In chat with Arlete Castro, Mark Carpenter, Natalia Bandeira and Thiago B. Moreira children of missionaries, talk about the challenges of living outside their country of origin

By Fabrícia Oliveira


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order to show some of the realities pertinent to the cross-cultural experience, Arlete Castro, missionary and coordinator of the Integral Care area of the Transcultural Missionaries of Sepal, led earlier this month a chat with Mark Carpenter, Natalia Bandeira and Thiago B. Moreira, guests who have something in common: all are children of missionaries and have lived in different countries than they and/or their parents were born, thus experiencing what is called the “third culture”.

Among the subjects discussed in live, Arlete, Mark, Natalia and Thiago share stories, exchange insights and talk about the effects of dialogue and experience between cultures in identity formation, sense of belonging and the ability to face new challenges.

Arlete Castro, the conversation’s conductor, wrote the master’s thesis Sons of Third Culture: Self-Esteem, Resilience and the Impact on Identity and the Sense of Belonging”, the master’s thesis gathers information about the experience of those who live or lived outside their country of origin. Analyticalin nature, and based on theoretical assumptions, the work aims to identify how intercultural experience impacts the lives of “children of third culture” (FTC).

Check out a brief summary of the video below:

Being and growing between cultures: When dealing with the meaning of belonging to two cultures or more, the guests point out that it is essential to recognize that the “child of third culture” will never be a fully integrated part of his native culture, but of all the ones he experienced when living in different countries.

The subject implies a predisposition to change amid people’s lack of understanding of the identity of the foreigner and the new scenario he is experiencing. Besides not being an easy task, accepting this multicultural identity requires self-knowledge and the construction of values, which will make it possible to integrate into different groups, but making use of their own terms.

Impacts on identity: According to the participants, in the midst of the cross-cultural experience there is an exchange of paradigms with regard to the worldview and the way of seeing one’s own country of origin. Negative and positive reviews arise about the country left. In this, memories, nostalgia and longing are also combined.

With adaptation — a gradual process — intercultural awareness emerges: it merges acceptance with new values. By understanding the impacts of the environment on the identity of the individual, it is possible to deal with multicultural paradoxes with more flexibility.

Deep relationships amid diluted contexts: Significant bonds can survive the distance. At this point, regardless of geographic and physical proximity, longing has the potential to further strengthen the connection, bringing a new view of the value of each fraction of a second in which contact is possible.

When it comes to friends, you don’t have to reduce the depth of the relationship because of the distance. Even far away, there are ways to establish contact, share joys, difficulties, and learning.

When knowing new ways of relating, it is essential to be willing to be practical, because, with each shipment, one can lose the daily conviviality, however there are also numerous possibilities to generate affective bonds in the other country.

Definition of “home“: The understanding of what is, in fact, “home” is not only restricted to the property in which someone resides, but also to the ability to connect with people, even if they are far away. In this sense, the idea of “home” is more connected with “affection” than with “space”. In addition, “home” also has correlation as the totality of being, the essence of each one.

The sense of belonging: By dialoguing with other cultures more intensely, the individual may feel inadequate because he does not fully fit the local culture: language, worldview, behavior, etc. However, this experience can acquire another contour when the child of third culture begins to simply enjoy the “being” and not the “belonging”, maximizing the investment in people, in work and in cultural and spiritual deepening.

Enhancing the cross-cultural experience in service to the Kingdom of God: Despite experiencing various challenges related to identity, the son of third culture discovers its value — where it is and where it goes — from a single identity: the grace common to all Christians. Faith in the midst of difficulties makes it possible to experience God’s grace in different and innovative ways. This gives him strength and a wonderful perspective on God’s life and call to him and his family.

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Arlete Castro: Missionary Sepal and coordinator of the area of Care and Integral of The Transcultural Missionaries. He has lived in Portugal for 27 years.

Mark Carpenter: President of The Christian World Publishing House, the son of American missionaries. Mark arrived in Brazil as a child and lived almost all his life in the country.

Natalia Bandeira: Biomedical, wife and mother. From a missionary family, Natalia left Brazil at the age of 14, lived in England and Portugal. He returned to Brazil at the age of 18, and now lives in Portugal with his family.

Thiago Moreira: Entrepreneur, president of the Radar Brazil Institute, specialist in Multicultural Psychology. Thiago is from a missionary family. He left Brazil at the age of 4 and returned as an adult, after living in the Netherlands, the United States and Austria.

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