Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What are you reading, John Webb?

Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken was a gift from a friend. Since my wife and I work with Missions’ Families, we have a keen interest in their needs and issues. We also know that many Hope students have been raised in other cultures and have seen how hard the transition can be. Having the book in my hands was the push I needed to read it. Since then, I have read five or six other books on this topic; this one is still the best and is often referenced by others.

The single word that came to mind in my thoughts about the book was “challenging.” I had no idea that the bridge from another country to one’s homeland could be so difficult. I can remember the teen-aged daughter of a veteran missionary in South America saying that she really didn’t think she would want to live in the U.S. I thought it was strange since she lived in such a different place. She came to the U.S. for college, married and now is working as a missionary in Russia.

The insights of the book caused me to rethink some of the ways I view this group called TCKs (third culture kids). Rarely has a book really challenged my thinking so dramatically, so much so that it has pushed me to change a priority in my campus work. I took from these authors the desire to reach out to the TCKs who can be identified on our campus. I have some excellent information about this group, but little knowledge on how to reach out to or assist them beyond making them feel like someone cares about their special way of thinking. I seek them out when I can around campus, and we have had them into our home for a night of “home cooking” (from their home country). We are now planning the first TCK Christmas party with them. (Editor's note: Dr. Webb submitted this post before Christmas. Hopefully the first TCK Christmas party was a success!)

I would recommend Third Culture Kids and books related to it to anyone on our campus who desires to understand a part of our student population with some unique characteristics and challenges. This would be especially true for those of us who do reach out to missions’ families in one way or another. I would also recommend it to ministers or anyone in the church who has any connection to missionary families with kids ready to return to the U.S. for college or other reasons.

I am now working on books about transitioning needs for retiring missionaries returning to the U.S. Couples who have given years of service to other nations return home to a very different world than they knew when the left, even if they have been back on furloughs. Many are not prepared for retirement in any way. Even their immediate families may be unable to help because their lives have turned in totally different directions. Many churches are willing to support these servants on the field but see no need to care for them after they return. Few missionaries, if any, have had the resources necessary to prepare for retirement, it seems.

I came to enjoy reading later in life. For many years, I read for educational or sermonic needs and little else. I still enjoy that, but now I spend free time reading novels. Since the old “Law and Order” and “Perry Mason” programs were at the top of my list for television viewing, anything that has a court room scene in it draws me in.

Dr. John Webb is the Department of Communication Chair and Professor of Communication and Church Ministry. He has taught at Hope for twenty-three years.

Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Intercultural Press, 2009.

Third Culture Kids is available on electronic reserve at our Darling Library. It may be purchased at, Barnes & Noble, and Better World Books.

You may also find this book at your local library, search

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