Breanna Thomas is an “MK” (missionary kid) who first visited Friendswood Friends Church as a tiny baby when she and her parents, David and Debby Thomas, were preparing to head to the mission field. She grew up in Rwanda and is now a sophomore at George Fox College. The following poems, shared with Breanna’s permission, are her reflections on being multi-cultural in a mono-cultural world, and a poignant good-bye to Rwanda written as she left to begin her college studies. Please pray for Breanna and other MK’s like her who are readjusting to life in a “home” country that doesn’t always feel like home.
Where are you from?
By Breanna Thomas
My blue eyes betray nothing
My blonde hair follows suit
My average height, my standard clothing-
Why you can’t help but think
I’m one of you
“ Hello, how are you?” You say
“ Hi, I’m fine”
The culturally appropriate answer exits me effortlessly.
The conversation ensues
We both play along,
Content in the safe zone of small talk.
Then you ask
“Where are you from? I haven’t seen you around here before.”
I fake a smile and shift my weight,
Ever so slightly.
I search your eyes
For only a second
Do you really want to know?
I want to tell you everything,
But Experience has taught me
That in all likelihood
I will not fit in your box.
You see, by the age of 3
I’d lived in 6 countries.
My American mom and Bolivian dad
Raised me primarily in Rwanda
Until I turned 13.
Then I flew two countries away
To start boarding school.
At 17 I rented and ran
My first apartment in Kenya.
You see, by the age of 19
I’ve been to at least 14 countries
(Airports don’t count)
And moved 12 times.
You see, I’m from nowhere
Yet all the places I’ve been,
Cultures I’ve experienced,
And relationships I’ve built
Have made me into who I am today.
You see, I’m at peace, finally.
I’ve given up the baffling concept of
And earthly home
For the assurance of a Heavenly one
That awaits me.
But the thing is, you don’t see.
Your box is your worldview,
Your cultural understanding that comes
From the single perspective you were raised in.
I want to help you see,
Help you break through the confines
Of your box
But I know it takes time.
So for now I say only
“I live in Newberg, Oregon.”
And at this moment
That is the truth.
I am so thankful for the rich and joyful childhood you have given me.
You taught me how to play in the mud,
to eat beans with my fingers,
to dance to the beat of a cow-hide drum.
You taught me how to fly
down dusty roads,
hanging onto the roof rack,
dodging acacia thorns.
You taught me how to endure 5-hour church services,
knowing that Monday (the true missionary sabbath)
was right around the corner.
You taught me to rejoice in the rain,
and fall asleep to its thundering comfort.
Rwanda, on the faces of your people
I have seen both soul-deep joy
and unimaginable sorrow.
I know now, Rwanda,
that the cause of poverty is situated deep down,
in the very heart and mind of a person.
But don’t lose heart, Rwanda.
God is alive and working in you.
Even in my short 17 years here
I have witnessed so many changes.
Rwanda, you raised me and you know me.
You have instilled in me
a deep knowledge that
I am blessed.
But now I am all grown up,
and I must leave you.
I leave what feels
normal and right.
I leave the sense of
you have always given me.
Rwanda, do not be sad,
but rejoice with me.
I am leaving you with my heart full,
filled with enough tangawizi chai,
equator sunshine and African wisdom
to get me through the hard times.
And know this, Rwanda:
Though I leave you,
you will never leave me.
May each of your thousand hills
be blessed today.
May peace continue to spread
until it reaches every corner of
Muhrabeho, my friend. Goodbye forever.
– Breanna Thomas