Beyond Boundaries, Part 2: The Transition

By Steven Kelly (aka "Peter")

FD/MM/FM; ML#3788; August 2009

1. I pray that the first part of this series dedicated to the topic of leave-takers was helpful in establishing the new mindsets the Lord is calling us to adopt regarding those who retire from the Family or choose other paths in life. In this second part of the series, I'm going to focus on the topic of assisting those who leave our communities to make a smooth and successful transition to the new lifestyle or career of their choosing.

2. Before doing so, I want to repeat an important concept that I covered in the first part of this series: In order to build a new inclusive culture of greater acceptance of others and understanding of people's choices and levels of commitment to the Lord and His service, we will need to make a complete and unequivocal change in our relations with leave-takers. We will need to root out past mindsets, perceptions, and practices on this issue—even those that are built on Word that was published over the past 10 to 15 years. We must adopt a new model for the context of today.

3. The Lord is asking us to take on a much more understanding and supportive outlook—one of love, tolerance and inclusiveness—toward Family members who choose other careers or paths in life. As we discuss the challenges that leave-takers face when transitioning to the next stage of their lives, it's important that we do so from the standpoint that change is needed—both in our mindsets and in the practical realm in order to adopt the right attitudes that will enable us to lovingly support and facilitate the transition process.

4. Our goal should be to provide the support, encouragement and help that leave-takers need, within our possibilities and resources, so that their transition can be smooth and successful. Those who depart from our communities should feel welcome to consider the Family their fellowship of faith, if they so choose. Their decision to pursue a different career or lifestyle should not automatically equal a distancing from the Family, if they wish to remain connected and a part of the Family in some way.

5. In this Letter, I'm going to address the challenges our loved ones face when making this transition, as well as the ways that we can provide support and practical assistance. Although there is a great variety in the circumstances and needs of leave-takers, it's important that we show them our support in ways that will provide the assistance they need, while making it possible for them to remain a part of us and to continue to be a part of our fellowship of faith if they so choose.

New mindsets

6. Many of our past attitudes toward leave-takers were rooted in the Word and in counsel the Lord gave over time, although how these principles were applied varied greatly from situation to situation, with some people receiving a lot of support and assistance and others very little. As I mentioned in the first Letter on this subject, the Lord led Mama and me to encourage good relations and reconciliation with leave-takers, starting in the early to mid-1990s, and onwards. A number of Letters were written at the time, addressing this issue, such as "Bridging the Gap" (ML #3068), "An Open Letter to All Current and Former Family Members" (ML #3091), "The Silver Lining!" (ML #3166), "Take Me With You!" (ML #3299), and "They'll Always Be Mine" (ML #3300). Several of these Letters addressed the attitudes that Homes and parents should have toward those who choose to leave the Family, with the vision of facilitating the transition and maintaining good relations.

7. Although a more open, conciliatory approach was promoted, it was nonetheless built on the premise that our first priority needed to be to shelter Family members, particularly children, from negative influences (in this case, from those who no longer shared our lifestyle and values after leaving the Family), and the emphasis was placed more on protecting the spiritual life of the Family from negative influences than on assisting leave-takers in transition and working to build good relations. These Letters also expressed the understanding that we had at the time, that God's will was ultimately that children born in the Family would serve Him full-time as Family disciples, and that those who chose otherwise were therefore moving outside of God's will for their lives. While these Letters promoted a more tolerant and accepting attitude toward leave-taking, this was problematic in practice, since it didn't address the core issue of not judging the choices others make or presuming to know God's will for them. Nor was it proactive in seeking ways to build bridges and forge positive relations with our leave-takers.

8. We've been praying about this topic and discussing it for some time, as we are concerned about our leave-takers and the very real and challenging difficulties they face when they make the transition from the Family. We have also been saddened to hear that while many wish to continue as part of our fellowship of faith and to consider the Family their faith base, or to maintain contact with their friends and loved ones, they have felt abandoned or looked down upon and not welcome.

9. Mama and I are very sorry for any hurts or difficulties people have faced in transitioning from the Family, and we wish we had tackled this issue sooner. We feel that it is imperative to do so, if we are to heal the hurts, build a more inclusive culture, and do what we can to support and assist our members in transition.

10. In order to adopt the new mindsets that are needed, we have to be willing to completely let go of previous mindsets on the issue, which also includes previous Word that is not in line with the stance the Lord is giving for today. Much of what was written in the past in the Word on the issue of leave-takers is not relevant to the approach the Lord is asking us to adopt today.

Goals for the transition

11. There are a variety of circumstances that leave-takers face, according to their age, their time in the Family, whether they were raised in the Family, the ministries they held, etc., that will have a bearing on their transition. If the leave-taker has been serving overseas for many years, or in the case of a second generation member, was raised overseas in a country that is not their passport country, they will face certain challenges in integrating to their passport country that those living in their home country will not face. Younger second generation members may face different challenges than older ones, who may have more experience in business, finances, banking, etc. Other people whose primary ministry was to facilitate the mission work of their Home may not have the same preparation for establishing themselves. Those with small children will have different needs than singles. There is a wide range of experiences and circumstances that will play into the assistance and support a person will need to make a smooth transition, and I won't be able to cover those many nuances in this Letter.

12. The general principles, however, will apply, and you should take the time to prayerfully study them and to ask the Lord what you can do to support and assist those who transition from your Home. He will help you to formulate a plan that will encompass the specific needs of the individual.

13. In the case of leave-takers who were raised in the Family, and thus may lack tools they need to integrate smoothly into society, we need to acknowledge the challenges that they face in making the transition from a tightly knit, communal culture to a more individualistic society that is very different from the one they grew up in. We need to focus on nurturing their bonds with their personal families, as much as possible, so that people in transition don't feel alienated or cut off from their families and friends. We need to bear in mind that a second generation leave-taker's social networks have been built within the Family, including their personal families, friends, and peers. If this structure were to be dismantled due to their decision to pursue a different course for their lives, that would cause a period of instability and difficulty.

