Welcome to the first in a series of blogs from missionary kids (mks), reflecting on their experiences living and growing up overseas.
What’s your history? (Were you born overseas? How long have your parents been missionaries? How many countries have you lived in?) My name is Karissa Esala. I was born in Minnesota in 1999. My parents have been missionaries for more than ten years. We moved to Ghana, West Africa, when I was three and moved back to the United States when I was thirteen. I’ve been homeschooled my entire life.
Have you been on furlough? What is it like to live in the United States after growing up in a different country and culture? The United States is very different from Ghana. Drinking water from the tap and not worrying about turning off lights every time we leave a room was a novelty when I first moved back to the U.S. One major difference is the way people view time. In Ghana, time is relative, there is no such thing as being late. In the United States everything has its set time and it is rude to be late. Some pluses to the United States are being near family and the libraries.
If you are currently on furlough, what do you miss most about living on the mission field? What do you miss the least? I think I miss the simpler lifestyle of Ghana more than anything else. Almost every day in the United States there is a place you have to be, but in Ghana there were fewer little meetings to attend to. If we went somewhere it was either church, market, or to visit friends for the day. I also miss all the missionary families.
In some ways, my whole family was like a reality TV show for everyone in our village to watch, and the decreased pressure of being out of the spotlight is nice. I don’t miss being on display!
How easy or difficult was it to make friends, do schoolwork, and other “normal” activities while being known as a “missionary kid” by the community? In Ghana, making missionary friends was easy. We were all MKs and shared the same problems and joys. For the most part everyone knew everyone in the missionary community, and we were all friends or at least acquaintances. As far as Ghanaian friends go, I made a few friends who lived down the road from us when I first arrived in Ghana, and those are the friends I kept my whole time in Ghana. In the United States it is very difficult to make friends, at least for me. In Ghana we would go and spend a whole day with a missionary family, just to play and to talk. A day was enough for me to meet a new family and become friends with them, but in the United States you only see a person/their family once or twice a week for maybe an hour while attending church or a class.
What is your favorite memory of living overseas? I don’t have a distinct favorite memory of living overseas, but it would probably include hanging out with some of my MK friends or enjoying visits from family.
How has the mission work of your parents influenced you and your faith? It’s hard to identify what mission work has done for me and my faith, because it is so intertwined with who I am. It has made me aware of my Christian brothers and sisters around the world and how much I can learn from their faith and their cultural richness. Because my dad assisted in Bible translation, I am keenly aware of how alive the word of God really is. Living overseas has cultivated a love and interest in me for the whole world, in particular Africa. It has made me attuned to the power in the cultural diversity of God’s creation.
Visit the LBT website for more information about the Esala ministry.
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Karissa, I want to thank you for sharing your outlook on being a missionary kid. I found it to be a very informative. It is definitely evident that God’s light shines brightly within you.