When Ashley Patterson started looking for post-college job opportunities, she knew that she wanted to find a way to pursue education and international mission work together.
“I was looking for something unique,” Ashley said. “I already had a passion for missions and I knew I didn’t want to be in a traditional classroom for 30 years, so teaching in an African schoolhouse sounded really different and exciting.”
It didn’t take long for Ashley to see her passions come together. She joined Serge, relocated to remote Bundibugyo, Uganda, and is now in her second year teaching the children of Serge missionaries—or MKs (missionary kids), as they are affectionately called.
“As MK teachers, we have the most regular job on the team,” said Alanna Jones, who also teaches MKs in Bundibugyo. “We clock in every morning, then we teach, and then we go home. But at the same time every day is totally different, because life here is so unexpected. That balance of routine and adventure is great for me.”
Across the globe, Serge missionaries are working to advance the kingdom of God: proclaiming the good news, discipling, and engaging in works of mercy and justice in the name of Christ. Many of these missionaries follow their callings to the very ends of the earth, remote areas where the school systems are unable to serve the needs of their children. That’s where MK teachers come in. By providing solid education to MKs, teachers enable missionary families to serve.
Teaching MKs is a unique opportunity to both serve missionary teams in a vitally important way, and to make a massive impact on the academic, personal, and spiritual development of the kids.
Scott and Lindsay Nimmon serve as MK teachers in rural Kibuye, Burundi, where a team of Serge medical missionaries provides clinical care and trains and equips Burundian medical professionals. There, in their little schoolhouse, the Nimmons teach Bible, language arts, history, geography, art, and even some math to 18 students, ranging from kindergarten through seventh grade. Already veterans of the international life, most of these students have studied in the United States, in France, and now in Burundi.
“In the morning I teach half an hour of Bible, then Kindergarten, then second grade, then fourth to seventh grade, then I go back to second grade, and every one of those is a gear shift for me,” said Lindsay. “It is challenging. It is exhausting. But it is wonderful.”
“This has been the most diverse classroom experience I have ever had and the most exciting teaching that I have ever done,” Scott added.
One unique challenge to teaching in a place like rural Africa is the lack of access to resources. Teaching materials, lesson plans, and basic classroom supplies are often hard to come by, forcing MK Teachers to adapt and innovate.
“The limited resources is one of the most challenging things,” said Ashley. “But at the same time, it’s one of the coolest ways I’ve seen the Lord show up when we’re in need. I’ve seen how the Lord is resourceful and how he has made me more resourceful.”
The challenges and the blessings go hand in hand. Teaching materials are difficult to obtain, but the kids and teachers become thankful for little things like new erasers or a treat of candy from the U.S. One or two teachers may have to take on a range of subjects and grade levels normally handled by many, but the individual attention and depth of relationships formed with students and parents are irreplaceable.
“We play a lot of roles in the kids’ lives,” said Lindsay. “We’re their teachers, but we’re also their neighbors, their church members. We’re Aunt Lindsay and Uncle Scott and they knock on our door and want to play capture the flag with us. That presents challenges, but it also adds a new dimension and depth to our relationships with our students that you don’t get a chance to have in the States. I really like the community aspect of it.”
“Plus, because of the depth of the relationship that we have with the students and families here, our opportunities to show our students Christ are multiplied 1,000 times,” Scott said. “We have a real opportunity for relational ministry that can model what it looks like to show and receive grace in ways you just couldn’t do in other settings.”
International mission work is an incredibly rich, rewarding experience, a beautiful life. But, especially for families, it also involves sacrifice and struggle. Parents in ministry overseas need the support that MK teachers provide, and the kids, inevitably shaped by their experience abroad, need not only the education, but the love and guidance teachers can give as well.
“The biggest challenge for ‘Third Culture Kids’ is the lack of identity you can find in home and place,” said Alanna. “Education goes beyond academics, it’s about the whole child. We’re growing adults, not just teaching them facts. As believers, there’s joy in helping them find their identity solely in Christ. Everything in their lives: culture, place, and friends, is always changing. So pointing these kids towards Christ and the kingdom before anything else is the biggest way to help them.”
“There are four missionaries on our team in Kibuye who grew up as MKs,” Lindsay added. “And I think the things that were poured into their lives both by parents and teachers are still having an impact, not just on them, but globally, for the glory of God. This work makes a difference.”
Serge mission teams—especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America—are experiencing a growing need for MK Teachers. Would you or someone you know be a great fit for the job?—forward this article or talk with us!