Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm a Third-Culture Kid - Pt.1

And, what in the world is a TCK (also known as “Global Nomads)???  A TCK is a “third culture kid”…and here’s a good place to begin:

"A person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture.  The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any.  Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK's life experience the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background." (Pollock & Van Reken, 1999)

This comes from a good introductory article about TCKs…an article that goes on to talk about the many positives of being a TCK, and the negatives.  Another good site is here.  These articles give you the nuts and bolts, but I want to talk about my own experience…and how it has shaped and continues to shape my life.

A little biography to begin with:
Born and lived in Dothan, Alabama, from 1965-1969.  Moved to Guyana, South America (1969-1973).  Wake Forest, North Carolina (1973-1975).  Grenada, West Indies (1975-1982).  Atlanta, Georgia (1982-1988).  Louisville, Kentucky (1989-1991).  Cleveland, Georgia (1991-1995).  Hoschton, Georgia (1995-97).  McAllen, Texas (1997-1998).  Holly, Michigan (1998-1999).  Gainesville, Georiga (1999-2001). Blairsville, Georiga (2002-2005).  Barquisimeto, Venezuela (2005-2008).  Monterrey, Mexico (2008-present).

That’s 29 different homes in five countries in 45 years.  In the details, we find that I attended seven different schools in 12 years, and ended up graduating from high school TWICE—once when I was 16-years-old and living in Grenada, and again when I was 18-years-old and living in Atlanta.

And, the story of my children may be very similar—they’ve already (all three) lived in 12 different homes in three states and three countries; and Jesse attended seven schools before graduating.  They, too, are now TCKs—those adaptable, creative, self-confident, un-grounded, un-decided, go-with-the-flow sort of folks.
My cultures—in order of influence—are: Caribbean, southern American and Latino.

We first went to live in Guyana, South America…a small, little-known country that boasts significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian populations—a country that itself is a tri-cultural mix.  While geographically a part of South America, it is more culturally aligned with the southern Caribbean.  Why not throw a little American kid into that and see what comes of it?? ha,ha…
We left the US to live in Guyana when I was just four-years-old.  I have very few memories of my life, my childhood, before Guyana—all of my earliest, clearest memories come from Guyana.  I remember the rains that would come and flood everything…and my brothers building boats out of scrap wood and canvas…then floating around Oleander Gardens for hours on end.  I remember walking barefoot in the flood waters and slicing open my big toe (the scar is still there).  I remember catching snakes and insects of all kinds after the flood waters receded.  I remember making kites around Easter, beautiful, colorful six-sided kites with a “singer” that buzzed and trilled in the wind.  I remember “Phagwah Day”…throwing the pink-purple dye…and having it thrown at me.  Riding dray-carts—the rickety, wooden carts with old car wheels, pulled by a donkey or mule.  Riding the old, wooden launches with thumping diesel motors up Mahaica Creek with my Dad to the missions he had helped plant up the river.  Swimming in the Esequibo river, finding old (300-year old!) bottles.  Traveling into the Rupinuni and seeing Kaieteur Falls…741 feet high…and staying at the Dadanawa ranch…visiting the Wapishana and Wai-Wai Indians in their villages!  Oh, I have a million beautiful, enduring memories from those four impressionable years of life there.
And, I remember seeing a dead person for the first time…on a Sunday morning…lying on the highway where he had been hit by a car.  A lot of people on bicycles shared the highways at the time--I remember seeing lots of bodies on the highways through the years there.  I remember the smell of burning flesh…the cremation grounds by the sea were very close to where we lived, and when the wind changed, we would smell the mixture of wood and spice and flesh.  I saw violence—as we drove to church during election season and cars were burning, and people were shouting and running around with their machetes.  I remember the drunks dad would pick up along the highway and take to their homes…and the smell of their vomit as they threw-up out the window of our old VW van.  I remember the lady that seemed in distress standing at the edge of the canal near our house…how Mom went to get her in the van…and then how that lady miscarried in our shower.
Guyana was a land raw and vibrant and cruel and lovely.  It was a land where a child lived in a dream world, free to roam and run with friends through the fields.  It’s where I learned my first songs (reggae) where I developed my first loves of food (roti, chicken pilau, curry—Yummm!), where I learned to swim (the Tower Hotel).
And, it was the place that my spiritual eyes began to flicker open.  My parents were missionaries…and besides the evangelistic and church-planting events, I was surrounded by people in incredible need…and I saw my parents responding with action and word and presence.  And I wondered about what motivated them…and I knew that I had no interest to help others…but I wondered why I had no interest.  God spoke to me through the people around me…and showed me that there is a better way than the self-centered path, and God began to show me that only by His gentle presence can I escape the self-centeredness and focus on others.  I remember taking my first steps of faith in Guyana.

(Yes, that's me on the front, right...)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Last Reminder–March Mission Project!

