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Home again: a documentary about missionary kids

Julie Englander, a Chicago-based journalist, is currently filming a documentary on Missionary Kids returning to the U.S. and adjusting to their supposed “home culture.” She used Kickstarter, an online funding platform, to help spread the word and raise money for her project. To date, 105 backers have helped her achieve a $5,000 goal.

What inspired you to make this documentary?
Because I was trained as a journalist, I’m always looking for a good story. It turns out that missionary kids have incredible stories to tell. When I was in college, one of my closest friends was a State Department kid. I remember her telling her story of growing up in Kuwait, a place I knew nothing about, and I was amazed.

How did you find participants?
I conducted lots of research, and contacted people I knew would introduce me to other missionary kids. My first stop was getting in touch with Perry Bradford, who runs a re-entry seminar for missionary kids. Ruth Van Reken [co-author of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds] also has been very helpful in introducing me to missionary kids. She is also a great person for the documentary, being one of the first MKs to write about and develop a vocabulary for her experience.

What struck me when I was first conducting the interviews, the MKs I was speaking to would patiently answer my questions, then had questions for me. They wanted to know my story.

What feedback have you received so far?
Everyone has been really open. I’m asking a lot when I ask people to share personal things with me, and I take it as an honor when [they are willing to do so].

I have also gotten lots of messages from MKs who are still coming to terms with their experiences years later, and that it means a lot that someone is making a film about them. That’s important for me; I get so tied up in telling the story and pushing the documentary forward, and those messages remind me of the responsibility to tell their stories well.

I found that it’s hard for TCKs to figure out who is open to hearing their story and who isn’t. One girl I interviewed talked about a freshman orientation exercise: Everyone had to introduce themselves and share a “cool thing” about themselves. She shared that she had once ridden an ostrich! She instantly realized that she said the wrong thing. Sometimes these experiences can be a double-edged sword: some people will think they’re cool, and others will think they’re odd.

What do you hope to communicate through this documentary?
That there are so many different ways to be in the world – a lot of it is about figuring out what is really important to you. I would like viewers to experience something new, think about something they haven’t thought about before and about where they fit in the world.

When can we expect to see the film?
I’m halfway through the process now, and I hope to finish it by 2013.


  1. Julie says

    My experience as a college freshman and an MK was that people thought I was weird and talked too much about Romania!! The thing I had to explain to them is that prom, drivers licenses at sixteen, and malls were the things that were normal to them…so they talked about them a lot. Traveling by train and plane, visiting other European countries, and knowing three languages were what was normal to me…so therefore I talked about THAT!! I was in no way trying to show off…but that is how it was perceived!!


    • I can relate to your experience. My daughter had the feeling that she was bragging just by telling her story. It is surprising how people relate. The stories we tell are meaningful to us, but they are experiences that most people cant handle. Is it a crime if they can’t top that story?!!!!


  2. Bekah says

    I’m so excited that you are doing this! As an MK, I love to hear stories of other MKs and share when people are ready/willing to listen! Every person has a unique culture and background…it’s great when we have platforms to share them! It’s always good to know that I am not the only person who had a passport long before I could walk, didn’t drive until I got to college, and thinks seeing zebra just off the road on family vacations is a normal occurrence!


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