Channel 4, 2005
Mish Kids are unique. Having spent their childhoods and early adolescence abroad – wherever God called their parents to preach – most Missionaries are bi-lingual, love different cultures and feel at home overseas, even though they are foreigners. But when they are brought back home to Britain to finish their education, they don’t fit in at all. They may look like everyone else but their accents are different. They may now be ‘home’ but they don’t wear the right clothes or say the right things. Drugs, lawnmowers, Tube stations, Big Brother, Neighbours, getting drunk, and small talk are all part of what is a beguiling world for Mish Kids. As they wrestle with their convictions and struggle to find out where they belong, this series of short documentaries offers a fascinating glimpse into the strange no-man’s land that these teenagers inhabit.
Producer: Andy Glynne
Director: Miriam Lyons
Rachel was two when her parents went to the Middle East and 18 when she returned to England. Her missionary father was a development worker and Rachel and her siblings were home-schooled. A fluent Arabic-speaker, Rachel admits to feeling more comfortable among Muslims than Christians, and says she shares many of their values. She says she feels ‘like an alien’ in Britain – as if she does not belong in either of the two cultures that have formed her, but should be in a place between them. She fears that she is now losing much of her identity. However, with little experience of men outside her own family, she says it was probably time to come ‘home’. She expresses her disorientation in religious terms and looks forward to going to her real ‘home’ in Heaven one day.
Esther’s parents went to teach in Ecuador, South America, when she was 12. Her father stressed his moral values when he gave rings to Esther and her sister to symbolise their commitment to remain virgins until they married. Esther explains how many of her fellow pupils at the American missionary academy she attended started dating at the first opportunity on leaving school – a tempting response to emotional insecurity. She herself began a relationship at college, and was introduced to a world where drink and drugs were available – but quickly ended the experience. Whilst many of her contemporaries think her determination to remain a virgin until she marries is weird, Esther is proud to make this commitment.
Hannah’s parents took her to Tanzania, East Africa, when she was 12, when her father went to work with the Masai people there. Her feelings about this were ambivalent: she knew her parents would not have gone to Africa without their children’s agreement but, although she never told them, she was angry about being uprooted. At first, she disliked Tanzania but just as she was settling there, at the age of 16, she returned to England, without her family, to take her A-levels. She says she feels angry with God, but does not reject him because, with no proper home in Britain and her family far away, he is all she has. She poignantly describes how she has spent much of her life packing and saying goodbye to people she loves.
Joel has found it hard to fit into life in Britain, though his experience as a missionary child has taught him to make friends quickly. He was born and brought up in Senegal, West Africa, and educated at boarding school there, where, he says, he was more sheltered than his British contemporaries. His parents – themselves the children of missionaries – were involved in church building and teaching. Joel remembers how accepted he felt in Senegal, and emphasises his belief that ‘other cultures are not wrong, just different’. His faith sets him apart from many British children: he explains how he expects to ‘tithe his teenage years’ to God, and not get involved in relationships until he is older.