14. During the transition, most leave-takers will need a great deal of support, friendship, encouragement, and positive feedback to help them to get off to a good start. They will already be facing the enormous wrench of change from a Family-based culture to a secular one, and if they feel that all their networks are being shut down and their parents and siblings are distancing themselves, this can be very difficult. Generally speaking, over time their need for assistance and support will gradually lessen, as they will become established in their new life, build new social networks, and take on new interests and pursuits that occupy their time. But this will not happen quickly in most cases, and we must understand that the transition process takes time.

15. Our goal should be to provide the support, encouragement and help that leave-takers need, within our possibilities, so that their transition can be smooth and successful over time. I want to repeat those last two words: over time. I think we've had pretty unrealistic expectations about how long this transition should take. Considering that the person in transition is facing a complete change of culture, life, and career, it's reasonable to expect that it will take them a year or two on average to fully adjust to the change. Some people are naturally more adaptable and will find their footing more quickly. Others may take longer and they may need more support, encouragement, prayer, counsel, and advice until they have truly gotten on their feet.

16. Mama once said, "In the Family we really expect quick results! In our witnessing, our memory work, training of people, in almost everything, we think it all should be zip zap, abracadabra and it's done. … This quick-results attitude contributes to having a lack of patience, and even a lack of diligence and faithfulness. … We're used to reaping, bringing in the harvest, picking the fruit, but we're not so used to sowing and cultivating and nurturing, etc. So when we have to do some sowing and tending, we're impatient and not so diligent or faithful sometimes, because we want quick results" (ML #2939:19,21,23, Vol. 21).

17. I think this concept applies very much to our approach to leave-takers. We have to look at our assistance in the transition process as sowing, cultivating, and nurturing, and not as something to "move off our plate" as quickly as possible. How people are treated during that critical period is likely to have an impact on their faith and future happiness, and may well determine their future relationship with the Family.

Family culture

18. I want to talk a bit about Family culture, so that we can better understand the monumental change a leave-taker faces—even more so in the case of someone who was raised in the Family. The Family has its own unique culture, similar to how many countries have a strong national identity. The Family culture becomes a part of each person's life, regardless of whether they continue on with the Family or not, particularly if they were brought up in the Family or served the Lord with the Family for many years. Although they may choose another path in life, or circumstances may arise that lead to this, they will nevertheless still retain that cultural identity to some degree.

19. Have you seen those movies where someone from India, for example, immigrates to the U.S., and how they retain their culture despite having to adapt to a new one? Some fight against it, some try to go completely American and repudiate their past culture. But ultimately they can never be completely free of their past culture. It's a part of who they are at a very deep level, and it's part of what has made them who they are. Generally, these movies will depict how the person has to come to grips with who they are and learn how to integrate the culture that formed them with their new culture to become a complete and whole person.

20. It can be similar for Family members who transition to a secular life. They still retain part of the Family culture, and that bond will always exist, regardless of how our paths diverge. Many will feel somewhat lost in their new lives for some time, as they are accustomed to the Family culture, which, despite our shortcomings and lacks, is an embracing, warm culture where people trust each other and strive to take care of each other and live and work together in love. Their new lives will potentially lack these elements to some degree in most cases, or the ways in which these values are expressed will not be familiar, and that can be difficult to adjust to.

21. In some cases, Family-raised people may try to bury their past identity altogether and completely distance themselves from it, or they may become vocal or negative about it for a time while they sort out their new identity, and try to bridge from their past to their present. But even these types of extreme reactions show that their heritage continues to play a part in their lives.

22. It's important to understand that Family members (past and present) have a shared heritage and common experiences, regardless of the choices people may have made that resulted in their no longer living in the Family or being a member. We will have this shared heritage forever, and even if someone becomes negative about some aspect of their experiences, there is still a certain bond of shared culture and shared experiences that they carry with them and that makes us identify with each other.

23. When people have lived in the Family for many years, they have shared life experiences, faith, and happenings that are unique to the Family. No one else in the world has lived in this same way, and they will rarely find others who they can share this part of their life with on such a deep level. This is why it's important to do our best to help people—particularly those who have grown up in the Family—to not feel cut off from their heritage and culture, unless they personally choose to do so. Their heritage and culture are an important part of their lives, and alienating them from that can be a wrench and produce feelings of unhappiness.

24. If people can successfully integrate their new culture into their past life experiences, without feeling that they have to reject one to adopt the other, they are more likely to make a smooth and happy transition, and to maintain a positive outlook about their upbringing. They will be able to see it as part of who they are and what helped them to become the person they are.

Building bridges [box]

25. (Jesus:) When it comes to your relations with your former members, no matter what their current stance or viewpoints, the key and answer is love. I know that it isn't always easy to put into practice, but it's what I ask of you and what I expect of you. They are comrades who fought beside you in the war to win the world, who gave their blood, sweat, and tears for Me and My Kingdom.

26. Your goal should be to build and maintain bridges of communication and bonds of love, whenever possible, with those who depart from your fellowship. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but the best way is to build the bridge at the beginning of the journey so that the one who is leaving will have a place they know that they can come back to for fellowship, prayer, or just a time to chat. As many of you have learned through experience, how people leave has a major bearing on how they view their time in the Family. If they leave on a good note, feeling supported in their decision, given the help they need to get their footing in their new life, they'll be much more inclined to look back favorably on their time in the Family.

27. The more positive they feel about their time in the Family and the training that they have received, the better they will do in making their way through life, because a positive attitude is a healthy and productive one. Even if they go through a "disgruntled" stage at some point, it will be much less intense and will usually pass in time if their transition was prayerfully handled with love, support, and understanding.

28. You must remember that those who leave your ranks are moving from a supportive and faith-based lifestyle to a secular, individualistic one—and this results in a number of new challenges. For this reason, you must do all that you can to make the transition as easy as possible, and bear with them when they hit some bumps in the road. Some adapt quickly, others take longer, so be patient and understand that the transition will take time.

29. Being supportive of the choices that people make to pursue a different career or lifestyle is very important. I have given each person the majesty of free choice and I expect you, My loves, to respect that. Whether someone is your loved one, your son or daughter, or your best friend, you have to understand that I work in each life to bring about what is best for the individual, while respecting the decisions they have made. I will continue to be with them and work with them according to the choices that they make. As I have said, they will always be Mine.