This is the last reminder of the two special projects going forward for the month of March...and we would be so grateful if you, your Sunday School class, your men's/women's group, or your congregation participated in one or both of these projects:

First, we really need a new copier at the seminary.  Funds are coming in, but we're not there yet!  Here's how and were to give:

In the "Donation Information" block, just direct it to special project:  "Herrins/290:SMJW-COPIER".

Or, you may mail a check made out to The Mission Society with a note in memo saying "Herrins/290:SMJW-Copier" and mail it to:

The Mission Society, 6234 Crooked Creek Road, Norcross, GA 30092

As soon as we have enough funds, we will let you know so you can celebrate with us!!

Second, last year, Jeanne introduced the idea of the "reading corner" to the Laurens school and now the school wants this for their elementary class rooms. We need books--lots and lots of children's books--IN ENGLISH!--grade levels 1-6. We just need you to collect them, box them up and mail what you find--book rate!--to our Texas mail service:

Jon and Jeanne Herrin, 2525 W. Veterans Blvd., Lot 15 PMB 51, Mission, TX 78572

If you can get them there, we'll get them here! And what a difference books can make in a child's life!! You and I know, let's show these teachers and children the incredible value of reading.

As always, we are so grateful for your continued prayers, notes of encouragement, support and participation in this ministry of hope and love.  May God bless you all.  Until....

The Herrins in Monterrey - Jon, Jeanne, Megan, Andrew...and Jesse


Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Story of the Pencil" (by Paulo Coehlo)

The child watched his grandmother who was writing a letter.  After a moment, the child asked, "Are you writing a story about us?  And, by chance, are writing about me?
     The grandmother stopped writing, smiled and said to her grandson, "I am writing about you, it's true.  But, you know, more important than what I'm writing is the pencil I'm using.  I hope that you will be like this pencil when you grow up.
     The child looked at the pencil, intrigued, and saw nothing special about it.  "But, it's just like every other pencil I've seen in my life!"
     "It all depends on how you see things," replied the grandmother. "This pencil has five qualities that, if you strive to have in your life, will make you peaceful person in this world."
     "The first quality: you can do great things, but must never forget that there exists a Hand that guides your steps.  This Hand we call God and this Hand will always guide you in the direction of His will.
     "The second quality: from time to time you need to stop writing and apply the pencil-sharpener.  In this process the pencil suffers a bit, but in the end it's sharper.  So, you need to know that you have to endure some pains in life because it will make you a better person."
     "The third quality: this pencil allows us to use an eraser to remove the errors.  You need to understand that correcting something we've done isn't necessarily a bad thing, rather, it's important if we're going to stay in the path of righteousness and justice."
     "The fourth quality: the thing that's most important about the pencil is not wood nor its external form but the graphite within.  So, always care for what is going on inside yourself.
     "Finally, the fifth quality of the pencil: it always leaves a mark.  In the same way, you must remember that everything you do in life will leave a mark and you need to be conscious of all your actions."
(...from Paulo Coehlo's book, Ser como el río que fluye, Grijalbo, 2006.)

Sunday, March 13th…

Some 32 years ago today, we were living on the island of Grenada in the West Indies.  My parents were missionaries with the then-Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  We had moved to Grenada in 1975 after having served four years in the country of Guyana (South America).  My parents were the first Baptist missionaries to come to this island, and my Dad, Manget Herrin (d.1983), was an amazing church-planter.  Mom, Elaine Herrin Onley, is a writer…and she developed much of the Christian education curriculum for the whole English-speaking Caribbean.  I…well, I was a kid and I loved living in that amazing, tranquil world.

My day would go something like this—up with the sun around 6:15am, breakfast, don my school uniform, hop on my Honda CT-110 motorcycle and ride to school at BCA (Berean Christian Academy) in downtown St. Georges.  Around 1:30pm, school would let out and I’d make my way home where our mid-day meal would be waiting—flying fish, calalou soup, Greek-style macaroni-and-cheese, bok-choy….mmmmmm.  I get hungry just thinking of it!  After lunch, I’d hit the books and get what little homework I had done…and then head down to the beach—Lance aux E’pines beach.  It was about 418 steps from our back veranda until my feet touched the warm sand of the beach.  At my side would be my trusty dog.  We would walk the beach…walk out on the rocks at the end of the beach…swim all over the bay together.  I loved the solitude and the independence of that life.  Before the sun set, I’d make my way home…prepare for the night…and be in bed by 9:00pm.  That climate, that speed of life, just did not permit late-night living.  And, the next day would come.

