Migrating as a child
I was born in Singapore and when I was in primary school, we moved to Australia.
Moving to Australia was the most traumatic time of my life. I went from being a normal kid to being an outsider. I went from having friends to having to start all over again. When people said 'football' I thought they meant soccer, not rugby league. When people made jokes, I didn't understand but laughed anyway. And people at school made fun of my accent.
It's not that I couldn't speak English, I just spoke with a Singaporean accent. And it took me a while before I could understand the Australian accent. Even doing well at school wasn't a good thing because it made me stand out.
And then there was the racism as well.
I just wanted to fit in.
But I didn't belong in Australia.
I wanted to go back to Singapore, back to being a normal kid again.
A couple of years after moving to Australia, we visited Singapore. During the trip I went to the primary school I used to go to and saw my friends. But my friends had forgotten who I was.
I didn't belong in Singapore anymore either.
Citizenship in heaven
In early high school I became a Christian. One thing that really changed the way I thought about myself was knowing that I am a citizen of heaven. As a follower of Jesus, I belong to God's family.
It doesn't matter what passport I hold, I am part of God's people. Even if I don't quite fit in at school, I know that I am God's child. No matter where I live I have a father in heaven.
Influence on my kids
Migrating as a child has heavily influenced the way I try to raise my kids.
I try to remind them that their identity first and foremost is as God's child. Following Jesus trumps being an Australian or Chinese (we're ethnically Chinese).
Following Jesus is more important than doing well at school.
Following Jesus is more important than being athletic.
Following Jesus is more important than being safe.
Because all those things can and do change over the years but being part of God's family won't. It also means that even if they don't fit in with their peers they know that they are God's child. No matter where they live they have a father in heaven.
I also come from a country where Christians are a minority. I teach our kids that as Christians we don't necessarily have the right to speak into our community. If we are wise we might earn respect through love and blessing others but it is not something to assume.
Having grown up moving countries I was forced to see Australian culture from an outsider's point of view. We are also now missionaries and have moved back and forth between Australia and Taiwan. And because my kids have also moved countries they too are forced to see Australian and Taiwanese culture from an outsider's point of view. I think this will help them to understand and critique whatever culture they live in, in the years to come.
I am excited that my children also moved countries so they too understand that their citizenship is not in Australia or Taiwan or any other nation on earth.. it is in heaven.
In many ways moving countries as a child was very hard. But it has also helped me raise my children to know that they are a citizen of heaven. And when this world comes to an end, we will still be citizens of heaven and be with God for all time.