Today we have Beca with us. Welcome, Beca!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the different cultures you are part of?
My name is Beca Pape. I was born in Washington DC, but when I was 10 years old, my parents began deputation to be missionaries in the Dominican Republic. I spent all of my teen years in the DR, learning and loving their culture, but constantly being referred to as “The American.” Even though I would refer to myself and my brothers as being Dominican, it was always pretty clear that they didn’t claim us.
When I returned to the States to go to college, I was fortunate enough to find several other students who were also missionary kids (MKs), and I expected to have found some common ground. This was far from the truth in my case, however. Nearly all the MKs I met did not see themselves as “from” their host country, whereas I definitely did. It took me quite a while to even come to the understanding that, while I didn’t see myself as an American anymore, I was also not quite a Dominican. This was a truly eye-opening and identity-shaking conclusion for me, and one that I struggled with for quite some time.
If you could choose one place from your travels as a TCK to revisit, where would it be and why?
I have always loved going back home to the DR. Though I have only been able to return twice since leaving, it is always where I feel most at home and where I feel I understand what’s going on around me.
What is the hardest thing about being a TCK?
I would have to say that the hardest thing is having no “soul-tether.” This is a term I coined a few years ago (though maybe not original to me) to best describe the idea of home. Home is what ties you to family. Home is a baseline for your actions and thought processes.
If you have no home (as often I feel), you struggle to tie yourself to any one place or reality. You struggle to act appropriately as others feel you should. For example, we assume people in the south will talk a certain way, say certain words, or eat certain things.
If you’re from another country, people will assume certain things about you. These things may or may not be accurate, but that is their baseline for understanding you. If you have no specific starting point, you may have a hard time acting appropriately in response to what people expect, and therefore cause people to assume you are awkward or antisocial.
How has being a TCK helped you when interacting with people?
As I am now a missionary myself on deputation, being a TCK has helped so much as I travel: to interact with others, to make necessary cultural adjustments, and to blend in as much as possible. I am usually able to make judgments on how to speak and act fairly quickly and evaluate situations which help me to not stand out. I am constantly asked if I am a local simply because of my ability now to blend in.
How has being a Christian made being a TCK easier/harder?
Knowing that my identity is in Christ has made all the difference in the world for me. I struggled so much in college with finding an identity in anything. I could not find a place in the world, it seemed. But as a Christian, we know that our home is really not anywhere here on earth. It’s in heaven with Christ. While it’s hard to be told that, and even to understand it sometimes, God is always with us, and He truly is the One who can help us find a home.
“Lord, thou has been our dwelling place in all generations.” Psalm 90:1 KJV
This verse has helped me so much in my volatile life. It is only when we are walking with God that we can find peace and a true sense of home. He is my dwelling place. No matter where He takes me, or what happens, God is my true home.
What is one thing you would like to tell your fellow TCKs?
You are not alone! I spent so much of my life feeling like I was alone in this journey, but I left God out of the equation.
He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has a plan for your life and your path; just trust Him with it!