“The Happy Room”

Just finished reading The Happy Room by Catherine Palmer, a fictionalized account of growing up as a missionary kid in Africa. Very interesting parallels with the Assembly.

Children of missionaries are now termed “third culture kids”. I think many Assembly kids fit that category. Some AKs were allowed a certain level of cultural participation. They may have taken part in Christmas events at school, had posters of pop stars in their rooms, or attended the prom, but many felt very alienated from their peers because they were prohibited from so many aspects of American culture.

The book, however, while certainly bringing out the aspect of cultural alienation, focuses largely on the neglect and abandonment experienced by kids whose parents were completely consumed with serving the Lord. The parents loved their children and thought they were doing a superb job of child rearing. But Palmer draws out how adversely the kids were affected by their legitimate needs being denied in the name of God’s call to an important ministry.

Former Ak’s will find much to relate to in The Happy Room. Those who went to children’s summer camp in the 1980’s will sympathize with the bad food at Kenya Christian Academy. Having to always be on one’s best behavior to be a good example will strike a familiar note. The communication barriers between the adult children and their parents will ring true with some adult AK’s.

Although not extremely well written, The Happy Room might possibly open avenues of communication between former Assembly kids who have grief and anger over their upbringing, and parents who still justify the Assembly system. It would be great if someone could write a similar story about the Assembly.

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Margaret Irons and her husband Steve and three children were in the Fullerton Geftakys Assembly for twenty years. We left in March, 1990. We are still recovering and learning in Orange County, CA.

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