Mommy, where am I from?

As I reflect on Veteran's Day this week and my heart fills with gratitude for those who have paid a high price for my freedom, I also consider my little girl's future. Claire was born in Honduras and has dual citizenship. She is what is known as a "third culture kid," a term used to refer to children who grow up in a country other than the one on their passports. Many times, these children fail to develop a sense of belonging to either country; the mix of cultures and traditions forms a "third culture" in the child. Even as adults, these children may not completely identify with any one culture; they can truly become men and women "without a country." Today I want to relate my thoughts and feelings concerning our choice to allow our daughter to grow up in a third-world nation and how our choice may affect her level of patriotism.


After we had our daughter Claire in 2006, I had a recurring nightmare. We were back in the States at a basketball game at my old high school. Claire was 5 or 6 years old and was seated in the bleachers next to me. When we rose in unison and placed our hands over our hearts to sing the national anthem, Claire stared at me blankly. She didn’t even know to put her hand over her heart, let alone how to sing the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” My face burned with shame and disappointment. I had forgotten to teach my daughter how to be patriotic.

I was determined this dream would never become a reality. Even before Little Claire could sing along, I began teaching her patriotic songs and pointing out the American flag. She began calling it the “Grand Ol’ Flag” because of one of her favorite songs. Every time we passed one, we would put our hands over our hearts and sing together. It wasn’t long before she became giddy with excitement whenever she saw the stars and stripes.

One of Claire’s favorite things to tell people is that she is special because she has two flags: the Grand Ol’ Flag, and the Honduran flag. It occurred to me one day that I should spend as much time talking about the Honduran flag as I do the American flag; she is, after all, a citizen of both countries. I want her to love and respect both nations. Robbie and I must be careful to not criticize or demean the culture in front of our Honduran daughter. If we have a critical spirit of Honduran ways, Claire will sense our distaste. It’s easy for missionaries to find fault with a foreign culture; many times our thinking patterns and customs are drastically different. But we never want to communicate a spirit of American superiority to our daughter. After all, she is just as Honduran as she is American.

But then, I’ve also known missionaries who have gone to the other extreme. One teenage missionary kid I met could barely speak English because her parents had neglected to speak it at home. Others show disdain for the United States. “That’s not my country,” they declare. “I only go there to visit.”

One of my biggest prayer requests for my family is that God would give us wisdom as we strive to teach our daughter a love for both of her countries. I pray that tears will one day fill her eyes as she sees a fallen soldier laid to rest. I pray that she’ll listen with interest as the President gives the State of the Union Address. I pray she’ll sense a deep obligation to vote in every election, even when she must do so by absentee ballot. I pray she'll stay informed of current events, forming opinions with a discerning mind and a biblical worldview. I pray her heart will swell with pride when she visits the grave of her great-grandfather who served in the Navy for 32 years. But I know that none of this will happen unless we her parents consciously work to instill patriotism in her heart. Claire doesn't have to be "a girl without a country." May God help me to instill in her a passionate love for both the United States of America and Honduras.

Do you have ideas for practical ways to teach patriotism to children? I would love to hear your ideas and family traditions and share them with other missionaries! Please post a comment to contribute.

Team Honduras 2009 Fourth of July Celebration

7 Responses
  1. Martha Hill Johns Says:

    I think what you are already doing is great.. and the sad part is many Americans who reside in America do not do as well. We, like you, do our best to place a love for the USA in our children. Singing patriotic songs, knowing the pledges, talking about great American leaders of days gone by, showing respect and appreciations for our military... the list goes on. Have them pray for the nation's leaders - even though we may not agree with their stand. On a humorous note, one evening at supper after we asked the blessing on the food, Philip asked if President Obama prayed "Dear Devil... since he does not have Jesus in his heart." We are always teaching, huh? I think you are doing JUST GREAT! Keep up the good work!

    Love and Prayer for Y'all!

  2. Kathy Says:

    Your granddaddy would love this post! He was the ultimate patriot and those lessons were just a natural part of our lives, as he revealed his heart to us daily. I remember his teaching us that in the proper display of the flags, the Christian flag always flew higher on the mast than the American. Remind Claire where her eternal citizenship is and to live ultimately for THAT kingdom. Treasures there will last forever, when America, Honduras and even this world are gone. Prepare her for the new Jerusalem!

