Woman Ehiopia

A whole person with a fragmented heart

For a long time, I felt like I was a different person depending on where I was. There was the Tanzania-Cecilie, who was a Danish missionary kid that liked to spend time outdoors, loved to read and tried to do everything perfect in school in order to be an honor student. There was also the Denmark-Cecilie who loved spending time with her extended family, and who was called “the White Tanzanian”. This Cecilie loved to shop, didn’t care that much about school, was very insecure about herself and would rather spend time with family than peers. Sometimes the States-Cecilie made an appearance and reminded me of the years we spend there, but as we never went back, she wasn’t very prominent.

Whatever country I was in, usually defined which Cecilie had the lead. Sometimes the other Cecilie could make a guest appearance if the subject of conversation brought her out, but most of the time she was very far away. In fact, at times I wondered whether the “other” Cecilie and her experiences were real or just dreams that felt like memories, because she felt so distant. This was especially apparent when I, at 16, moved back to Denmark and my family stayed behind. Sitting in my room and looking at pictures on the wall of Tanzania-Cecilie and her friends, was almost confusing because she felt so far away from the Denmark-Cecilie who felt lost and who didn’t really know what her place in Denmark was going to be. Even years after the move, when Denmark had become more familiar, and when Tanzania-Cecilie was more distant, I could find myself thinking of my “Tanzanian memories” and wondering whether they actually happened.

Zebras
Amsterdam

Of course, I knew with my intellect that this was not the case, but in many ways my life-story felt fragmented and there was very little overlap between the two worlds that the majority of my life had been spend in. Obviously, the contexts were completely different; one had rain season and dry season, the other had four seasons. One had a house with mosquito-nets on the windows and banana trees in the back yard, the other had apple trees and radiators. One had malaria and stomach infections, the other had colds and flues. One had Land Rovers and school uniforms, the other had bikes and the stress of picking out outfits each morning. One had English and Swahili, the other Danish. One had an international ever-changing community and the other was made up of people that had known each other for most of their lives. On top of this, the only people in two worlds that overlapped was my family, and another missionary family that we saw once in a while. When they visited, Tanzania-Cecilie thrived.

I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Tanzania-Cecilies life had also been difficult in many aspects, and that it had been easier for Denmark-Cecilie to make friends, but I still missed the confidence and purpose that Tanzania-Cecilie had experienced. When people heard that I used to live in Tanzania, many exclaimed excitedly: “Wow, really? How exciting!” But deep down, I almost doubted that my memories were real, and it was painful to talk about aspects of my life that I desperately missed and that felt like they didn’t fit into Denmark-Cecilie.

In Aaron Antonovsky (1980) theory of resilience, “a sense of coherence” is the most important asset when faced with difficult circumstances. According to Antonovsky (1980) this “sense of coherence” comes from an experience that life is comprehensive, manageable and meaningful. In working with Third Culture Kids (TCKs) comprehensiveness could be operationalized as being prepared for transitions, being able to understand ongoing processes and being able to understand own feelings and reactions. Manageability in the lives of TCKs could involve the ability to regulate and express thoughts and feelings in safe relationships, to grieve, keep in contact and to have constructive coping strategies. Lastly meaningfulness could be strengthened through the development of a strong sense of personal narrative and a congruence of who they are across cultures. It could also be through integrating and reflecting on life experiences, Lastly the meaningfulness of the children’s life experiences could be strengthened by having a resource focused view and by letting them experience that the sharing of their own stories can help others (Antonovsky, 1980).

When I first read the theory of Antonovsky (1980) it resonated very well with the way my childhood experiences slowly went from being fragmented pieces of different Cecilies to being a whole Cecilie with different experiences. It wasn’t something that came overnight, but slowly different things helped the process along. The first step was meeting other TCKs and hearing how their stories were similar to mine, despite the fact that the factual events in their lives often were very different. I think this helped me understand my own feelings in a different way, because I could see my own reactions reflected in the other TCKs.

Another thing that helped along the way, was living in Ethiopia during one of my gap years. Getting to experience transcultural transition as an adult gave me a better understanding of this process and it allowed to simultaneously try out more constructive coping mechanisms and grieve for everything that I had lost when I left my home in Tanzania. In fact, in some ways the grief that I felt when leaving Ethiopia, melted into the grief that I had felt as a teenager, when I left my home and my identity behind. I was also able to meet up with a couple that were very important to me during my years in Tanzania. I remember feeling that I had found a piece of myself in meeting them, and that seeing them in another context than Tanzania, helped integrate a part of Tanzania-Cecilie into Denmark-Cecilie, and made my sense of self a bit more congruent than it was before.

