Friends Like Family (a TCK Q&A)

When we first moved overseas, our eldest son was a quiet but game-for-anything 5-year-old. We told his stories easily and without a second thought. But now that plucky kindergartener is a tall, wise teenager, and I’m realising those stories are his to tell. So here he goes:

My name is Jackson, I live in County Dublin, Ireland, and today I turn 16. My family and I first moved to Meath, Ireland in 2008 for two years, then we moved back to Missouri in the United States in 2010. We lived there for another two-and-a-half years and moved back to Dublin in 2013.

Where do you feel at home?

I feel most at home in Ireland because of the friends I have here. There is a very friendly Christian community and I’ve made such great friends who I love to hang out with both in and outside of church and youth group. I’ve also grown very used to the weather and scenery and all the different towns and cities we’ve lived in or visited.

What’s one thing people may not know about where you live?

People in Ireland usually speak English. However, learning Irish is compulsory in most schools, with some not being allowed to speak English at all. Irish is a very difficult language to learn, especially if you haven’t been learning or hearing Irish your whole life. I take a lower level of Irish in school since it is difficult for me to get the hang of entirely new rules about grammar.

What were some of the most beautiful places you’ve visited? Why do they stand out?

Ireland is small, so it takes a short amount of time to drive across the country (only two hours going east to west, and about six north to south), where it might take days to drive from one end of America to the other. There’s also amazing scenery in Ireland, especially on the coast. From the top of a small mountain in Dublin, you can see all of the city from there. Because we live in Europe, we’ve been able to visit the UK, Germany, Italy and Slovenia, and once a year we try to take a few days away in County Kerry.

Do you ever wish that we lived a different life?

I don’t really wish we lived in the States, mostly because I’ve gotten so used to living here over the past few years. If we didn’t live here, I wouldn’t know the many friends I have in Ireland or get to know the other TCKs in Europe, whose parents work with mine.

What is something you’re looking forward to?

We have a lot of things planned for the summer holidays, which luckily for me start at the end of May (my younger siblings will still have another month of school). Our church hosts a weekend away on the June bank holiday, where I can hang out with my youth group all weekend. Chances are, we’ll perform in a talent show skit that will most certainly be embarrassing. One set of grandparents are coming to visit in July, so we are all definitely looking forward to that. Then in August, I’m going to a European youth worship conference in England for a week. So, yeah, I am very much looking forward to the summer.

What is something you’re not looking forward to?

I’m not really looking forward to doing the Leaving Certificate in a few years. The Leaving Certificate is a series of exams that secondary school students in Ireland do at the end of their five or six years in secondary school (which is like middle school and high school combined). The exams are really hard and are required to get the points you need to do the courses you want to do at the college you want to go to. Even just choosing the right subjects to take for your LC is stressful!

Do you think you’ll live abroad when you’re an adult?

I don’t think I’ll leave Ireland once I graduate from secondary school. I am thinking about attending a university near Dublin in order to study science or physics. I also don’t want to leave the many friends I’ve made here. They are so important to me, especially those in my youth group. It would be difficult to leave most of what I know behind in a totally different country.

What are you most thankful for?

I am most thankful for the many friends God has given me these past few years, especially in my youth group at my local church. They are all great friends, with those older than me being like my older brothers and sisters, those younger being like younger siblings, and those the same age being some of my best friends. I am also thankful for the youth leaders at my youth group who have guided me through my teenage years and will continue to guide me for years to come.

If your children could tell their own stories, what do you think they’d say? How have you seen them mature and grow in this live overseas?


  1. Monica F February 10, 2019

    After returning to the States a few years ago, my son attended a Confirmation class through our local church. On his Confirmation Sunday- he gave his testimony which included sharing about growing up in rural Asia for the first ten years of his life. He had us, his parents, and the entire congregation in tears when he spoke about his TCK life in light of trusting God in the midst of living between two worlds. I love that he is sharing his story- in his way, not through my lens. I so admire his openness about the challenges he continues to experience as a kid trying to repatriate in his passport country. Just listening and asking questions, has been my approach to understanding where he is coming from and how I can support him. Thanks for sharing your son’s experience with all of us!

