By Roger Alford
The Christian Index
Wearing shorts and a T-shirt, a soon-to-be college freshman is hanging out with friends who, like her, grew up in missionary families serving around the world.
She’s in an outfit she couldn’t wear in the predominately Muslim country where her parents serve with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.
“I didn’t have to wear a burqa, but I wore a scarf. Without the scarf, whatever you were wearing was considered an inappropriate outfit.”
Life is certainly going to be different for her and about 50 of her missionary friends who have returned to the U.S. this fall for college and careers.
They recently spent time at a reentry retreat in the Georgia mountains, a safe haven where they can be reacquainted with American customs and culture.
These teens have lived their formative years in faraway places, working alongside their parents to share the gospel, often in communities that were openly hostile to Christianity.
“I didn’t go out by myself,” said the teen who grew up in a part of the world that was especially dangerous for Christians. “There’s so much more freedom in the U.S. Here, I can go to the mall and visit with my friends, and it’s no big deal.”
That’s one of life’s little pleasures she doesn’t take for granted. She and her missionary friends are currently settling into college campuses, others are going into the military and others will find jobs.
Ben Brinkley, IMB’s education program manager, said the week’s focus is “just helping them transition.”
During the retreat, they received a crash course in all things American, picking up on nuances that their peers who grew up in the U.S. take for granted.
IMB partners with national Woman’s Missionary Union to provide reentry training for between 50 to 90 missionary kids each year.
Brinkley said he expects the young missionaries to have a major gospel impact on college campuses and in workplaces. IMB President Paul Chitwood agreed.
“Our IMB family includes more than 2,700 children who serve overseas with their parents,” Chitwood said. “As they graduate high school, most of those young people transition to the U.S. for college or career opportunities.
“They come with the same passion to see the lost saved that led their families to leave their native land and go to the nations. It’s exciting to see how God uses them in churches and campus ministries across the country.”