TCKs generally feel and recognize a special fraternal bond with other TCKs, no matter what part of the world they’ve come from. MuKappa capitalizes on that built-in belongingness.

By MKs For MKS

The embryo stage of MuKappa was spawned at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. A group of missionary kids [MKs] got together and found out that they had some unique needs related to their experience of growing up overseas. Because they had ties with a foreign culture, the school expected them to integrate into the international student organization.

Sure, they shared with those students the experience of having been raised in another culture than North American culture. And, like them, they were a long way from family, friends, and the familiar. But some of the MKs didn’t feel at home in the international club. The MKs desired not to be distinctively foreign, but to integrate into overall student life.

The MKs had a different transition to college; different even from their North American classmates. They wanted to have a part in helping other MKs adjust to college life, and to living in the United States in general. They realized that few understood that transitional time in an MK’s life better than another MK.

So the MKs at Taylor brainstormed the idea of starting their own organization on campus.

With the understanding support of faculty member Dale Sloat and his wife Bonnie (former missionaries to Brazil), Nate Peterson and four other MKs established an organization called MuKappa — taken from the Greek letters for “M” and “K.” Nate became the first president of MuKappa. A constitution was written, officers were elected, and a program for the coming year was outlined.

One of their first projects was to go to the Admissions Office of the school and secure the names of all the MKs who had applied for enrollment. They wrote a letter to each one, stating that if they came to Taylor, they would find a group of MKs already there who were committed to helping them through those transitional years.

Although Taylor was not the first college to have a student-generated MK group on campus, the name “MuKappa” took hold as they promoted, “By MKs – for MKs.” It was an example of MKs reaching out to one another.

The program swiftly succeeded, so much so that Taylor University received numerous inquiries from other colleges about establishing MuKappa Chapters on their campuses.

The Taylor students did not have the capability to expand the organization beyond its campus, so Jim and Ruth Lauer visited the Taylor campus and met with the MuKappa members, officers, and sponsors. The Lauers were working with Wycliffe Bible Translators to help that organization’s MKs adjust to college.

The group explored the potential dynamics of a nationwide network of MuKappa Chapters. After much prayer and further meetings, it was decided that Jim and Ruth Lauer would take the program beyond Taylor University.

They used the 1987 Urbana Missions Conference as a networking springboard to begin this ministry and MuKappa International was born. As directors of MuKappa, the Lauers facilitated the ministry to college-age MKs in transition through local campus Chapters.

In 1990, the Lauers and MuKappa moved under the umbrella of Barnabas International, a nondenominational agency committed to encouraging those in missions. Ten years later, in May 2000, the Lauers turned over the leadership of MuKappa to Perry Bradford who became the new Director.

Perry began his ministry to MKs back in 1980 as an MK teacher in Papua New Guinea. Perry and his wife Sandi joined MuKappa alongside the Lauers starting in 1994, when they returned from 10 years overseas and continued in MuKappa after the Lauers left Barnabas.

When Perry put out a plea for the need for MuKappa representatives, Judy Keith joined the team in 2004.

In 2012, Perry turned over the leadership of MuKappa to Donna Messenger. Donna came to Barnabas in 2008 from fifteen years with another mission agency (serving in Ukraine for much of that time), and ten previous years in college administration at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tammy Sharp came to Barnabas in 2017 after fifteen years serving MKs in another mission agency. In 2019 Donna turned over the leadership of MuKappa to Tammy but remains serving MuKappa as a Consultant.

The goals of MuKappa International remain much the same as they did in the early days at Taylor — offering fellowship, encouragement, and support to college students who are assimilating into American culture. MuKappa continues to provide cultural, practical, social, emotional, and spiritual direction.

Today, the name “MuKappa” is retained to honor the history of the organization, but we recognize the complexity and diversity on campuses. Throughout our website we use third culture kid [TCK], but we know and understand that our Chapters serve students with unique intercultural traditions.