missionaries are to be successful in their overseas ministry, they must have access to a reasonable educational option for their children.

The information presented here is based on empirical research of two sorts: first, a quantitative survey I designed and processed with the help of staff at the Korea Research Institute for Mission (KRIM) in late December 2012, which has been updated with additional data gathered at the end of December 2013; second, qualitative research involving field-based interviews carried out in nine countries in which 176 members of the Korean mission community took part--missionaries (70), MKs (76), and MK educators (30)--during the period of October 2012 through April 2013. (1)

The results of the questionnaire survey administered in late December 2013 show that 20,085 Korean missionaries were working with 166 mission agencies in 171 countries. These missionaries had a total of 17,675 children, with the percentage of children at each educational level as follows: preschool (16.8), elementary school (22.9), middle school (13.4), high school (12.9), college or university (29.1), and employed or employable adults (4.9). For Korean missionary parents with children of primary or secondary school age, the type of schooling selected, by percentage, was as follows: local schools (35.9), international schools (28.6), schools in Korea (14.6), homeschooling (9.0), MK schools (8.9), and other options, including Korean overseas schools (3.0). Field studies suggest that each option has both advantages and disadvantages.

Many MKs feel that as a result of a decision made by their parents, they had to leave Korea suddenly and without sufficient opportunity to prepare. MKs who are unhappy in the field may begin to question God's goodness. Healthy spiritual relationships with God and parents should be consolidated before MKs reach adolescence.

Linguistic challenges are a hurdle in the education of MKs, especially during the first years in a new field. When MKs return to Korea on furlough, their Korean-language abilities are routinely tested by their grandparents and church members, and all too often the children are made to feel shame for their deficiencies. Yet at the same time teachers at international schools think that many Korean MKs need to give more effort to improving their English.

The emotional and psychological challenges for MKs are also substantial. MKs who attend boarding school may miss their parents and siblings. Those who attend local schools often lack close friendships. An absence of peer bonding is particularly marked for children who are homeschooled. On all fronts, relational satisfaction seems very low, which can cause severe loneliness and depression.

MKs often struggle with their cultural identity, which is vitally related to one's sense of self and one's pattern of behavior. The quest for a singular cultural identity is increasingly challenging in our swiftly globalizing world. Identities are always in the process of becoming. MKs' multiple cultural identities surface especially on their reentry to their "home" or passport country.

Financial problems are experienced by almost all Korean missionary families. Only a small number of Korean missionaries have been able to afford education insurance or other plans that help parents prepare early for the high cost of a university education. The large majority of MKs whom we interviewed hoped eventually to earn a good salary, seeing such income as providing the opportunity to support their parents and contribute to the world. Interviews have led me to suggest that children of missionaries who have been securely supported by churches, fruitful in ministry, and respected by local Christians are more likely to see missionary service as a positive career path that they themselves might follow. …

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