By Ashley Chang '23
November 2, 2022
I grew up in LA. My family went to a Korean-American baptist church, somewhere around K-Town; when we eventually moved to China we met the guy who did the architecture plans for the place. Missionaries, back then, called themselves “M”s (what an inspiring code word), and if you were a kid you were an “MK.”
They called them TCKs by the time I turned 11. I came home for summer camp, at the International Mission Board, and everybody was doing the green-water demonstration. “This, is blue water.” head-nod, head-nod. “This, is yellow water.” Even-more effervescent head nod, head bop! “Mix them together, what do you get?”
“Green water!” Wow. Gold star. Give ’em up for 12-year-old Ashley Chang, Third Culture Kid.
I don’t talk about my life overseas, except in the bits that poke out, the anecdotes I can’t keep in. Mostly, it’s a bit of a secret. What happened those eleven years?
My pastor gave sermons in Forest, Virginia about how Jonathan was David’s true friend. “It says here, right now, that ‘After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.’ Who can say that about their neighbors” (1 Samuel 18:1-3, NIV)? He preached about Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son who can’t walk, who David showered his love upon, even after Jonathon died. He preached about watching out for one another, even after an angry Dad threw spears all over the room. I remember feeling blessed, but going to school alone, wishing there were more people to wave to in the hallways…green water means you don’t fit in well with blue or yellow water. I don’t know why they tell us that; it’s depressing. Pastor says we aren’t supposed to fit in, except in the community of Christ. I wondered: so what then?
Last week was Brown and RISD’s interfellowship worship night. I came an hour and a half late because there was this problem set monkey kicking around in my skull. I had a bit of a headache from too much Ginger Ale; my friend Haley waved me down and we sat in between a group of freshmen. Discussion session. “What is a part of God that’s hard for you to reconcile?” Anger. Justice. Love.
Girl #1 spoke in testimony about patience and peace, boy #1 spoke about being faithful to God. Girl #3 said what is our writing, what are our words, if it is not in service of him, steadfast in his love?
And I am in the airport. Mom just made me give all my toys away; they said, “made in China,” but that’s where we were moving after all. “What are we going to talk about?” “How long are we going to stay?” I promised Jenny after a few months, I’d come back. Mom squeezed my pinkie for a moment so we said, “let’s pray.”
That’s when we thanked God.
Illustration by Jocelyn Salim '23