Lastly the thing that has probably had the biggest impact on my journey of coherence has been getting to work with TCKs. I have been lucky enough to be a co-therapist in a TCK-group, where newly returned TCKs could come and share their stories, and feel heard, seen and recognized. In speaking with these children and in helping them make sense of their personal narratives, I many times felt like I was speaking to Tanzania-Cecilie and allowing her to become a part of Denmark-Cecilie. Being able to use these experiences, that have been so incredibly hard and yet so incredibly good, to help others has in many ways helped piece my own story into a more whole narrative. A narrative where there is room for all the places and people and experiences that life as a TCK brings.

In a guide that we at Center for Familieudvikling have developed to help children when they return to Denmark, it says: “Remember that who you are doesn’t depend on where you’re from. You can be a whole person even though your heart is divided over all the places on the earth that you’ve called home. You can have more than one home and more than one homeland.” Some days this is harder to believe than others, but in many ways, I am thankful to be able to say that although my heart and my story is spread in different places of the world, I still feel like all of it is my heart and my story.

Cecilie Malmgaard Jensen

Cecilie Malmgaard Jensen

She is a psychologist, a Member Care worker in Denmark, and an Adult Third Culture Kid who spend her teenage years living in Tanzania.

Cecilie Malmgaard Jensen

Cecilie Malmgaard Jensen

She is a psychologist, a Member Care worker in Denmark, and an Adult Third Culture Kid who spend her teenage years living in Tanzania.

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Christian Quartier

He is married to Simone and is father of 3 adult TCK. He is passionate about strengthening, resourcing and empowering cross-cultural Workers and their families through debriefing, critical incident debriefing and brief counselling. Restoring a sense of peace (shalom and wholeness) in their lives when that peace has been disturbed or shattered is at the core his ministry. He is also active in membercare training and consultancy.

Scott Shaum

Scott Shaum‘s deep joy is living life with his wife, Beth, their three sons and wives, and three grandchildren. That and really good food shared amongst a bevy of friends; or in solitude with a stack of books. As Associate Director of Barnabas International (20 years) and an ordained pastor, the Father’s goodness in his life is reflected as a pastoral, companioning presence with other shepherd-leaders scattered globally and locally. A scary-tough decade resulted in authoring The Uninvited Companion: God’s Shaping Us in His Love Through Life’s Adversities. He has contributed to Trauma and Resilience (ed. Schaefer and Schaefer) and Tender Care (Barnabas Books). You can find his latest rambles at tendingscatteredwool.com.

Gary W.

Gary W. left the US in 1983, following a call from the Lord to serve overseas, and served as a tentmaker in France until 1988 and then in Switzerland where he lives now. As a professional, he worked full-time as a research chemist and in later years as an IT specialist. In terms of ministry, he has served mostly in pastoral settings with services of teaching, preaching, counseling, and inner healing. Since taking an early retirement in 2013, he has done short-term ministry trips in eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. He joined OM in 2017 and has been doing pastoral care for workers in Asia through short visits and online. Gary is married to Beverly and they have five adult children.

Cathy Thompson

Cathy Thompson is a missionary kid with degrees in Physical Education, Anthropology, and Cross-Cultural Leadership. She has further studies in Ministry Leadership Development, Member Care, Conflict Management, Counseling, Child Safety and Forensic Investigation. Since 1992, Cathy has served with Pioneers as Team Leader in Hungary and since April 2009 as Area Leader for East Central Europe. Cathy also serves as Pioneers’ Child Safety Officer for Europe, as a member of several working groups on training and leadership development, and on the executive team of Shoulder to Shoulder. She is committed to seeing teams work well as they incorporate singles, couples and families into multicultural teams.

Charley Warner

Charley Warner has been involved in member care in Eurasia since 1992. He and his wife, Cheryl, serve with Barnabas International and live in Irpin, Ukraine. Charley is also a board member of Member Care Europe.

Suzy Grumelot

Suzy Grumelot has served with World Team in urban church planting in France for the past 35 years. In 2012, with French partners, an historic new church was birthed in central Paris. In addition to discipling women and overseeing Bible studies, Suzy is involved with training, networking, prayer, and mentoring of new believers and church planters. She serves on the executive team of Shoulder to Shoulder and is the co-author of Sacred Siblings: Valuing One Another for the Great Commission.

Amrei Wehmeyer

Amrei Wehmeyer has been working with DMG interpersonal and TEAM in Portugal since 1991. She is currently leading the Member Care Center ReCanto da Fonte in Lourinhã on the Silver Coast of Portugal. Amrei also serves on the board of Member Care Europe.

Barry Danylak

Barry Danylak is an international speaker, author, and pastor-theologian with expertise on topics related to singleness, marriage, sexuality, and family in the biblical and modern world. Barry serves as Executive Director of SEE Global, a ministry based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that equips church leaders around the world. He is ordained and has served as a pastor for over 10 years with the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada. Barry holds a PhD in New Testament with the Divinity Faculty of the University of Cambridge and is author of Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life, Singleness in God’s Redemptive Story, and a forthcoming book, Paul and Secular Singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, scheduled for release by Cambridge University Press in 2024.

