Former Missionary Kid Examines Childhood Struggles, Worthiness of Missions

Thousands of children of Christian workers in each generation spend a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents culture of origin—often in more than one location and all in the name of serving as Christian missionaries.

The parents believe they are doing God’s will, but what about the hardships that these missionary kids face? Is the cause really worth the price that these kids pay? In a frank and honest look inside the life of one missionary kid, Mary Anne Phemister tells her unusual story in Lessons from a Broken Chopstick: A memoir of a peculiar childhood.

Born to American parents during a World War II Japanese air raid in China, Mary Anne’s life started off drastically different than do the lives of most Americans. Like many parents w
ho are on mission with God in a foreign land, Mary Anne Phemister’s father was resolute in his zeal to lead the lost people of China and later Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan out of spiritual darkness. So, as required by their mission organization, by the time Mary Anne was 4-years old her parents sent her off to the first of three boarding schools. During the few years she was with her parents, Mary Anne remembers a strict household with a strained relationship between her mother and dad.

Through Lessons from a Broken Chopstick, Mary Anne discusses her interesting life experiences, confusing feelings and difficult circumstances and also talks about her visits as an adult back to China, Vietnam and Hong Kong. With amazing sensitivity, insight, forgiveness and even humor she delves into the various issues she and her siblings encountered in their unusual lives. Amid her stories of playing with pet turkeys, evacuating from the communist regime and getting a new hairdo for the American school, Mary Anne divulges her deeper issues of identity crisis, moments of self-actualization and her struggle to understand why her parents lived as they did.

In an endorsement of the book, David M. Howard, former international director of World Evangelical Alliance, writes: “A fascinating book! The author opens her heart with amazing detail about her peculiar childhood and upbringing. Her openness as she delves into long-hidden closets of her life gives power and credibility to her story.”

Mary Anne Phemister is a nurse, author, mother, grandmother, and wife of noted concert pianist Bill Phemister.

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