TCK Voices: On Being Isolated

Today we have Caleb with us. Welcome, Caleb!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the different cultures you are part of?

My name is Caleb Ellis. I am an 18-year-old missionary kid in East Africa and have lived here for almost half of my life. I left the United States when I was 11 years old – old enough to have certain cultural norms sink into me from the US – and then the remainder of my life has been spent in South Sudan and Uganda.

I picked up a little of the Kuku language from when we were in South Sudan (each area has its own language); but because of civil war, we were forced to flee to Uganda, so I never developed Kuku any farther. Later, once I had settled in a home in Uganda, I picked up a little of the language (Ma’di) and the culture as well. I have noticed that many things have changed in me as a result: the way I point at things is different, and even the way I nod is different. But I enjoy the Ma’di culture, quirks and all!

Caleb Ellis

What is an advantage of being a TCK?

The best thing about being a TCK, in my opinion, is the kind of “far back worldview” that it brings. You get to see the world through a different set of lenses in addition to the pair provided by your parents’ culture. In my experience, those extra lenses have allowed me to see things for what they truly are, not what they are projected to be.

What is the hardest thing about being a TCK?

For me, the hardest thing about being a TCK is loneliness. Leaving behind all my friends and family back in my birth country was not easy. While I have made some new friends, I rarely get to see them because of where we live. The isolation wears on me after a while, which then tends to lead to depression and loneliness.

I have recently met new TCKs from all over the world and have become friends with a few. We communicate long distance, which isn’t the same as meeting them in person, but it has helped, and I am grateful for it.

What is one thing you learned from being a TCK?

One thing in particular that I have learned from being a TCK would be how to interact with people whom I cannot understand. I have trouble verbally communicating sometimes, and with the added language/cultural barriers, it makes communication nearly impossible with most of the people I am around. Specifically in my volunteer work at a laboratory, I have learned to be patient and to use as much gesticulation as possible to get my meaning across.

How has being a TCK influenced your faith?

Being a TCK has dramatically affected my faith. Being so culturally and linguistically isolated from the people around me, and so physically separate from my friends, has not been easy. But through it, I have learned to lean on God in my loneliness, something that has taken me many grinding years to understand.

I see the world through many lenses, but the most important set is the pair provided to the children of God. We should view the world foremost through those lenses; all else comes after. Being a TCK has taught me this, as it is easy to get caught up in other things, such as politics, for example. God’s truth should be forefront in our lives.

What is one thing you would like to tell your fellow TCKs?

Stay strong and rely on God. It will not be easy, but the whole point of trials is that they are hard. And hardships grow you to be more like Christ. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (NKJV).

Thank you so much for sharing, Caleb!

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