    1. Karen Huber February 11, 2019

      Oh, this is so sweet and tender. Jack had a similar experience when he was baptised at 9 in a neighbour’s pool in front of our house church in the US. I’m so glad you have that precious memory!

  2. Spring February 10, 2019

    To Jackson: Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. What would you tell newer TCK’s who feel lonely or are having a difficult journey?

    It sounds like Ireland is similar in size to Belize where we live. English is also spoken here, there is also this mixing of languages that makes the English difficult to understand at times.

    Answering the question: I did once ask my second daughter what her life felt like”before” she became a TCK. Our first move overseas, she was 9. The entire process though took us years. She was first introduced to the concept when she was 7. She didn’t remember her life “before”. That being said, we were in country for 10 months, then 15 months in the US as we changed from short term to long term workers. I think the second return, without an “end date” and with the knowledge more or less of what we were facing was much harder on all of us.

    All of my kids mostly embrace the TCK life. They throw themselves into getting to know people right away.They embrace relationships. They hate goodbyes, yet have so many. It has been a joy and a journey as a parent watching them mature.

    1. Karen Huber February 11, 2019

      I asked Jackson and he’s gonna have a think on that and get back to you. 🙂 I can tell you that the first year or two back in Ireland (when he was 10-12) were a challenge for him. School was tough, kids were tough, and he was old enough to miss both old homes, in the US and in Ireland. We prayed over him a lot, tried to be proactive and intentional with his teachers, and we had good friend who was a youth leader who also nurtured him through that time.

      We relate so much to what you said here about returning and the transition for slightly older kids. (This was jack’s whole life, too. We were appointed when he was 1 and moved when he was 5). I love hearing how similar other TCK’s experiences are even though they might technically be different.

  3. Ruth February 10, 2019

    We are preparing to return to China (where my kids have all grown up) after a year in the US. When I asked them what they looked forward to about going back, the youngest two (3 & 5) said their toys! It’s kind of a nice stage to be at, where life is still pretty small and centralized. My 8 year old is excited to see her friends again, especially her “very best friend in the entire world who is from Norway.” She has become a lot more sensitive about all the goodbyes and the fact that having friends all over the world means you are always missing someone.

    1. Karen Huber February 11, 2019

      Haha! Oh my gosh, yes. Our kids were 100% – wherever our toys our, that’s our home. 😉 When we repatriated, Jack missed his Irish friends big time, and even now years later and back on Irish soil, looks at those memories full of love and thankfulness. And yes, you are so right – the only downside to having friends all over the world — “you are always missing someone.” <3

  4. Kathleen February 11, 2019

    When we first moved to Austria 7 years ago, our daughter was 2 1/2 … we home-school so she is not with friends at school, but has a ton of friends at her dance classes. Sadly, apart from when she has a friend spend the night on Saturday she is the only child in church. She is growing up understanding this is why we are here as missionaries, but it is very difficult for her at times. We attend several Christian conferences each year sometimes for the only reason that she can be with her peers in a Christian environment. When we return to the states for visits she can’t wait to get to children’s church and see old friends. As a mother, my heart breaks for her and I focus on making children’s church a super experience with the Lord for her and her unbelieving friends. Most of my adult life I have been a missionary abroad and thought I was prepared to be a missionary family in the field….this is much harder and wrestle with issues in completely different areas! I would love to hear from other missionary families and their experience of having a child on the field.

    1. Karen Huber February 11, 2019

      Praying for this! I know it’s so hard… I love how intentional you are about finding international communities/events where she can meet other kids from Christian families. And how great that she can bring her friends who don’t yet know Jesus to church with her. Would also love to hear from other parents who’s kids might be struggling in this area. Hugs to you and your daughter!

  5. Sarah Hilkemann February 11, 2019

    Happy birthday, Jackson!! Thanks so much for sharing with us!! 😀

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