What is repatriation? Repatriation is the process of a person’s return and adjustment to their passport country.
The challenges that occur from repatriation depend on each person. What I experience may be different from other TCKs. It may even be different for each member of a family. Just as our walk with Christ is personal, this process is also very personal.
I’ve been repatriated twice. Both times were difficult, and experiencing one before did not make my second free from challenges. Overall, I’ve learned a few key lessons.
1. Trust in His Presence
Continue to stay close to God. Spend time with Him and dwell in His presence by reading the Bible and praying. These priorities are vital and should never be forgotten.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 KJV
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV
Cling onto Him desperately through both bad and good times. You may feel lonely in your passport country, and you may feel like a foreigner. When you have these feelings, remember that, if you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit is in you and your true identity is in Christ.
“Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” 1 John 4:13 KJV
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 KJV
2. Trust in His Timing
Transition is like a steam train pausing at a water station. It needs to slow down and stop. The staff checks how much they lost on wood or coal and water, then replenishes before the train continues its route. All of these take time.
Repatriation is the same. You need time to slow down and pause, acknowledge your losses, and explore and learn about your new surroundings before you chug forward in your new country, even when it’s your passport country.
Unknowingly, you may be rushing to adjust and settle everything. Pause. Trust in God’s timeline. His time is best for you.
“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time ...” Ecclesiastes 3:11a KJV
3. Trust in His Healing and Joy
The TCK grief may be similar to the grief of losing someone, because the TCK loses a country. A move to a TCK means losing their world, lifestyle, personal items, and relationships. It means losing the past they would’ve been part of and the past that they cannot return to (Pollock, Van Reken, and Pollock, 2017).
Overall, the grieving process depends on each individual. Some people are emotionless while others are hit hard with sorrow. Some experience it shortly after the move while others get hit years later. And some recover within a week while others take months or even years.
Don’t suppress your grief. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad. If you tend to do this action, it may lead to more unresolved grief, and it may return to you more painfully in the future.
Unresolved grief is “grief that comes from recognized and unrecognized losses a person has experienced that he or she has never mourned in a healing way” (Pollock, Van Reken, and Pollock, 2017).
A close friend advised me, “Don’t rush through the grieving process, or else it may overwhelm you.” The reason is that God knows the best time for each of us. Ecclesiastes 3:4 even says that there’s “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (KJV).
Don’t compare your process with your family’s because, again, everyone has their personal journey with God (2 Cor. 10:12).
Although going through the process can be a struggle, acknowledging your grief and surrendering it to God is the best step you can do. Because He is your healer, and He’ll draw you closer to Him through this.
“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 KJV
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV
Many TCKs are not aware of certain unresolved grief because there are many hidden and unknown losses they’ve accumulated throughout their life. I was one of those TCKs. But God knew, and He has been drawing out what was hidden through my spontaneous triggers and flashbacks.
Whenever that happens, He holds me in comfort (Is. 41:13), and in Him, I can rejoice amid my sorrows. It is only possible through Christ.
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:13 KJV
What has also helped me to rejoice is to praise and give thanks to Him. And by giving thanks, I mean giving thanks in everything, including the happy and the sad moments. I give thanks and praise because His promises do not fail (1 Kings 8:56) and because of who He is.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV
You won’t forget the blessings God gave you and the amazing things He did in your former country. After all, you feel sad because you had precious memories in the country you bonded with. So it’s okay that you’re sad. At the same time, claiming His present blessings and looking forward to His plans will encourage and motivate you.
Pollock, D. C., Van Reken, R. E., and Pollock, M. V. Pollock. 2017. Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds: The original, classic book on TCKs 3rd ed. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
TCKs for Christ: Administrator
is a vessel used for Christ and desires to encourage TCKs to live victoriously in Him. She’s an ATCK, a former business kid, and has lived in four countries. She seeks to follow the Lord’s calling in her life to missions. She also serves at Light Unto Darkness. Connect with her Instagram at @ClarissaChooWriter.