By Janelle Happach
Stephen and Amy Black served with TeachBeyond at Faith Academy in the Philippines for five years. They are now in the USA, starting a new ministry to TeachBeyond TCKs and their families. Here is a Q&A about the Blacks and their new ministry from an interview with Stephen.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in a Christian home and committed my life to Jesus when I was young. My parents served as missionaries overseas and then as a pastor in a highly multi-cultural church in Vancouver, B.C. I met my wife (Amy) overseas when we were children. God brought our paths back together years after my family left the field, shortly after He confirmed His call on my life to serve overseas. We got married when we were 20, moved to Washington so that I could study at Moody’s satellite campus, and joined TeachBeyond a year later.
Q: Your ministry with TCK/MK’s is new for TeachBeyond. What does it encompass?
Our role is to help families (with children) serving overseas thrive. At this early stage of our ministry, so much of what we do is trying to figure out how we can serve. I think one of the best ways is to ask them what their experiences have been and what their needs [and their children’s] are. That’s what we’re currently doing. For the moment our program is aimed at TeachBeyond members, but we’d like to get a transition program up and running that would be a resource for any TCK in need.
Q: Were you a TCK or an MK yourself? Tell us about it.
My wife and I are both TCK’s from West Africa. Her family served in Cameroon for over 20 years and mine served in Nigeria for around eight. My wife spent part of her childhood in the bush, and grades 8 through 12 at a boarding school in Cameroon. She had a very positive experience there. My family served in the bush the whole time. My siblings and I were home schooled. We were the only white children in the surrounding villages for most of our time, so we became pretty well immersed in the culture as a result. While it was difficult, at times, to grow up in that situation, all in all I consider the experience an empowering one. It shaped my worldview and enabled me to interact across cultures in a way that I never would have [learned] otherwise. It also set me on a trajectory to serve overseas myself.
Q: What is the most difficult situation you’ve encountered that stretched your faith?
The biggest spiritual struggle I had came after we left Nigeria. Our time overseas ended abruptly and unexpectedly, and by that time my identity had formed around being part of a missionary family, so losing that hurt deeply. It was then I realized that being a Christian meant doing hard things sometimes, and that I had to either stop being a Christian or trust God through everything no matter what. Jesus wasn’t messing around when He said that anyone who would come after Him must take up their cross daily and follow Him. A brief taste of serious pain taught me that. It isn’t an easy decision to follow Jesus, but it’s one that we all have to come to at one point or another.
Q: What positive things do you hope to accomplish for TCKs through your new ministry?
Our goal is to make sure that families are ready to take their children through the transition into being TCKs, to encourage those families as they serve overseas; to help TCKs transition back into living in North America; and to help the network of TCKs living in North America stay connected and support each other during and after the transition process. That’s our heart in a nutshell.