Residing and Abiding

Finding Ourselves at Home in a Vibrant Vietnam

The Journey of Third Culture Children

by Michael & Jacqueline Ong |

Image: The Journey of Third Culture Children
Grace with Hmong Children

What may not be so obvious is that they are all bonded by a unique developmental history; each of them lived a large part of their formative years outside of their parents’ culture. Keanu Reeves spent a significant amount of his early years in Lebanon, Pearl Buck in China, Madeline Albright in the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia and London, John Kerry in Germany, Christiane Amanpour in Iran, and the most famous of all, President Barak Obama spent his childhood years in Indonesia. They are known as Third Culture Kids, or “TCKs.”

In the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, David and Ruth elegantly described the unique opportunities as well as the challenges TCKs faced. The unique opportunities faced by TCKs prepares them with exceptional cross-cultural intelligence. TCKs are a sort of cultural chameleons. On the other hand, TCKs experience great loss every time they move to a new place, and along with it brings grief and sadness.

Grace, a TCK, has lived in three countries, speaks four languages, has traveled to more than 30 cities on three different continents, and has flown more than 80 trips on an airplane during her lifetime. She is not in her fifties. No, neither is she in her forties. She is my daughter, and she is only 12. Below is a poem by Grace entitled "My Journey", written for her school assignment. She aptly describes the joy and the pain of being a TCK, and finding inner strength from within and from her God.

My Journey -+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+- by Grace Ong

So here I go again
Flying away on a plane
Excitement fills me
And goodness I shall foresee

For I know God is in control of my life
And there will be no strife
Because when I am angry and down
I know He is around

So now I am in this new place
Not recognizing a single face
So here I go, making new friends
And my list of friends start to extend

For I know God provides for me
He will shine the light when I can't see
And when I sit there staring into space
He will provide me a new face

Now I've got friends to play
I guess I'm okay
And just when I got settled in
I move to a new place once again

So you can repeat this poem once more
Maybe Jesus will be knocking at your door
Calling you to serve him
So don't look grim

For I know God is certain of what to do
He knows what to do with me and you
I will trust wherever He brings me to
As my journey is not through

p.s.: The Ongs moved to Vietnam when Grace was 2 and a half years old. At 5 they moved back to Singapore and spent 2 years there. At 7, the family move to Vietnam. At 9, they moved to USA. At 11, back to Singapore and now at 12, back to Vietnam.

About the author: Michael & Jacqueline Ong Michael & Jacqueline Ong

Michael Ong serves in the University of Labour and Social Affairs in Hanoi as a social work consultant. He assists with the development of social work curriculum, enrichment workshops, and training for both the faculty and students. Michael graduated from Washington University, St Louis, Mo. with a Masters Degree in Social Work. Jacqueline taught for six years after receiving a teaching degree from the National Institute of Education in Singapore. Currently Jacqueline devotes her energy to homeschooling their daughter Grace. Michael and Jacqueline have served with REI-VN since 2001.


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