30. What I ask is that you do all that you can to make the transition as easy as possible by being supportive and understanding of their decision, regardless of your personal opinion or perspective. This in itself will go a long way in building bridges and maintaining them in the future (Home Spokesperson Seminar; Former Member Relations).

The challenges

31. Now I'm going to address the main challenges leave-takers face once they decide to either retire from the Family or pursue a different career, and the assistance they need to make a successful transition. Some of the principles that I will cover will also apply to Family members who transition from a communal setting to a non-communal one, which can also be a big change and can pose a number of challenges, both practical and cultural, that are similar to those that leave-takers face. So please bear in mind that our dear mates and comrades who are in transition for any reason need our prayers, assistance, support, respect, and unconditional love.

32. Mama and I have received a number of letters from Family members and former members regarding the very real challenges and difficulties leave-takers in transition face. For those of us who haven't experienced this dramatic change in lifestyle and career, it's hard to even begin to imagine how difficult this can be, how much of a wrench it is. It can take people a long time to build new social networks (friendships, relationships, and associations), find their career niche, become established and financially stable, and find people to fellowship with spiritually. Some never find people who they are able to share their faith with on the same deep level as with other Family members. These are huge challenges.

33. In the case of first generation members who retire from the Family, they also face the challenge of establishing themselves at an older age, which isn't easy in most cultures. Second generation members face the challenge of becoming integrated in a world that they may have little experience in, and adapting to a culture that they may have little or no background in. They can face embarrassing moments, or moments of isolation or frustration when they are missing needed social tools or paperwork for the steps they want to take. They have to work with new financial realities and build a credit history.

34. The world has become increasingly complex over the past 40 years, and in many countries, citizens have to jump through a number of hoops and fulfill certain requirements to find employment, take out a loan, rent an apartment or house, or enter university or college. Granted, these requirements apply to everyone, but for a second generation leave-taker who has, for example, rarely or never lived in his or her passport country, and had little experience with this sort of paperwork due to our communal and missionary lifestyle, he or she will face some challenges and obstacles before integrating.

35. I'm outlining these challenges because I think many of us have tended to gloss over the difficulties and figure that the leave-taker made their decision and they'll just have to figure it out and live with the outcome of their choices. Lord help us, that's an uncharitable and unloving way to treat someone who has grown up in the Family or worked side by side with us over the years to help make our work possible. The last thing they need is to feel that the people they have lived and served with are begrudging their assistance, or feel that they don't deserve any kind of support or help after giving years of their lives to the Lord's service with the Family.

36. Mama and I are sorry that we have not focused more in the Word on the assistance and support that leave-takers need. We should have clearly directed the Family to show much more love and respect to those who retire from the Family or choose other careers. We should have emphasized the importance of showing love, not just in words or good intentions, but in deeds and in tangible ways to help provide what leave-takers need to make a smooth transition.

37. As things played out, the focus on protecting Family members from any negatives that could arise when people were in the process of leave-taking took precedence over the assistance and support the leave-takers would need. People tended to view the person, who the day before was working by their side, as a weak link in the spirit and someone who needed to be moved out of the Home as quickly as possible, whether they were ready or not, or had the funds and paperwork they needed. Many people felt that they needed to express or manifest their disapproval, and ultimately a number of leave-takers were made to feel like they had a contagious disease.

38. Parents started to worry that their children would be negatively affected by young people in transition. They became concerned that a young person who had decided not to be a Family member would plant seeds in their children's or young people's minds regarding leaving and opting for a different career. This led to the parents of the leave-taker in many cases feeling pressured to move their son or daughter out of the Home as quickly as possible, and that time spent helping their young person was time taken from the work and their Home responsibilities. This attitude was detrimental to the support and help that the leave-taker and parents may have needed, as well as the time they may have needed to invest in making a smooth transition. It's an attitude that needs to change and which we hope to eradicate with this series of Letters.

39. In many cases, little attention has been given to the fact that people need money when they leave our communities. If their Home isn't able to provide it, people need time to raise the necessary funds to be able to establish themselves. Unrealistic expectations have existed in many cases regarding the time needed for the leave-taker to transition, and they may have ended up moving out before they had what they needed to make a smooth transition. Or, in the case of teens or young adults, in the hurry to move them on, they may have been sent to live with former member siblings or relatives who weren't prepared to provide the assistance they needed, and this can ultimately cause a rift in their family, or place pressure on the siblings (or relatives) to take over the parenting of their younger brothers and sisters.

40. As you can see, this was not a good scenario, and it's not surprising that someone who leaves on this note might end up with negative or bitter feelings about the Family or individuals, and feel that they were mistreated. Nor is it likely that they would want to continue to visit, fellowship, return to Family membership, or work with the Family in some capacity if they felt shunned, disapproved of, and not welcome.

41. We need to adopt new mindsets toward those in transition to a new career or lifestyle. When someone is preparing to move out of the Family, we need to focus on working to ensure that they can make as smooth and successful a transition as possible, and feel loved, supported, and cared for, rather than worrying about what it will cost us or what the fallout might be to our Home, finances, or time.

42. We owe it to our Family members to help them when they choose to retire from the Family or pursue other careers, to offer our moral support, practical assistance, and to be kind, helpful, and accepting of their choices. I'll address the issues of concern about negative influences on children or other young people with counsel on how to manage those situations further on in this Letter. But suffice it to say that regardless of the attitudes of the person in transition, we must do our best to offer our love, support, and assistance.

Seven steps to a successful transition

43. I'm going to go over some basic steps for helping leave-takers to make a successful transition. Please bear in mind that these are general steps, and the needs of leave-takers will vary according to the situation and circumstances. So please be sure to ask the Lord for guidance for your specific situation, communicate with the leave-taker, and counsel together as to how to best assist the person making the transition.