  3. amy Says:

    WoW, this was a great post. It really made me start to think of how i need to prepare Josiah. Although he was not born in Honduras he will grow up most of his life there. We will all have a part in showing them both cultures. Love you guys and praying everyday for you all.

  4. Ricky Says:

    Great job, Christine. When I was a kid I used to hate that Dad was in the Navy; kind of like the times you hated that I was the principle of RCA. I hated the moving every two years, Jacksonville, Norfolk, --even up in Rhode Island for two tours; then Gitmo, Cuba for nearly three years. I admit to having done a 180 on this. I'm proud to be a Navy-brat. Dad loved this country and it doesn't take much to put that lump in my throat when I see heroism from our men and women in the service.

  5. Becky Bryant Says:

    Hi, Christine,
    It's time for me to post a comment!

    Kent and I have been reading your blog for a few months.
    Kent went to the same Bible School as Kathy Tippet and saw the link to your blog on her blog. As soon as he read your posting about giving birth overseas and being an A student who missed her 4.0 because of violin (mine was because of an art course) , Kent came to get me.

    I laughed and wept as I read your blog for that was me as a new missionary 25 years ago! I checked your profile and realized we have a lot of parallel experiences.

    I was that honor student in high school, college and graduate school. My Dad was a Navy officer and we moved every two years, too.

    Kent is from Durham. We use A Beka home school curriculum, and my son and daughter plan to go to PCC. (Jeremy is 15, Katelyn is 12.)

    Not only do we celebrate the 4th of July, we celebrate Thanksgiving as well. I'll have 20 to 25 people gathered at our CEF office next Thursday which we decorate with Pilgrims, pumpkins, etc. Not only that, our daughter's adoption day is THANKSGIVING DAY!

    We, too, want to instill a love for our country as well as our adopted country of Fiji. One of the reasons I chose to home school was to be sure that American history and culture was taught to our children.

    I LOVE A Beka history because it does teach our American foundations and instill patriotism. In first and second grade, the kids even learn how to show respect to the flag. I love the poetry section because there is at least one patriotic poem per year to memorize as well as all the historical documents such as the Preamble to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, American's Creed and the Gettysburg Address.

    I insisted that the fourth grade state project be done on our home state: North Carolina. But the fifth grade nation project had to be Fiji so that my children know the history, geography, political situation of their birthplace. (They are dual citizens.) On furlough, our children are the ones who answer the questions about Fiji's climate, geography, etc. as they dress the part: Jeremy is always the Fijian warrior, and Katelyn is our Indian princess.

    Each furlough, we visit historical sites. When Jeremy was 7, we drove the East Coast to visit our churches. We were at my Dad's last duty station: The Brunswick Maine Naval Air Station as well as visiting the Bath Iron works to see a Navy ship being built.We did a tour of Boston. We visited Gettysburg. My Dad met us in Virginia and escorted us on a tour of a naval carrier in Norfolk. When Jeremy was 12, we toured PCC as well as the Pensacola Naval Air Museum (and missed the Blue Angels practice:(), Gettysburg (AGAIN!, Washington, D.C. (the Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian, etc.)and we even did Jamestown and Williamsburg. Believe it or not, we had ministry lined up near all those locations.

    I suspect my Fiji Missionary Kids have seen more of the US in their three furloughs than kids living full time in America. You can teach your children to love both their countries.

    Now it's my turn to invite you to visit our blog:

    God Bless!

    Becky Bryant

  6. Christine Says:

    Mrs. Becky, did you get my email? I tried to email you from the link on your blog, but I don't think it worked because I haven't heard back. Could you send me your email address? Mine is Thanks.

  7. Kimberly Grainger Says:

    I love to brag about out patriotic family, with our Navy-serving Grandaddy. We tell our kids stories from his duty days, and Nana shares those pieces of our history. How terrific that you are passing along those important "roots" to Claire.
    You're such a terrific mom!!

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