Editor's note: Because of a production error, the wrong article text appeared in today's edition of Life on the Hill. The correct article is presented here.
Kailey Bradley grew up in Mexico, the child of missionaries. She remembers how excited she was when someone would ship a support package directly to her. Nowadays, she’s giving back by sending books to missionary kids through a local nonprofit ministry called Books for MKs, which stands for “missionary kids.”
Bradley was 5 when she moved to Mexico with her parents. She didn’t return to live stateside until she was 17, which was 16 years ago.
“I remember when I was a kid feeling very disconnected from my American heritage. I was told I was an American citizen, but I was surrounded by another culture. It’s a very confusing feeling to be disconnected from your heritage that way.”
Each time a package arrived, Bradley would check it to see if there was a U.S. postal mark.
“When I was 7 or 8, we received a package from the States,” Bradley said. “They had gotten each of us girls a really beautiful doll and a massive lollipop. How amazing is it that I’m 33 years old and I still remember a doll and a lollipop. Someone in the U.S. was thinking of me as a child, not just praying for my family. Someone in the U.S. remembered me specifically and sent me something.”
Bradley always loved to receive books. Some of her favorite reads were series such as “Anne of Green Gables,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Nancy Drew.”
“As a kid, I read voraciously. I could never get enough books to read because, obviously, there aren’t English books in Mexico,” she said.
Giving missionary kids the gift of the American heritage connection is what Books for MKs is all about. Bradley and other volunteers mail books overseas. Missionary kids can request a topic or a particular book. The children often write thank-you letters, telling what they liked about a particular book they received.
Benjamin, an MK in Honduras, wrote: “I liked the Mouse and Motorcycle. I had a book report and I did it on that book. Hope you have a wonderful, spectaculus, marvelous and excellent day.”
Staying in touch with the kids helps Bradley, now 33, remain connected to good memories of her childhood.
“I loved growing up on the mission field,” she said. “I really had a nearly perfect childhood in Mexico! I love the culture there, the people, the food, the whole country! I miss it all the time. Although it is tough and confusing growing up as an MK, I wouldn't trade it for anything! I got to experience so many wonderful things, and it has made me the person I am today.”
Despite reading a lot of American books, after growing up in central Mexico with her parents often ministering to the poorest people, Bradley had a challenging transition back into American culture.
“It was terrible. I didn’t understand Americans. They were so different. The sense of humor is very different. What Americans find funny is not at all what Mexicans find funny. Someone would tell a joke, and I wouldn’t get it. I really had a difficulty fitting in,” she said. “Now I can sort of step away from the situation and analyze it. It’s OK that they are like that. I don’t have to be the way they are.”
Her first year back in the local area she was a senior in high school. It was her first experience in a school with other kids. She struggled with deadlines and the slower pace of the class. As a homeschooler, she progressed much faster through her studies, but Bradley said the experience prepared her for college.
Bradley went on to graduate from Pensacola Christian College with a Bachelor of Science in music education, with a piano proficiency, and a minor in Bible. She currently teaches weekly private piano lessons to about 30 students in her home and through Savannah Piano Inc.
She also plays the piano at Faith Harbor Baptist Church in Savannah, where her father serves as pastor. Books for MKs is a ministry of the church. She’s also involved in a Spanish-speaking ministry.
“We have a Hispanic service at the church, so I play piano for the Spanish services. I still read books in Spanish whenever I can get my hands on them,” she said.
Bradley said she is always looking to connect volunteers to spend books directly to missionary families. Her greatest need is raising funds for international shipping. She as more than 350 books waiting to be mailed.