Four brothers share what it’s like growing up as missionary kids out in the jungle, from building a house to making friends with tribal people.
As missionary kids in the jungle of Southeast Asia, our lives may seem very different to others. But to us, hunting and exploring in the jungle, eating jungle foods, and speaking a tribal language is normal. It’s all part of growing up Wild! We get asked a lot of questions about our lives as missionary kids in the jungle. We hope our answers below help you get to know us better.
We Wild brothers like a variety of foods—we like many foods from our Western culture. We eat a lot of soups, sandwiches, Asian curries, stir-fries, pizza, tacos, popcorn, homemade bread, and so on. We eat plenty of the tribal food too. We do not eat a lot of meats, but we do love seafood.
We built our house in the jungle out of planks cut from the jungle trees. We had to carry them up to our house site, and then we built the house using saws, hammers, and nails. Our roof is made out of thin sheets of tin, and we have screened-in windows with shutters that are made of clear plastic.
Our source of electricity comes completely from the sun. We use several solar panels hooked up to batteries to charge and power our household appliances such as laptops, outlets, washing machine, lights, and so on. The quantity of sun streaming down into our solar panels determines the amount of power we have available to use. We rely on sunny days to charge up our batteries and then on cloudy afternoons and night hours we have a limit of power consumption.
We are able to communicate with the outside world via email and so on through a satellite connection that runs off of our house battery bank. The Internet here in Southeast Asia isn’t as fast as a connection in the United States for example, but it meets our needs.
We are dependent on rainwater to fill up our six water tanks, which are fed by gutters that run alongside the roof of our house. The Lord has always provided enough water for us, and where we live in Southeast Asia, it rains almost daily. The rain that collects in the tanks is pumped inside our house, and we use this water to wash laundry, flush toilets, take showers, and wash dishes.
If you have a nice personality and like being around people, it’s very easy to make friends in the tribe. Overall, everyone is very friendly and will quickly become attached to you. As missionaries, it is important to hang out and socialize with the people in your community, interact with the tribal culture, and learn their customs and way of life. As Christians, we can also reflect Christ’s love toward the people around us. That is the best and most profitable way we make lifelong friends here.
A fun part of being missionary kids is that we are fluent in the tribal language and speak that daily to everyone around us. When our family is alone together in the house, or while we are with other westerners, we speak our first and most comfortable language, English. Southeast Asia is an extremely diverse and exotic area. There are many different cultures and languages that represent hundreds of tribes and people groups. There are about 250 distinct languages in the province that we work in. It is important to understand the languages around you so that you can properly communicate with the locals.
We have to travel a lot as missionary kids. When traveling around our neighborhood and going from village to village, we go by foot like the tribal people. We also do a lot of flying in helicopters and bush planes. When traveling overseas, we obviously travel in large jumbo jets.
We live right below the equator, so there are no seasons here. It gets hot and very humid in the lowlands and on the coast, but where we live up in the mountains it gets quite cold. When the sun does come out it can get hot, but it is not as humid as the lowlands. Oftentimes the clouds roll in and we get soaked. Sometimes we have even seen clouds going through our house.
Where we live, there aren’t very big animals. The biggest living near us is probably the cassowary. It’s a flightless bird that roams along, ranging up to three or four feet tall. There are also wild pigs that live off in the jungle. There are also many interesting marsupials like cuscus and tree kangaroo. Many small rodents and marsupials live in the moss and holes in the ground. The treetops are always alive with a constant chatter of parrots and lorikeets. Insects also live in numbers along the brush and foliage of the jungle floor.
As missionary kids we have grown up here since we were little and so this tribe is our home. We don’t really feel like we had to adjust.
We usually spend 3.5 years here in Southeast Asia and then an eight-month furlough in the US. We travel across a lot of time zones, so jet lag can cause us to lose some sleep the first few nights coming or going. But over the years this has gotten easier. We are Third Culture Kids, so in many ways both our passport country and our country of ministry are equally home.
Yes! It is fun to see family. That is what we miss the most when we aren’t in the United States.
Feasts are our one of our favorite customs. A feast in our village is something like a US potluck. Everyone comes, and people contribute food. Women are preparing vegetables. Men are collecting wood and butchering the pig. We get to talk to everyone and enjoy good food. We also like the day-to-day activities that make their culture so unique, such as sitting with tribal grandma by the fire telling stories, going on a hike, or watching our friend make his traps.
That is a long list. Here are just a few: how to be quiet in the jungle, observe animals without disturbing them, what things to look for to let you know what animal has been there before you, how to chop firewood, how to plant crops, how to build a tribal hut, how to shoot with a bow, and how to learn a tribal language.
The people around us watch how our family interacts. We Wild brothers try to point them to Christ by being obedient to our parents. Also, sometimes when my dad is teaching, we help to clarify teaching points to our friends.