44. Step One: Attitude. A successful transition starts with our attitudes and expectations toward our leave-takers. We need to adopt a positive mindset regarding Family members who opt to pursue a different career. Once someone has made a decision to retire from the Family and pursue a different career path, you should do what you can to provide the assistance and support your co-worker and comrade in arms needs to find their footing in their new life. It's not your job to pressure them to change their mind, or gossip about them, or even worse, to predict that it won't go well for them, as proof that they made a mistake by leaving. That is never your call to make, and certainly not the right way to treat your co-laborer, friend, and brother or sister. There should be no negative stigma attached to their decision or their future.

45. In the case of second generation members, as Mama outlined in "Successful Parenting Today" (ML #3785, GN 1290), our job and responsibility is to prepare our children for life so that they can be successful in the career of their choosing, whether as missionaries, which we give them a lot of training and preparation for, or in other careers that they feel called to or choose to pursue.

46. Once a young adult makes the decision to pursue a different course in life and has determined to strike out and try something different, our job of preparing them to make this life choice is completed, and it's time to switch gears. At that point, we need to shift from focusing on mainly assisting the young person in their discipleship and missionary service, to supporting and assisting them as they launch out on the next leg of their life journey, which may or may not include some degree of ongoing involvement with the Family and our mission.

47. If you are to successfully shift gears and assist the young person in transition, this is not the time for lamentations or remorse, much less expressions of disappointment and disapproval. Once the young adult has made a firm decision regarding their future, it's time to set aside any expectations you may have nurtured as a parent of their pursuing a missionary career, and place your focus on how to assist and support your young person through the transition and, beyond that, to excel in the career of their choosing in the future. Show that you have faith in them and speak positively of their future.

48. The parents or those assisting the person in transition will also need to feel the support of other members of the Home in allowing them to invest the time and resources needed to assist the leave-taker. You will need to look at this as an investment in the life and future of the person, and in the case of teens or young adults, this is an important responsibility.

49. A successful transition and good relations with former members begins right here—with your attitudes toward those in the process of leave-taking. Your goal at this stage should be to be supportive and provide all the assistance possible for the leave-taker to make a smooth and successful transition.

50. Step Two: Don't underestimate the challenges. It's important not to underestimate the dimensions of the change that leave-takers face, particularly those who have grown up in the Family. If we're going to be successful at building bridges, it's very important that we understand that the transition from Family culture to secular culture can be quite challenging, and in some cases very difficult.

51. Bear in mind that the Family is the main point of cultural reference for most leave-takers, certainly for those of the second and third generation. Be realistic. Don't underestimate how much it will entail for the person to make the transition, depending on their personality and aptitude. If you don't factor in how profound this change will be and the culture shock that they may undergo, this can cause you to have a less tolerant or less sympathetic mindset. You could become impatient and expect them to make a quick break and "move on." This could lead to those departing feeling like they aren't being supported or appreciated because of the lifestyle changes they are embarking on. It's heartbreaking that someone would leave feeling that they are no longer valued or loved, or that their years of service for the Lord and the Family are not taken into account once they choose to depart or take up a different lifestyle.

52. A good question to ask yourselves when someone is transitioning from the Family is: Are you building bridges for them to freely cross back over, or are you blowing them up behind them?

(Peter:) In order for us to have an expanded Family, we're going to have to take on a much more inclusive, welcoming mindset. We need a culture change. We need to look at all circles of membership as important, and each person in the Family as the vital comrades in arms that they are. They are our friends, co-workers, and part of our team of the united, inclusive, welcoming, loving Family. …

We've got to wipe out any self-righteousness that exists, any criticalness, distrust, superiority, or inferiority. … We need to look at how we can create an atmosphere that draws people in rather than pushing them away. … Are we blowing up bridges or are we building them?

This inclusive mindset needs to pervade our current circles of membership as well, and even our interactions with our former members, not just our future members. All mindsets of division between circles of membership, or upper and lower levels, need to be smashed and replaced with the new (ML #3682:174,181-182,189, GN 1243).

53. Building bridges for future communication, networking, friendship, and positive relations with leave-takers starts at the transition, which is the beginning of the journey. If people leave on a good note, feeling appreciated and supported in their decision, having received the help they needed to get established in their new life, they will be in a much better position to weather the storms they may face during the time of changing cultures. They'll also be more likely to continue to stay connected to the Family in some way, or to view the Family as their faith base, and to avail themselves of the fellowship and spiritual support of their family and friends.

54. Step Three: Provide practical assistance. When someone has decided to pursue another path in life, one of your first steps should be to pray together and assess what practical assistance you're able to provide for the leave-taker, to help them get off to a good start. For example, perhaps the Lord will show you that you should help them to rent a room or an apartment, and pay a few months rent to get them started. You might decide to make sure they have found a job and are set up with whatever paperwork and references they need before leaving.

55. Or in another case, perhaps a young person wants to return to his or her passport country, but has rarely or never lived there before. The Lord may show the parents that one or both of them should go and assist the young person for a time, helping them to get set up in an apartment, to find a job, or to apply for a grant to attend university, or to take courses in whatever profession they choose to pursue.

56. Or the Lord may show you that you should allow the person in transition to take on secular employment while remaining in the Home, to save funds for a few months until they are in a better position to establish themselves.

57. Getting young leave-takers set up in their new environment is not likely to be the end of the process, but rather the beginning. Even after the initial period of helping your child get set up, some arrangement may need to be made for the parents to continue to spend time and travel, when necessary, to maintain bonds of support and to stay involved in their children's lives. They will also need to stay connected from afar, when their child is in another country, through phone calls or e-mail. It is important for parents to maintain contact with their children through the ups and downs of life, to offer stability and moral support. This is an ongoing process.

58. In the case of teens who are still minors, they might remain in the Home, living with their parents, though no longer considered a Family member, until they finish their education and are prepared to launch out on their own. Or the parents (or one of them) may have to take a leave of absence from the Home to assist them for a longer period of time, until they are adults and are prepared to take control of their own lives. Parents should look at this as their God-given responsibility and an investment in the child and their overall well-being. In some cases, it may work out for your minor to reside with someone else while attending school and starting a new life, under your supervision. If this option is pursued, ultimately the responsibility for their well-being continues to be yours, as a parent; that is not a responsibility that you can or should disconnect from or expect others to shoulder for you.

59. These are just a few examples of the many practical ways you can (and should) consider for preparing those leaving from your Home to be able to seek employment, rent an apartment, or apply for university or college. For example, you can work with them to prepare a résumé to present when they apply for employment, helping them to articulate their experience and background in terms that will reflect their qualifications. Or, where applicable, letters of recommendation from friends or contacts who know them can be helpful, attesting to their job experience. They will also need references for jobs, and it's important that they have a contact point of someone who can serve as a reference for their work experience. This can be critical for them to land a good job in line with their qualifications and experience. (For information on drafting résumés and curriculum vitae, see the [ED] Board Handbook, section 5, "Résumés and Curriculum Vitae.")

60. In the case of Family-raised leave-takers, it's very important to ensure that their school records are in order and will serve them either for landing a job or applying for higher education, so that they can easily transition from the Family to the job market or higher education, according to what they choose to do. School records, résumés, and letters of recommendation can help leave-takers to document their qualifications and experience, so that they can effectively capitalize on the experience, skills, and training that they have gained during their time in the Family, and use it to their benefit in the job market or in furthering their studies.

61. A professional résumé or portfolio of their work experience as missionaries, school records in order and in line with local expectations, recommendation letters and personal references are all needed tools for a smooth transition. (Note: Please contact your regional CCR or ED board if you need assistance in compiling this information according to the requirements of your country.)

62. Bear in mind that leave-takers will generally need some finances to help them get started. This will vary according to the situation, how they will establish themselves, how quickly they secure employment, etc. If your Home is not able to assist with the finances needed for someone transitioning from your Home or moving from a communal to a non-communal setup to get established so that they can launch into their new life, you should discuss and pray about realistic ways to raise those funds, whether by the person or persons involved being freed from their responsibilities to fundraise or to take on a temporary job to save toward the transition, or by the Home designating fundraising days toward this need, etc. Discuss and decide together how much money will be needed for people to establish themselves in their new life; in other words, to the point that they have a place of residence and are able to secure a job. Be realistic, both concerning the financial needs of the departing member as well as the Home's ability to assist financially. In other words, it's not likely that you'll be able to help finance someone's ongoing education, but you should work to make it possible for them to raise the funds needed to rent a room or apartment and to be able to support themselves. Do your best as a Home to pray in the funds and make it possible for leave-takers to depart with the necessary funds to get started in their new life.

63. Coming up with goals and a concrete plan as a Home is essential to ensure that the needs of the person leaving your Home are properly attended to, and that when they move out, they are prepared to enter the work force or to pursue higher education.

64. As a final point, you'll want to consider holding a farewell party or time of appreciation, and take advantage of the opportunity to pray for the person preparing to transition from your Home and to show them how grateful you are for all that they invested in the Lord's work and in your Home.

65. Step Four: Nurture family ties. It's tremendously important to nurture family ties during this transition period, as much as possible. Remember, a leave-taker may be transitioning out of the Family, but they are not transitioning out of their personal family.

66. This is a crucial time, as parents and siblings, to stay close to your loved one, and to provide all the support and unconditional love that you can and that they are open to. This is not a time to air disapproval or to distance yourself from your son or daughter if you don't agree with the life choices they are making. Showing understanding and support, even if the leave-taker is going through a difficult time or is on a negative channel, will help to pave the way to ongoing relations.

67. Young people in transition often need and depend on the moral support and bond with their parents and siblings. Until they form new social networks, their personal family will in many cases be their primary network for some time, and will be very needed. They shouldn't feel pressured to either be part of your world, as a Family member, or to move away from you and your world altogether. You will always be their parents and siblings, regardless of the choices each of you make and the careers and paths each pursue. You may have to agree to disagree on some issues, but that shouldn't result in a breakdown of relations in most cases. Young people who feel a strong bond with their family tend to have a much easier time with the transition and are more stable and happy, regardless of the challenges they face in their new lives.

68. If your former member child or sibling is no longer interested in hearing about spiritual things, you can still stay close on a personal family basis, and continue to offer encouragement, support, and guidance, and you can continue to pray for them and show your love. It's important to not make your son or daughter feel that if they are no longer a Family member, they will also lose their parents and family. If you show them that you sincerely accept and support their decisions, and you avoid placing pressure on them to conform to your expectations, they will be more likely to feel that they can remain close. That should be your goal.

(Mama:) [W]hen your children grow into adulthood, you have to step back and accept that their choices are theirs. Your job is to prepare them as well as you can, and then to accept that there are choices that only they can make.

Your children will choose their own path in life. This is something that all parents face. You can let their choices bother you and disappoint you and alienate you from them, or you can choose to love them unconditionally, to be proud of them in the ways they do well, to offer advice when they ask for it, and be wise enough to know when it's best to say nothing.

How you react to your children's choices will largely determine the relationship you will have with them. If they feel loved and that you trust them to live their own lives, they will most likely respect you in return. If you make them feel that you're disappointed in them, that they're failing, or that you're not accepting of their choices, they'll likely pull away, reject your counsel, and will not want to have a close relationship with you (ML #3785:94-96, GN 1290).

69. Step Five: Capitalize on the benefits. It's important to help leave-takers to be able to capitalize on the many positive benefits of their upbringing or work and life experiences garnered during their time in the Family. Over the years, there have been a number of second generation leave-takers who have taken on negative perspectives, such as underselling themselves, feeling inferior or as if they've been disadvantaged due to the differences in their upbringing. In many cases, they will need your help to be able to capitalize on the many advantages and benefits of their unique upbringing, and to showcase their skills, experience and qualifications. Of course, in doing so, you will need to ensure that the presentation is accurate and realistic, and relatable to society.

70. There is an academic field of study known as "Third Culture Kids" (TCKs), which refers to people who spend their childhood in a culture or country that is not their parents' original culture, due to their parents having careers in the diplomatic corps, the military, or religious missions. The studies these academics have published focus on the challenges that third culture kids face when transitioning from the culture they grew up with (for example, on a military base, or within a Christian missionary organization in a foreign country) to their passport culture.

71. A key point these researchers highlight is the need to help those who transition to focus on the many positive benefits their third culture lifestyle has brought to their lives, and to capitalize on those advantages to get ahead in their new lives.

