Continuing my series on how to support our family on home assignment, this post is for people in churches, especially the kids ministry team. Our little guy comes along to a different church with us every week, and he does it in a culture that’s foreign to him. So, how can your church host him well?
1. Cut him some slack on the rules.
Every other kid in the church might know the rules about what to touch or not touch, but he doesn’t. He might be white like the other kids, and he’ll definitely come across as enthusiastic, but in a stack of ways he doesn’t understand the social norms. The rules and tolerance for children also vary from church to church, so it’s hard to keep track of what’s acceptable where.
2. Introduce your kids ministry people to him.
We’ll be there early, so there should be time before the service starts, and it makes the chaos of all the kids going out a little less disorienting for him and means we can relax a bit knowing there’s already someone looking out for him.
3. Give Arthur and/or me a run down of your sign in/out procedures.
These change from church to church, and they don’t exist at all in Tanzania, so we need your help to know what to do. It’s also worth following up with us at the end of the service if we forget (like I say, we’re not very practiced!) or get caught talking to people.
4. Identify a child to be Elliot’s friend and take care of him.
As Tanzanian culture is pretty non-interventionist, leaving kids to sort things out for themselves, he’ll respond better to another kid showing him the ropes than direct instructions from an adult.
5. Show him where the toilets are.
Otherwise he’ll go wandering looking for them himself, and that leads to all kinds of embarrassment for everyone.
6. Don’t expect more from him because he’s a missionary kid. In fact, expect less.
Missionary kids are just ordinary kids. Just like their parents, they didn’t get an extra dose of holiness by having the descriptor ‘missionary’ applied to them, so don’t have a higher standard for them. If you’d expect an ordinary Aussie kid to act out a bit when they’re moving house / welcoming a new sibling / out of routine / just returned from travel / tired / not sure what’s coming next, then expect it from Elliot, because that’s all his life has been for months. Yes, kids are resilient, but they also thrive on stability and there’s not much of that in the life we put him through, as much as we try. I’m not making excuses for him: I want you to tell me what he was like in Sunday school so I can talk about it with him. But please recognise that for him, the transitions just keep coming. That’s unsettling for anyone and it may come out in his behaviour.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.