Monday, 14 July 2008

Third Culture Ministry

Yesterday, our St David's morning church combined with the English-speaking congregation of a Korean church. Siloam Korean Presbyterian church normally uses the lecture halls of Australian Catholic University, just a block down the road from us. They've been booted out from there for a couple of weeks because the premises are being used for World Youth Day.
Yesterday, St David's ran the meeting, and I preached. The service went off - it was stacks of fun. Next Sunday, the Koreans will run the meeting, one of them will preach - and we get to sit back and enjoy.
After church, one of the St David's people said to me "you seemed to have a rapport with the Koreans in your preaching". I shrugged it off. I did get a positive vibe while I preached, and the sermon went down well - but I didn't feel any special connection.
It was only later on that I realised - of course - most of the Koreans are third culture kids. Just like me.
Third Culture Kids are those who are born to immigrants, or - like me - immigrate when young, and get significantly formed by their new nation. Unlike our parents, we don't identify exactly with our nation of origin. We're sometimes embarrassed by the more traditional elements of our home culture - especially if our parents become hyper-conservative, which often happens to first-generation immigrants. But we don't identify exactly with our host nation either. We're embarrassed by some more radical elements of Western culture, and, over against it, find comfort in some elements of our home culture.
So we're neither here nor there. Neither "ethnic" nor "Aussie". When we're in one group, people identify us as the other - Aussies think we're really ethnic, while our family and friends think we're really Western. We're actually neither - we're a third culture.
I wonder if SBM is really a third-culture subcontinental ministry? The core group is comprised exclusively of young people from an Indian or Sri Lankan background who have grown up here. At a recent leader's meeting, we briefly pondered the fact that we seem to be good at reach "Westernised Curries", but not so good at reaching international students. They're not third culture, they're still first culture - very Indian or Sri Lankan. SBM is also different to the group of older Indians and Sri Lankans to whom my parents minister at their church, St John's Parramatta. That group came to Australia as adults. They too are not third, but first culture - very Indian or Sri Lankan.
This doesn't make SBM illegitimate. Just different. Maybe we should add another S to the front - Second-generation Subcontinental Bible Ministry. Reaching international students, and older people from the subcontinent, may for us still be a cross-cultural ministry. Again, none of this make the ministry illegitimate. Just different.
We may have more in common with Siloam Korean Presbyterian church than we think...


Roger Gallagher said...

Hi Kamal,

Reaching third culture kids will become an important part of St John's ministry in the future. Already most of the kids attending SMURF, the youth group founded to minister to kids whose parents attend the 9:30 English-speaking service, have parents who speak Cantonese. I've noticed that most of the Indians & Sri Lankans attending the 9:30 service either don't have kids, or have young kids. This means that we'll have to minister to third culture kids from two or more ethnic backgrounds in the future.

Sash said...

It took me ages to realise that I was a TCK ( not til I went to SMBC actually!) I can totally relate to your comments about not being totally Aussie or Indian - I have picked and choose which elements I want into a new hybrid culture combining the laid-backness of the West with the cultural/traditional elements of the East. Even today, my ch back in Sydney is sparse on the Asians....although we are pretty mixed with other cultures.
My biggest regret is not having any Indian (or even Sri Lankan:-)) brothers and sisters in Christ as I began my walk, to mentor me and talk me through cultural issues vs faith issues. This is what we endeavour to encourage converts here(in Bali) to do , that becoming a Xian does not mean you sacrifice your own culture but seek to redeem what can be redeemed from that culture.

Erin said...

I wrote about this as well not that long ago, but looking at third culture kids from a returned missionary kids perspective.

At times we forget about all the different cultures we have in our church we arn't even aware of.

Kamal Weerakoon said...

Here's Erin's blog: