“It wasn’t something that brought the change, but it was someone.”
(Featured Image: “Moving from a house in the suburbs to an apartment in the city was a challenge.”)
As a 14 year-old TCK living in China, I have struggled with a lot. One of these problems is that TCKs don’t always know their identity. I could say, “Yeah! I’m American, and I live in China!” But who you appear to be is not always your identity. Your community back home knows you, but not necessarily your experiences living in a third culture. Your community in your third culture world doesn’t always know your background. This is when there is culture clash, and your identity as a “normal kid” is replaced with an experience that changes your perspective and worldview.
Even though this is my fourth year in China, my life as a TCK began very early. I was adopted from Vietnam, along with 3 of my other siblings, when I was 1 and a half (my oldest sister was adopted from Hong Kong) I had very little knowledge of my background. My dad was also a TCK: born in Mexico and moved to NYC, but ethnically Cantonese. I was raised in Atlanta, GA and homeschooled until I was 11. I remember when my parents decided to move over to China after multiple visits. I didn’t get the blast of culture shock that most foreigners get, even though my mom did. I looked like just like them. Because of this, I was expected to speak fluently, even though the only language I knew was English. My family had never really moved overseas into a country before, but we had a whole community of foreigners, along with the local Chinese staff, who took care of us. Despite the welcoming from those who had come before us and struggled with more than we did, this did not prevent all of my problems.
One thing about going to an international school is that I tried to earn acceptance. The school I go to is made up of over 60% Koreans. The rest consists of the other nationalities from around the world, including everyone part of LDI. I found myself trying to fit in, but that affected my decisions and the way I acted. I would be rejected for my actions, and end up being “that” kid. Also, since I’ve been in China for the beginning of my teenage years, I struggled (and still struggle) with everything a teenage boy goes through. I viewed people differently. I treated them with no respect. Up until this previous summer, I’ve struggled with God. I’ve blamed it on China. I can’t say I was perfect back in the States, but I was a lot better. I’ve blamed it on my parents for bringing me here and being “strict”. I’ve blamed it on the people around me, but even worse, I’ve blamed it on God.
But then, something turned me around. As a result of a fight I had started in school, my principle helped me do what had been nagging at me along time. I brought in the kids I had offended and laid my junk on the table. I told each classmate everything wrong I had done to him or her, whether they knew about it or not. They forgave me, which is something I need to learn how to do, because I’ve received so much of it. They accepted me. I hadn’t really had that feeling of acceptance before. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t something that brought the change, but it was someone.
This summer, I was sent to a TCK camp out in mountains in Guiyang. I had the worst attitude for the first few days. Then I was asked to share my testimony. Up till now, this is basically what I shared. I don’t remember ever accepting Jesus into my heart when I was young, but I sort of assumed I was. I grew up in a Christian family, I prayed before meals, and I went to church every Sunday. Sunday was for God. The rest of the week was for everything else. Prayer was for meals, and then it was for when I needed something to work out my way. I had that spiritual high to do the right thing, but that was for me. I had never really been in a really closely-knit group of guys from all over China, who were also TCKs, and struggling with the same things I did. They prayed for me and encouraged me to dedicate my life to Jesus. I remember relief of my burden. The burden I had shared with others but not with God. And because of this TCK camp, I have been able to embrace the fact that I am a TCK in China.
– Austin Tea
TIS 9th grade