Written by Malik Dieleman

ReBoot is a transition retreat for missionary kids aged 17-20 who have recently returned to Canada. Since its inception in 2013, the camp is held in both Alberta and Ontario, organized by the MORE Network—a collaborative of Canada-wide organizations supporting missionaries in cross-cultural transition. 

Most of the staff are missionary kids themselves. They lead sessions on Canadian culture, missionary kid identity, grief and loss, relationships, sexuality, and mental health issues. Other activities include worship, outdoor sports, group games, and simply hanging out. 

By the end of the week, the campers have created deep friendships and become more comfortable in new places and in their transition journey.

ReBoot Vision Statement: To provide a safe place for Canadian missionary kids to review their life stories and be refreshed through worship and peer relationships in order to navigate the transition to Canadian life and culture with God’s grace.

“It’s a space where they admit that everyone is broken and focus on healing and seeking real faith and community.”

Missionary kids are not some kind of special or holy group. After all, everyone goes through a variety of transitions in their lives. So why do missionary kids need their own retreat?

Over and over again, they feel misunderstood. “Where are you from?” is a dreaded question. Strangers, classmates, and even relatives will try to understand someone by associating them with wherever they come from. If you don’t have a clear answer, they are left confused and are unsure what to do with you. 

Friends of mine have called me the African, the French, the American, or the the Canadian, when in reality I am a more of a mixture of all four. It always seems like the country I am in is not where I’m from. 

A ministry such as ReBoot is important because it provides people like me with a space where others understand them and their complex identity, and where they are accepted as individuals with unique stories. It’s like a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by people who have gone through similar life experiences. It helps you to share on a more honest and intimate level.

Some missionary kids are surrounded by mission organizations, churches, and other missionary families their entire lives. There’s an unspoken assumption that we must be “super strong believers,” defined by the different contexts we are in. As a result, missionary kids are likely to play up their faith when they are in the public eye—becoming good at hiding their issues and letting grief go unresolved. 

The Missionary Kids were given two rocks to write on: one representing something they are choosing to surrender to God (which was then thrown symbolically into a river), and a second representing something they are choosing to hold onto. Photo by Malik Dieleman

Some have resulting resentment towards God and Christianity. ReBoot hits hard for these missionary kids, as topics get very deep. It’s a space where they admit that everyone is broken and focus on healing and seeking real faith and community.

Three years ago, I attended ReBoot myself, having just moved from Senegal (West Africa) where my parents were serving. This year, I was asked to come back as a staff member. I helped lead activities and small group discussions, took photos and videos, and most importantly developed friendships. 

As the youngest staff member, I was in a unique position to engage with the missionary kids as a peer and as a mentor. Coming back to ReBoot helped me to step back and see how much I have learned and recognize how much I have missed connecting with other missionary kids. 

The biggest takeaways I had from ReBoot were:

  1. I am not alone. There are like-minded people who care about me and resources available to help. I am connected to others in my same country, province, and city who are going through similar challenges as me.
  2. I can and will change. The young adult years are difficult but can result in positive transformation. 
  3. I can love the best parts of my journey without living in the past. I can learn to love where I am now, despite the current unfamiliarity and loneliness. 

For more information about ReBoot visit cmkn.outreach.ca. For resources and stories about missionary kids, Michèle Phoenix is the daughter of a missionary, a writer and ReBoot speaker (michelephoenix.com).