I just finished a book titled From India with Love by Latika Bourke, an Indian orphan adopted by an Australian family. She writes how she loathed hearing the question, ‘Where are you from?’ She wanted to identify solely as an Australian, and ignored the link she had to India, whenever it was brought up. Her white Australian parents tried to encourage both an Indian and Australian identity in their daughter, but it wasn’t until she watched the movie Slumdog Millionaire that she began to identify with her Indian heritage. She connected with one of the movie’s characters – Latika. ‘That could have been me,’ she wrote, referencing the plight of orphans living on the streets, avoiding crime and abuse. Since then, she has embraced her Indian heritage and visited the land of her birth countless times.
As a teenager in New Zealand, I went to youth events and was told to ‘say a little about yourself’ as a way of introducing myself to a group. I would never bring up my 12 years living in Asia, thus avoiding the inevitable questions that would follow. Instead I enjoyed speaking about my hobbies in NZ, rather than my upbringing. As I got older, I became aware of how my life had been enriched by growing up in the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore. I used my experiences to connect with Asian students in NZ, who were adjusting to a new culture themselves. This helped me break down cultural barriers and open doors of opportunity.
As Missionary Kids (MKs) ourselves, my wife Julie and I appreciate opportunities our children would never have been able to experience growing up in their passport country. We are preparing to start a children’s home in India during 2016, and know our own children will never regret the experience of living in a different culture. They will soon have a permanent connection with a foreign land, and be the richer for it.
By Stephen Elliott
Stephen, the eldest son of John and Mary Elliott, is married to Julie (also an MK) and together they have two small children. They are based near Brisbane.