Third Culture Kids can be talented, resourceful persons who relate with great facility across cultural boundaries. Adaptability is a strength seen in many who have sustained multiple moves in childhood. Such people often display an adventuresome spirit and enjoy a highly developed sense of humor. Strong defense systems developed in the course of surviving multicultural encounters serve them well in meeting threatening situations. …Multilingual fluency, a high degree of global-mindedness, and broad perspectives seen in most TCKs equip them for careers in the growing global economy. Sadly, many Third Culture Kids underestimate and devalue their most marketable skills.—John and Diane Larsen

The benefits of a TCK lifestyle are enormous. Many adult TCKs are maximizing the potential of these benefits in their lives. Unfortunately, others are not. For some, the challenges of the TCK experience have been overwhelming, seemingly canceling out the many benefits—a sad waste for both the TCKs and the world around them. … A better understanding of some of these benefits and challenges will help TCKs and adult TCKs everywhere to use the gifts of their heritage well.—David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, The Third Culture Kids

72. These studies have found that third culture kids, generally speaking, have often had a privileged upbringing in many ways, and the opportunity to learn skills and gain experiences that prepare them in unique ways to be successful in the world. Many Family members have also had wonderful opportunities to acquire skills through their exposure to other cultures, including learning foreign languages and interacting with a wide range of people. The social skills, language skills, cross-cultural skills, communication skills, and the adaptability they have learned in the Family can be very valuable in the job market if properly showcased.—Not to mention people-handling skills, teamwork abilities, and work ethic. It's easy to undervalue these important qualities and skills, as they are a part of our everyday lives and service as missionaries, but they are highly valued in the job market.

73. We should be proud of leave-takers who work hard to adapt and to succeed in the careers of their choice. We should do our part to facilitate their success by helping them to capitalize on the benefits of their life and job experience in the Family and the many skills they have acquired that qualify them to be successful.

74. Step Six: Be supportive. People in transition need to feel our support, particularly young people in the process of determining what they want to do in life. It's unlikely that they will feel supported and assisted if you or others are either verbally or nonverbally communicating your disapproval or disappointment in their choice. Even if you are saying the right things, but in your heart you are judging them, they will sense your true feelings on the matter. You can say and do all the right things, but if you haven't truly settled the matter in your heart and you haven't reconciled their decision with the Lord to where you can wholeheartedly support them in their choice to pursue a different career, it will show, and they'll get the vibes. It's not enough to just go through the motions—it won't be right without the Lord's spirit of genuine love and acceptance.

75. As parents, we need to adopt an attitude of faith for our children and trust in the Lord for them and for their future. They will always be His, and He will never leave them or forsake them, no matter what turns and twists their life's journey brings them through. His Word will never return void and His Spirit will always be a present force in their lives. We need to manifest faith in their ability to succeed in their new path in life, and encourage them to do well and to reach their goals. Being supportive means genuinely encouraging them to reach their full potential and be the best they can be at the career they choose.

76. I want to share with you some excerpts of personal lessons an FGA parent wrote about a visit with her former member daughter, which I believe contain important lessons for all of us in our relations with second generation leave-takers:

77. I learned something about myself on my last visit to see my daughter, which I believe made a profound difference in making my trip the success that it was.

78. I prayed a fair bit beforehand about my visit with my daughter and any personal counsel the Lord had for me. In the course of doing so, I came to realize that deep down—almost subconsciously—I felt I was a little bit "better [than others]." Better because I'd made the "right choices" to serve the Lord. But the Lord really zeroed in on my spiritual pride and how I needed to manifest a large measure of humility. I needed to apologize, to recognize my past mistakes and ask for forgiveness, to explain past actions, if need be. I basically needed to humble myself, and it wasn't supposed to be a vain show of humility, but a sincere and honest belief deep down in my heart that I really and truly am no better than anyone else. In fact, I'd made mistakes and needed to ask forgiveness of others I'd wronged or hurt by my words, attitudes or actions. This included my daughter, as well as my relatives.

79. I think that until I came to that realization that I was thinking that I was somehow better, my attempts in the natural—even my words and actions—didn't have that genuine sincerity behind them. That's because my heart wasn't changed; I didn't fully believe that I was no better than them. The good news is that He did change my heart and humble me, and I believe my daughter and my relatives sincerely felt it.

80. I believe this lack of humility is at the core of labeling or judging others—even within the different circles of Family membership. It's not even so much in one's words and actions—it's something that's picked up in the spirit. Even people who don't know the Lord are sensitive to this.

81. The Lord's encouragement to us about our future, the fulfillment of all of His promises about us being His Endtime army, His bride, etc., can minister to our spiritual pride, and try as we may to be humble and not think of ourselves as being better than anyone else, it just seems to be something that can easily happen without us being fully aware of it.

82. (Peter:) Please ask the Lord for His unconditional love and humility in your interactions with leave-takers, so that you will be supportive, caring, and welcoming. Let's kill any mindsets of intolerance or condescension, and judgmental attitudes toward others. "We need a whole lot more good old-fashioned love! Basically, we all need to be more like Jesus, Who loves each person unconditionally, will use anyone to be His vessel, and wants us all to work together in cooperation, respect, and camaraderie" (ML #3682:190, GN 1243).

83. Leave-takers who feel supported, in particular by their personal families and friends, but also by other Family members, generally seem to have a much easier time transitioning, and they can tend to feel more confident in their ability to do well. They're also more likely to ask for prayer and counsel and stay spiritually connected to some degree. Without that support, they can feel as if they're on their own in the big wide world, and don't have anyone to turn to, and that's certainly not helpful at that crucial period of their lives.

84. Step Seven: Keep your doors open. If someone leaves the Family, they should feel that the Family is still their home base or community of faith, if they so choose, and that they are completely welcome—that it's their family, their network. They should feel that the people they lived and worked with still care about them and want to be part of their life, and that they can come back in the future, or work with the Family toward our mission and goals in some way. They should feel that they still belong, if they wish to.

