Fourth Culture Kids

Third culture kids. That’s what we called our children who were a part of Youth With a Mission Amsterdam. Our missionary children came from a culture of origin, lived in Dutch culture (and attended Dutch schools), and were members of a third culture, our international community.

Grandpa, Elya, and Josiah in Amsterdam

My children are fourth culture kids; I came from America and married their father who was from the Philippines. Although the challenges of third and fourth culture kids are vast, our missionary children quickly adapted to learning multiple languages and integrating into multiple cultures. Traveling the world was a given, as was learning from the national people from whatever country they entered.

Dutch transportation on an oma fiets (grandma bike)

YWAM missionaries utilized the LAMP (Language Acquisition Made Practical) method of language learning. We carried tiny tape recorders with us when we went into neighborhoods.

“Can you please teach me how to say good morning in Dutch.” I asked an elderly gentleman with kind eyes.

“Zeker (sure), Goedemorgen.” He spoke slowly into the microphone I placed next to his mouth.

Day after day I would practice recorded phrases and then reenter the neighborhood to share my progress with my Dutch neighbors.

As valuable as these experiences were, I learned more than a new language during my eight years overseas, I adopted the values of my language mentor, Jim Mellis, “Whenever you go into a new country, remember that the people have more to teach you than you have to teach them. Be a humble learner.”

Many changes have transpired since my children experienced missionary life. Their father and I returned to the states when addiction and divorce shattered our marriage and ministry. I raised my two children as a single mother who functioned in survival mode most of the time. Yet those values I held dear took root and grew like wandering vines in my children’s hearts. Eventually, they returned to the nations of the world as humble learners.

Josiah in India

Both of them studied overseas, Josiah in Spain and Elya in Spain and China. Both traveled throughout Southeast Asia and Elya spent a year in South Korea teaching English.

Josiah has traveled and worked in South America, South Africa, and the Philippines. Last Saturday, we spent the day looking at his photos and videos.

I giggled at pictures of him squatted next to a snake charmer from India and riding an elephant in Thailand.

Most importantly, I smiled at my fourth culture kids who travel the world.

Josiah’s emphasis is the use of social enterprise to help the less fortunate. His recent article on his blog for NextBillion,

19 Days, 6,600 km: ‘Ride for Light’ Motorcycle Journey to Illuminate the Philippines,

features the company he worked for in the Philippines. The philanthropic focus is to bring solar energy into the poor areas of the Philippines. I don’t know where the wandering vines of my children’s hearts will take them next. Josiah starts Stanford’s Graduate Business School this September.

Stanford Acceptance Letter

Elya plots out her next international trip as I write this post. Their paths are far from conventional, and I often grimace when they share their overseas stories. Yet I know that the values they hold most dear include those planted as seeds into their souls during those years as fourth culture kids.

6 Replies to “Fourth Culture Kids”

  1. JoDee, Excellent commentary and photos. Josiah & Elya are gorgeous, as are their parents of course. I’m so proud of you and inspired by all you’re involved in, your recovery, finding a new and very powerful path for your life and children. Never Give Up!


    1. Thank you Ron. Your comment means a lot to me because you knew me in my former life. Dena Dyer from The High Calling asked me if I wanted to write a post with a cross cultural theme. This got me thinking about our rich experiences in Europe. If you ever decide you want to jump in with the blogging fun, I’d love to feature your post :).


  2. Thank you for this! Congratulations for keeping that flame alive in them … it could have turned out so differently! Well done!


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