However, on Tuesday, March 13th, we awoke to a different world.  As Mom and I ate breakfast (Dad was on photo-assignment in Guyana as he was the regional photographer for the SBC), a fellow missionary, Ken Wellmon, came to the door.  “Do you have your radio on yet?” he asked (we only had one tv channel that came in, and that not very well.)  We turned on the radio and learned that there had been a revolution in the middle of the night!!  The socialist forces, under the leadership of Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard, had taken the island in the early morning hours in what seemed to be an almost blood-less coup.  One of the their first moves had been the taking of the radio station…which they then used to direct their forces, call for surrender of police stations, announce their successes.  We were able to sit and listen to the revolution in progress.

I didn’t go to school that day.  Mom and I sat and listened to the radio.  Around mid-morning, the “People’s Revolutionary Government” sent two armed men to our house to “protect” us—one out front with an AK-47 and one out back with a double-barreled shotgun.  I’m sure we felt quite safe!

Dad was able to return some five days later when the new government re-opened the airport.  School resumed.  Life went on, albeit differently in the days to come…but that’s another story!  Let it suffice for today that I remember that morning so long ago…and some day I’ll write about how that event and the years after shaped my life in so many ways….

Friday, March 11, 2011

Counter-Consumerism: Marching to a Different Drum

Yesterday, we had our second great debate at the seminary—an activity planned and sponsored by the students to bring important issues to public discussion.  This time around, the topic was “Christianity and Culture.”  And, they were kind enough to ask me to sit on the panel.  We had a good time—all three panelists brought different ideas and perspectives that fairly segued one into the other.
This was a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot of late.  Monterrey, Mexico, is a city of extremes—extreme weather, extreme politics, and extreme economics.  In grand measure, the city is a melting-pot of the nations—there are factories and businesses from all over the world here.  And, there are some 5,000,000+ people here to work, share, fight over the wealth that is being generated.  Ten minutes south of us, we can be in an area where some of the most expensive and expansive houses in the world (yes, in the WORLD) can be found.  Ten minutes west of us, we can be in a community of “houses” that have been assembled from loading pallets, cardboard and whatever other scraps and bits that can be rounded up.  A city of extreme contrasts it is.
All around this city abounds advertising—promoting the newest car, the nicest restaurant, the finest stores, the hippest phones—everything!  It’s a city moved by the commercialism that has already taken North America.  The goals and ambitions of the people are shaped by the products and services pushed on television, radio and public billboards.  As wealth grows in some areas, it begins to affect the whole city—everyone wants a piece of the pie.  And, the Christian is not immune to it this powerful push. 
Pastors, laity and everyone in-between and around-abouts are encouraged to want bigger, better, newer.  And, that same “philosophy of excellence” we find in the north is seeping into the church-culture here, tainting this world as well.  (The philosophy of excellence—a non-Biblical but fine-sounding line of thinking—says that God deserves the best we have to offer, so we should only do things with excellence, buy products of excellence, live in excellence…of course, “excellence” as defined by the prevailing pastor or culture…and this makes it all very dangerous, and costly!)  So, now I see pastors (and pastoral students at the seminary) wanting, desiring only the best and newest; wanting the biggest house possible; wanting the nicest car they can afford.
Christians are said to march to a different drum.  But, if my wants and desires are shaped by the same advertisement agencies that shape the dreams and ambitions as my non-Christian neighbor, am I really marching to a different drum?  I think Jesus would call us to reject the call of the commercial, that we much throw off the commercialism that seeks to drown us in debt and extreme living (perhaps we see this in, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…. Rom.12:2  TNIV).  Perhaps I can afford an I-Phone…but I really don’t need it; I just need a functional cell phone.  So I may be able to afford a $120,000 home…but I don’t really need all that; a $75,000 home will work just fine.  Could be that I can afford a $20,000 car…but I don’t need it; I can get a perfectly good used car for $5,000.  If I buy all that I can afford, if I insist on always having the very best, I will have nothing left to give, nothing left to share—I will have used all my resources, all that God has blessed me with, to simply bless myself again! 
It seems to me that if we consciously determine to live below our means, if we purposely buy fewer “things” and focus on what we need rather than what we want and “can afford,” we’ll have more to use in blessing others, in supporting and advancing causes and organizations that are impacting and affecting lives.  In effect, we’ll be able to “lay up treasures in heaven” for having not spent it all laying up “treasures on earth” (Matt.6:19,20).  The trick is allowing God to help us define our needs…not allowing the culture to define our needs.  The trick is paying more attention to the still, small voice within rather to the blaring signs and slick commercials that shout out from every nook and cranny of our society.
Someone put it this way, “Live simply so others may simply live.”  Another gave us this, “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen.12:2-3)--spoken to someone long ago, but I believe it sets a precedent:  We’re blessed that we may bless others.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seminary Web-Site!!

We have a seminary web-site!!  Please, take time to check our new web-site.  It is still a work in progress, but we are finally making it possible for the world to see what is happening in the lives of our students:

Continue to pray for our institution, for the teachers, and for the students.  Thank you….

The Herrins in Monterrey…