Maria Techow

Maria Techow is a Clinical Psychologist in Denmark with a heart for mission. In her working life she is the head of department for Psychiatry & Existence, and Competence Unit for Expats at Center for Family Development. She has been working with mission organizations for more than 13 yeas, screening candidates for the mission fields, offering crisis counselling and online therapy and helping families in their re-entry process, among other initiatives leading TCK groups for years. She is the co-author of the book: GO! My personal guide and diary before, during and after moving abroad, an interactive book for TCKs. The book is as a starting point for conversations between children and their parents, for children’s groups, in schools and across cultures and border. She is the mother of four, a writer and a speaker in various Christian settings. Maria is also a board member of Member Care Europe.

Evi Rodemann

Evi Rodemann lives in Hamburg, Germany and works as a theologian and event manager. She engages in the international work of the Lausanne Movement and the Mission Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance as well as being the CEO of her own organisation LeadNow. Her focus is the younger leaders generation. She has a Master in European Mission and Intercultural Christianity and currently works on her PhD researching event impact. www.evirodemann.com, www.leadnow.center

Rafael Năstase

Rafael Năstase is a missionary who served with his wife Alice, seven years in Republic of Moldova, being involved with Operation Mobilisation (OM) in church planting, discipleship and mobilizing churches for missions. Returning in his home country, Romania, he stepped in the leadership position from 2007-2019 as National Director of OM. Now he coordinates the church relation department of OM in Romania and is the national member care facilitator. Rafael has a BA in Philosophy and Journalism and got a master in Theology at Baptist faculty. Being born in a Romani (Gypsy) family he is passionate working towards getting his doctorate in ecclesiology and ethnography at the University of Bucharest, researching on the role of the church in transforming Roma communities. Rafael also serves on the board of Member Care Europe.

Sonja Pichler

Sonja Pichler is a happy single, born originally in Germany and has been living in Switzerland since 2010. During her time in Switzerland, she finished her studies as a counsellor; currently she is responsible for Member Care in OM Switzerland. In the international setting of OM she is involved in the Face2Face courses, both German and English. For the AEM in Switzerland she ministers in the annual debriefing week for intercultural workers. Sonja also works for a local church and as a licensed counsellor, both part time. Her professional qualifications are Psycho-Social Counsellor, Trauma focused counselling, Supervision (in process). She simply loves to see people thrive in who they are and who they are becoming. Her recreational oasis she finds in reading, walking and journaling (Bullet point and Bible Art). Creativity is one of her big resources.

Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell has helped to form national member care networks in countries like Romania and Italy. He served for over 20 years as a missionary and country director for the mission One Challenge in Romania before he and his wife Tammy accepted a new challenge in Genova, Italy caring for and coming alongside local pastors and Christian leaders. As a member of the European Member Care Board, Mihai works to build Member Care awareness and networks in eastern and central European countries that are just beginning to understand the need for MC. He is passionate about building bridges between new and old generations and making sure the voices of Eastern Europe are heard and respected. He is a former investigative journalist for WCCO television in Minneapolis with a doctorate in missions from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN and a masters in child psychology, trauma and developmental disorders from the University of Minnesota. Currently he collaborates with the Gaslini Institute in Genoa Italy in child trauma counseling and serves as an advisor for the Association of Christian Counselors in Italy.

Sarah Hay

Sarah Hay has a background in HR, initially in the National Health Service, UK and then in Nepal with International Nepal Fellowship for 3 years, where she also began member care for expatriate mission workers. After returning to UK and starting a family, Sarah began working as HR and Member Care Manager with European Christian Mission Britain, where she’s been for almost 15 years.  This continues to involve her in the recruitment and preparation of new workers, their member care whilst overseas plus debriefing and re-entry assistance when they return. Since 2015, Sarah also became Course Leader of the MA in Member Care at Redcliffe College, before then developing a new MA in Staff Care and Wellbeing at All Nations Christian College following the college merger. She has the best of both worlds in being a member care provider but also an equipper and encourager of member care students across the world. Last but by no means least, Sarah is married to Rob and has two sons who are now both at university. Sarah is also a board member of Member Care Europe.

Jonathan Ward

Jonathan Ward is involved in the Federation of Francophone Evangelical Missions and its member care network (www.resam.fr), and he serves at a retreat centre in France dedicated to caring for pastors and cross-cultural workers (www.pierresvivantes.org). He and his wife Rachel were raised on the mission fields of France and Angola respectively. They have three adult children. Jonathan also serves on the board of Member Care Europe.