An Inside Peek into MK Schooling

I zipped up my backpack and stepped outside into the dark night. To arrive at school on time, my dad woke me at 5:30 each morning. Faith Academy was over an hour away, but I was used to the commute. Outside, the street was quiet. My next-door neighbor was a senator, and I imagined he and his family were still snug in their beds. Sometimes I climbed onto our roof after school and peeked into their stately property. They had the nicest private pool I had ever seen in the Philippines!

Across the street, a dilapidated home sold snacks out of a front window. We called it a “Sari Sari Store,” and my brother, sister and I were frequent customers. For a couple of pesos, we could walk home with Coke, served in a clear plastic bag with a straw. I peered down the street where the squatters lived. Later, after school, when my mom and I walked a half mile to catch a Jeepney to my ballet class, we would pass the squatters with their tin sheets propped together to form crude tents. Several families huddled along that strip of sidewalk with virtually nothing to their names. In the Philippines, the wealthy and impoverished lived side by side.

Extraordinary Opportunities

When the van arrived that would take me to school, my siblings and I clambered in. By the time we turned onto campus, the sun had begun to rise. On the surface, Faith Academy looked like any other private school — we had a beautiful campus divided into elementary, middle and high school wings. We had organized sports, electives, AP classes and extracurricular activities. We had teachers and detention, guidance counselors and chapel. But upon closer inspection, it was evident that Faith Academy was entirely unique. Students hailed from an array of countries: Myanmar, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, India, Hong Kong . . . the list was endless! We were completely different — 600 boys and girls of various backgrounds and ethnicities. We were completely the same — “Third Culture Kids” living outside our passport countries. As such, we formed a community within a community, a hodgepodge of expat families who celebrated foreign holidays, pined for faraway relatives and knew the Manila airport inside and out. To me, Faith Academy was never just a school: it was family.

Along with a diverse student body, going to an MK school afforded diverse learning opportunities. Every year, our entire middle school loaded into buses for a week of “Outdoor Education.” That was how I found myself hunting for bullet shells and crawling through tunnels on the island of Corregidor in 7th grade. During the day, we explored World War II landmarks where the Japanese once defeated American and Filipino armies, and at night we camped under the stars. The following year, we rode fishing boats, called Bangkas, to Volcano Island, where we hiked up Taal Volcano, which boasted an impressive 33 former eruptions. And who could forget our 6th-grade year when we learned how to cook an entire meal outdoors — killing, plucking, gutting and roasting a chicken over a fire while villagers laughed nearby. (Not too many 6th-grade girls can say they’ve sawed off a chicken’s head as part of a school assignment!)

But the lessons we learned weren’t just practical or historical; they were missional. One Christmas, my Bible class took to the busy streets of Manila armed with food, presents and gospel tracts. We ventured under bridges where naked children played, into squatter villages and along rivers where homes built of scrap wood were stacked one on top of the other. Another year we visited a rural school to share the gospel with Filipino peers. These are the lessons I hold dear — the ones taught outside of textbooks and classrooms and my own comfort zone, the ones that shaped my heart and mind.

Distinct Difficulties

Of course, there were challenges to MK schooling. Despite being a tight-knit community, we drifted in and out of one another’s lives regularly. There was always someone on furlough or someone being reassigned to a new location. Every 3 years when my family went on furlough, I agonized over “missing out” at Faith Academy. It was like building a puzzle with half the pieces. Fourth grade: missing. Summer of 6th grade: missing. All the memories and inside jokes shared by my friends during those times: missing. I could laugh along and force the fragments of my life to fit together, but there were always gaps.

Worse yet, hurting kids could hide in plain sight at a school like Faith Academy. Everyone knew how to appear godly, so it was hard to detect a languishing believer or an unbeliever who was simply going through the motions. But they were there. The fact that we were often viewed as an extension of our parents’ vocational calling — or even worse, a hindrance to it — only complicated matters. It called into question our identities and laid the foundation for performance-based relationships with God and others.

Having a true understanding of the gospel was and is crucial for MKs. As I reminisce about my own experiences and I think about the thousands of MKs still scattered throughout the world, 3 prayer requests come to mind:

  • Pray that MKs receive the gospel personally and authentically. As the pressure to perform is high and the weight of expectation is heavy, pray that they find their identities in Christ alone.
  • Pray for good relationships with their parents — for open and honest communication. As frontline ministers of the gospel, missionary families face significant spiritual warfare, not just on the missions field but in the home as well.
  • Finally, pray that they are impassioned to fulfill the Great Commission. Though easily overlooked, MKs comprise a mighty army, strategically stationed across the globe with limitless potential for sharing the gospel and impacting the world for Christ


 Jeanne Harrison grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines. In her new book Hiding in the Hallway: Anchoring Yourself as an MK, Jeanne offers MKs a gospel-centered perspective of the joys and challenges they face every day. She is also the author of Loving My Lot: A Young Mom’s Journey to Contentment. Jeanne and her husband, Clint, live in Macon, Georgia, with their 4 daughters.

Back to Top