Kingdom Heart


I am a missionary kid. As the youngest of six children, I was the last hope of a father who desperately wanted his children to do “the Lord’s work.” Every day, he held me tightly, reciting, “Live for Jesus, live for Jesus, my gal.” I felt bad for him, but I did not want to become a missionary.

In high school, I had my own plans for the future: I would attend a state university and study psychology; but first, I wanted to travel. I took one year to attend Capernwray Hall, a Torchbearer Bible school in England. It was an excuse to leave the United States, a country I never considered my home, and explore Europe and the Middle East. I was a global nomad, a citizen of the world—a third-culture kid—and I longed to be surrounded by other nomads.

Then my father developed prostate cancer. As the youngest child, I felt that the pressure of following the Lord in the way he wished had landed squarely on my shoulders. I agreed to attend his alma mater, Lancaster Bible College, with no intention of going into the ministry. I created my own course structure, taking independent classes in archaeology and Hebrew. Upon graduation, I knew that my education was insufficient for a career, and I sought to appease my father further by going to seminary. I studied Old Testament with a strong emphasis on archaeology and field study.

After the first year of seminary, I returned from a summer dig in Israel to a dark, empty house. There was a note on the table. Dad had been admitted to a hospice. Within a few months, he died. That day, my brothers and sisters gathered around his bed, singing songs of praise and praying for his peaceful departure. As we released my father to heaven, I also felt released to discover my own path.

Dropping out of seminary, I allowed myself for the first time to spew the bitterness of my heart. I had wasted years appeasing a dying man’s dream. I detested the Western church and its ignorance. My relationships felt fraudulent, and I became uneasy with my American friends. I was numb and uttered the same prayer each day: “Do whatever you want, Lord, and I’ll adapt.” My faith in God never wavered, but I had lost faith in everything else. I didn’t know what to do with my life. I didn’t fit.

During that time my boss gave me a video camera. I had never used one before but went alone to Angola to document the lives of children orphaned by war. For the first time, I felt the fit. I discovered that I am most comfortable being the stranger, the odd one in the bunch. I adapted quickly and absorbed enough Portuguese to communicate without a translator. While I knew very little of Angolan culture and history, I didn’t understand how I could feel a stronger sense of belonging in that war-torn foreign land than I had felt living like a chameleon in the United States.

The journey of self-discovery is a complicated one for many third-culture kids. We belong nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time. God is faithful, healing the wounds of religion, culture and relationships in my life. While I still feel as though I stand on the outside looking in and continue to wrestle with issues of culture and the church, I thank God for the path He asked me to take.

God’s irony is that by using my past as a foundation for the things He has called me to, He has fulfilled my dream. As I travel around the world as a videographer for The Christian and Missionary Alliance, He also fulfilled my father’s dying wish without my being aware of it. Nearly sixty countries later, I find myself telling the stories of what God is doing around the world. I am truly a citizen of His Kingdom.

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