MAF is where I'm from

MAF is where I'm from

Best friends, Lise Barendse and Rahel Schlatter, graduated from Secondary School in Uganda in June. They will embark on the next stage of their lives in their home nations of the Netherlands and Switzerland. But what's it like leaving home when you've grown up overseas and your home is, well, MAF?

MAF is often the adventure of a lifetime for families that serve overseas. Missionary kids (MKs) grow up with a unique set of memories and experiences, and a worldview that will shape them for the rest of their lives. MAF's Chaundra Eagar caught up with two of MAF's young people as they graduate from school - and from their time with MAF.     

Lise

I was born a MAF kid, in a Kenyan hospital. My parents had already been living in the Tanzania programme for over two years, with my twin siblings, because my dad is an aircraft engineer. It’s safe to say that I don't know anything besides MAF; I’m a missionary kid through and through.

I spent my childhood years in the blistering heat of Dodoma, Tanzania, and played in muddy puddles when the rainy season finally came. It was a wonderful childhood; I’m always thankful that I had a garden I could safely play in, and that I barely ever had to wear shoes!

Rahel

I was almost 3 years old when my family moved to Dodoma. Even though it's the capital city, back then it was just a small town. I grew up walking barefoot, biking around town and spent lots of time barbecuing, climbing rocks and riding on the roof-rack of our car. I often get told that I grew up as a bush kid; I think I would have to agree. And I loved it.

'I have never once wished that I didn't grow up as an MAF kid in Africa; my childhood gave me some pretty amazing friends and memories!'Rahel

Lise

Our family moved to Uganda when I was 8 and I just remember the huge contrast between Dodoma and Kampala. There were supermarkets in Kampala, which was a rare sight in rural Tanzania at the time. There were traffic lights, paved roads and thunderstorms that sounded like explosions. It was a hard adjustment to make.

We started school pretty much straight away after moving. My parents had decided to enrol us in a non-Christian International school for the first time in our lives. Again, everything was so different. One thing I remember was that students were allowed to bring juice to school, which in my old school, was strictly forbidden!

What I absolutely loved about going to an International School was that I got to meet and learn about so many different cultures. I have had Muslim, Catholic, and Sikh friends (I could keep going but that would be a pretty long list) and getting to know them has been the experience of a life time. I am very thankful that my parents decided to expose me to such a diverse atmosphere.

One thing that has always been difficult, like many parts of missionary kid life, is that it’s always accompanied by a lot of goodbyes. Some people only stay for a few years, because their parents move to another country and starting a deep friendship always includes first asking how long you will get to spend with them.

However, I have had the good fortune to have had Rahel by my side since 2001. Our families moved to Uganda from Tanzania around the same time, so we have been able to be best friends for 16 years! We both acknowledge how rare this is, and I think we will both be grateful of that forever.

Rahel

When we moved to Kampala in 2009 it was quite a change! Tall buildings, cars everywhere and supermarkets! All of this was new to us. But I had rejoined my best friend, and so joining a new school in a new city wasn't so bad.

Since 2009, I have made lots of new friends, and many of them have since moved away. As a missionary kid you get used to that, and some people then think that it doesn't make sense to invest in a friendship that doesn't last long. But in my experience some of the shortest friendships have also been some of the best.

When you meet another MK, it's an instant connection; someone who understands what your life is like. It doesn't matter if they are only here for a few months. That being said my best friend, Lise, is still the same one I've had since Kindergarten - and I know how rare that is and how lucky I am.

'I like to think that MAF is where I am from... I feel at home wherever I am, be it East Africa, Europe, or anywhere else where I have a family, friends and community around me.' Lise

Lise

Tanzania was my home for 8 years, Uganda for 10, and the Netherlands, up till now, has only been my home in the summer. This poses a dilemma when people ask me where I am from. My parents are Dutch, and I know enough Dutch to get me by in the Netherlands, but I don't feel like I am Dutch. I also don't feel like I am particularly Tanzanian, or Ugandan.

I like to think that MAF is where I am from, even though that doesn't make much sense. I feel at home wherever I am, be it East Africa, Europe, or anywhere else where I have a family, friends and community around me.

Rahel

This summer I graduate and this means leaving my home country for University. And yes, I say “leaving my home country” because that's what it is for me. I'm lucky that my whole family will be making the move with me, but nevertheless I will be leaving behind all my friends and a country that has been my home for almost 9 years and moving to Switzerland.

People have been asking me a lot recently what it will be like moving back, but it's not a move “back”, it's away. It will be a new culture, new weather, new people, and I know it won't be easy. But I have never once wished that I didn't grow up as an MAF kid in Africa; my childhood gave me some pretty amazing friends and memories, and I wouldn't ever want to change that.

'When you meet another MK, it's an instant connection; someone who understands what your life is like.' Rahel