85. As a parent, it's important to keep your doors open and to not shut your son or daughter out of your life, as a response to the times when they go through a rough patch, or flounder while they are finding their footing. Many young people experience this in society at large, and it would be unrealistic to expect that none of our leave-takers will experience this. It won't be helpful if every time they run into a difficulty or obstacle, you attempt to tell them they made a mistake in leaving the Family. They should expect to run into some problems or make mistakes along the way, and so should you, and you should do your part to speak faith and to point them in positive directions.

86. Although your goal should be to help the leave-taker to make as smooth and successful a transition as possible, you need to be realistic and realize that they may hit some bumps in the road, make some poor choices while learning through experience, or run into some unexpected difficulties. In fact, they may run into some pretty major obstacles or make some pretty big mistakes along the way, as do many people in the world. That's life, and you should be prepared to take that in stride and to keep doing your best to be supportive, caring, and to offer counsel and guidance when possible and helpful.

87. Let's keep our departing and former members in our prayers, that they can make a smooth transition and build happy, successful, and stable lives. Let's keep our doors open to them as much as possible, so that they can feel free to maintain close ties with the Family and to consider the Family their fellowship of faith. The Lord has indicated that many at some point in time will choose to serve the Lord with us, and in order for that to happen, we have to build bridges and keep the doors of our hearts and Homes open to receive them. (See ML #3349:100-102,105-112, Vol. 28.)

88. Many Homes and parents have done a wonderful job in assisting leave-takers to make a good transition. Mama and I want to commend those of you who have invested the time, effort, love, prayer, and care to help our members in transition to get off to a good start and to do well in their new lives. We encourage you to continue to invest the time and love needed to help those in the process of pursuing a different career or lifestyle. It's never too late to offer your encouragement, love, and care to those who didn't get off to a good start. Often, that's what they need most—just to feel your support, acceptance, and love.

When leave-takers take on negative perspectives

89. You may be wondering how realistic being supportive and welcoming is in the event that leave-takers begin to take on negative perspectives about their upbringing and life in the Family or our doctrines and practices, and become somewhat vocal about their opinions. Some may go as far as to participate in a negative program or article about the Family, or to make very negative comments on a chat board. They might seem to be taking tainted perspectives on board and recasting their lives from a negative viewpoint.

90. If your former member son or daughter is on a negative track regarding their experiences in the Family, your first course of action should be to pray for them, and to patiently try to help them to work through the issues. Be open to discussing the issues (and you may need to do so again and again until they find closure on the matter) and do your best to openly and honestly answer their questions, address their concerns, and apologize for past mistakes or wrongs. Even if their take on matters may seem exaggerated to you, or that their memory of the incident is disproportionate to the actual event, make an effort to be concerned, caring, and sympathetic. This will go a long way toward helping your son or daughter to sort through issues and reach a place of understanding and balance.

91. It's quite normal for childhood memories to take on larger than life dimensions. But remember, the experiences children have can also affect them much more greatly due to their lack of experience or their inability to control things that happen around them.

92. Although you may have to clarify certain things to help your son or daughter sort through memories, it's important to not belittle their feelings or how they're seeing or interpreting events from the past. This can alienate them rather than helping them to work through the issues. Do your best to be responsive and to provide a sounding board for them, so that they will feel free to communicate and hopefully reach a place of resolution. Avoid taking their comments personally, even if they are presented in a somewhat personal or aggressive way. Do your best to remain nonjudgmental, concerned, and focused on helping your young person work through the issues.

93. Mama and I realize that it can be a trying experience when your son or daughter falls into a negative cycle, and it can give rise to sadness and discouragement. In such cases, we need to pray and ask the Lord to help them to work through the issues and come through with a stronger bond with their family, so that they are able to process things from a more positive standpoint. It won't be helpful if you become angry, overly emotional, reproaching, or despairing. Try to take an open approach and make it clear that as a parent, you're "on their side" and are concerned about them and their lives, rather than trying to defend yourself, your lifestyle, or the Family.

94. A number of parents have commented that they have apologized (often repeatedly) to their children for past mistakes or hurts, and attempted to bring closure to the issues. They've found that their son or daughter will bring up the issues yet again, placing the parents in the position of having to go over the issue again, and explain and apologize again. This process has also occurred with a number of first generation former members.

95. Although this can be somewhat disheartening at the time, and it's easy to take on the position that you have already apologized, so why don't they just accept it and move past it, many parents have come to look at the positive side: that their son or daughter was at least continuing to dialogue and talk about their issues. I think you'll often find, as many have discovered, that once the leave-taker has processed the issue they were stuck on, even if that necessitates several discussions, their communications will become more constructive. Once your son or daughter reaches a point of closure, they'll often move past the issue that they were having such a hard time processing, while keeping their relationship with their parents intact. That's the goal, as whether or not they remain close to the Family, their relationship with their parents and personal family is important.

96. As a reminder, just because a former member is going through a rough patch, that doesn't make them an "enemy," nor does it mean they will become an apostate at some point. We have very few apostates. Most former members who go through a negative period move on with their lives and eventually leave that stage behind. Don't assume that because a former member is going through a difficult time regarding their past experiences in the Family, they will always remain in that negative cycle. We need to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible, and pray for the Lord to work in their lives, to help them to move in more positive directions. When it comes to handling negative cycles, we need to exercise as much patience and understanding as possible, and give people time to work through issues that trouble them.

(Peter:) …This doesn't mean that all complaints from former members or stories that recount negative experiences are false or exaggerated, nor does it make every former member who has complaints an apostate. Sadly, things happened to some people during their time in the Family that shouldn't have happened, and such things have happened to a number of folks who are no longer in the Family. Therefore, when some former members tell their personal stories, they are simply recounting what happened to them. …

Clearly the person feels negative to some degree about their past, and that in itself warrants praying for them. Don't get all in a huff and claim it's all lies, or swear that such a thing never happened to them or to anyone in the Family. On the other hand, don't take in everything said as the absolute truth or accept it without question just because that's what they said happened. Most importantly, don't let their story stumble you; take it to the Lord and pray for the person.

Be Christian about it. Realize that they may be unhappy and hurt and trying to deal with their past. Pray for them. Be kind to them. Love them. Don't take it upon yourself to judge the situation. …

Please understand, though, that some of them carry hurts from the past. Don't judge them, don't condemn them; please love them and pray for them (ML #3673:109-111,113, GN 1236).

Cycles of life

97. A point I want to touch on briefly is the importance of not labeling people by a specific period or decision they make. It's easy to take a snapshot of people's lives according to a specific point in time, such as when someone leaves our movement or when they go through a negative period. People's lives will rarely be a snapshot, however, and the life of each of us is much more like a film, and can't be encapsulated in one frame representing one period of time.

98. Some leave-takers will go through a period of battling heavy doubts about their faith, or will seem to turn away from their faith altogether, only to return to it once certain issues are resolved and they reach a place of peace in their heart. Other leave-takers, particularly those who experience a rocky transition, may go through a negative period—in some cases, a very negative one. During this time, they may express very negative sentiments regarding their upbringing and the Family, and they may place the blame on the Family or their parents for the difficulties they face. Some may even end up being interviewed once or twice by a reporter, or participating on a negative discussion board.

99. Most, however, will not remain at that place of negativity, and will ultimately move forward to more positive and fruitful endeavors. If these difficult periods are handled with wisdom and understanding, many will be able to find resolution and lay their issues to rest and move on to building more positive relations with others. So it's important not to blow up bridges and assume that because someone is going through a negative or difficult patch, they will stay at that place forever. Avoid labeling someone as an enemy or apostate because they have been interviewed for an article or expressed negative views of their upbringing in a public forum, and continue to dialogue with them as much as you are able. This can make all the difference between helping them through the negative cycle and building relations or permanently rupturing them.

100. Of course, in some cases leave-takers will become active detractors or apostates, and you may find that despite your best intentions to dialogue and resolve issues, they will choose to break all relations with anyone still a member of the Family, their personal family included. Once you have done your part to attempt to communicate and restore relations, and to show yourself available to respond to their issues and concerns, if they choose to not communicate any further, that's also their personal choice, and you should respect it. The Lord has promised that they will always be His, and we can look forward to the future when He will reconcile all things. You can also continue to commit them to the Lord's care through your prayers.

Establishing parameters

101. There may be cases where you will decide you need to establish parameters in your interactions with a leave-taker who visits your Home, if that person has a negative impact on others. In such cases, it may be helpful if the contact is limited to certain people or to the parents in the case of a young person, rather than everyone being exposed to negative issues. In any case, it's important to counsel together and ask the Lord how to handle the contact in situations where the Home is being negatively affected. Of course, the decision the Home makes regarding contact is independent of the contact that parents will have with their children, and the parents' contact with their former member children is not something that should be discouraged. The parents (and/or siblings) may need to meet outside the Home in the case of leave-takers who create friction or have a negative influence on the children in the Home.

102. Bear in mind, however, that those who decide to leave the Family will in most cases no longer hold to some of our lifestyle practices or perspectives, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will have a negative impact on the Home. Realistically, Family children and teens will have an increased exposure to many new elements coming their way with the Offensive and the wider range of education options, and they will need to be prepared for the fact that not everyone will adhere to our perspectives and practices. If leave-takers are not vocally opposing our beliefs or lifestyle, and are not attempting to inculcate negative or harmful perspectives in others, we should be able to explain to our children where they're coming from. Our children should be able to learn to accept and understand them, just as they will need to do with the friends and acquaintances who will become an increasing part of our lives.

103. We need to extend the same acceptance, tolerance, and respect to leave-takers that we do to other friends, contacts, and members. We can't judge their current behavior by their past membership, and expect that they should "know better" or maintain our Family requirements, lifestyle practices, and norms. That wouldn't be realistic, as in most cases, if they felt called to adhere to these practices, they'd probably still be living in a Family Home. So you should avoid categorizing someone as a "negative influence" solely on the basis of whether they no longer promote Family doctrine, practice, and lifestyle norms.

104. Of course, if someone is promoting the drug culture, for example, or badmouthing your beliefs, or promoting things that are detrimental and harmful, that would be a negative influence, and one that you would not condone in your Home, where your children will be exposed. But if they are full of their subject about their job, their education, or lifestyle, this wouldn't necessarily constitute a negative influence or be a sign that you should disallow someone from visiting your Home.

105. As a Home, you should establish parameters for your interaction with visitors, and you should clarify those parameters with leave-takers if they are overstepping the boundaries, as you would with any other visitor. It's not necessary to verbalize rules for leave-takers who visit, any more than you would with other visitors, but if you find that some of their attitudes are becoming a negative, that would be a good time to let them know what the "house rules" are, so to speak, and ask them to respect the guidelines your Home has established. If the leave-taker is unwilling to abide by these guidelines, then you can pray and decide as a Home whether to limit contact to visits outside the Home or establish other safeguards.

106. As you seek to be more inclusive, while maintaining the standard of your "house rules," continue to ask the Lord and counsel together as a Home on your interactions with all your visitors, so that these interactions will be fruitful, loving, and welcoming.

Pray for our loved ones

107. As a final, but very important point, I want to emphasize the importance of praying for our loved ones in transition, and for all our former members. I'd like to ask that you take some time at your next united prayer vigil to commit these dear ones to your prayers, that the Lord will bless them and guide them in their lives, that He will help them to maintain a spiritual connection with Him, and that He will protect them, provide for them, and help them to make good choices that will guide them along a fruitful and positive path.

108. Please pray for anyone in the process of leaving, that they will be able to make a smooth transition, and that they can achieve emotional and financial stability, and do well in their education and career pursuits. Pray that they can capitalize on the benefits of the many skills and life experience garnered in their years with us.

109. Please pray that the Lord can help each of us to do our part to be loving and welcoming of our leave-takers, so that they will know that they can always consider the Family their faith base, and a place where they can continue to find friendship, spiritual fellowship, and support. Let's ask Him to help us to have the right attitude—a caring, supportive, and accepting attitude—toward our leave-takers, so that we can do our part to offer them the assistance they need.

110. Thanks for praying, dear Family, and thanks for putting feet to those prayers by doing your part to extend the Lord's love to our leave-takers.


Copyright © 2009 by The Family International