Greetings from Georgia

Much has happened since our last letter. Alas, this one may be a bit long as I bring you up to speed with some important developments. We’ve been home in America since late August, and in that time have had the pleasure of watching Autumn arrive and turn to Winter—a wonder, really, if you’ve missed it for a decade while living on the equator. And now, Spring is unfolding before our eyes. Spring brings new-ness to things, and so perhaps it’s fitting that this season ushers in a new season for our family. The Delorenzo clan is on a new trajectory…

TRAVELS

Our furlough began with some rest and recovery in New Jersey, and then a long trip westward to Minnesota. There we met up with nearly all our colleagues—former and current—from the Africa media ministry. It was a special time, and a little sad as we made our goodbyes. The team that brought you “The Distant Boat” is no longer together. Life and circumstances have redirected many of our closest friends.

November had us back in New Jersey, and December all over the eastern seaboard. By January we moved down to Virginia to begin visits in the region. In the past six months we’ve driven 12,000 miles of America, and some of Canada too. We’ve been encouraged, and sometimes discouraged, by all we’ve seen. Our home country has changed quite a bit from the one we left in 1997.

Our family has changed too. Amelia turned sixteen this winter. Zach is well on his way to fourteen and was recently baptized. Renee received her college diploma from Liberty U. And I found my first grey hair (OK, that was a few years ago, but I’m actually starting to see them now.)

As is my custom, I took lots of photos on our trips, and you can browse through some of them here.

Throughout our travels we had many opportunities to tell our story. I’ve spoken from the Sunday pulpit, in Sunday school, High School, to small groups at people’s homes, to youth groups, kindergartners, senior citizens, and even recovering addicts in rehab. Ours is still a story that runs like a tiny thread through the greater narrative of God’s redemptive work in Africa. We’ve shared far and wide about Africa’s unreached peoples, the depth of spiritual captivity, the hope of the African church, and the hard work that’s left to do. I truly love what AIM is about, and whenever I stand up and talk about it, I’m reminded what a privilege it is to serve as we do.

WANDERINGS

When we arrived Stateside last year we were tired and spent. That in itself is not unusual, but this time we also had growing concerns about our family’s overall well being. In the fifteen odd years we’ve lived in Kenya’s bustling capital city, we’ve slowly progressed from a state of thriving to one of merely coping. The stresses of cross cultural life, living amidst rising social and political insecurity, and the relentless state of change common to missionary work and relationships, can have a cumulative effect over the years. Well before our furlough began, we started praying for wisdom in this.

And over the course of this furlough, God surprised us with an open door.

In December AIM presented us with an offer to relocate to Georgia and fill a new Communications position at the US Headquarters. In it, Renee and I saw a need that our family could genuinely meet, as well as an indication of God’s leading amidst the uncertainty we had been feeling. We prayed. We asked the kids to pray. And each of us, in our own way, concluded that this was indeed the next thing for us. God not only opened a door to a new ministry, but also our hearts to embrace it.

In January we began to work out some of the complex logistics. And in February, we spent several weeks in Georgia to start preparing our family for the next chapter of life and ministry. We have not shared much about this process up to now, as there was much to sort out (both here and back in Kenya) before we knew for certain the “how and what and when” of it all. So for some this news will all sound very sudden, and we apologize for that.

In this decision there has been some degree of “counting the cost”. Africa has been our home for many years, and probably feels more like home to our children than to us. Amelia really loves her school in Kenya, and all of us have dear friends on that side of the ocean. My ministry with On Field Media in Nairobi will be affected. And moving back to America will undoubtedly present us with some “culture shock” and challenges. (It already has).

But we also see good things on the horizon. I expect that I will love my new job. And Renee is already letting go of years of built up stress. The kids have mixed emotions, but among them is an excitement about what this “new world” might offer.

We came home last August with a plan to return to Africa this April—the rhythm of our entire adult lives has been one of coming and going to Africa. But now we find ourselves on a fast-moving and unfamiliar journey.

SAME MINISTRY, NEW CITY

My job title at AIM’s US Office is “Creative Manager for Communications”. This is a new position for AIM, stemming from a growing need to increase the capacity of the existing communications team. Under new leadership over the past couple years, AIM has revisited goals and methods and determined that the area of strategic communications will be of increasing importance. AIM’s US Sending Office basically has two roles. One is to support the hundreds of missionaries on the field through various logistics, member care, and engagement with partners and churches. The other is the work of mobilizing new missionaries, and all that entails.

It is this mobilizing work, and its related communications element, that I will be largely involved with. AIM was particularly interested in me taking this position as I could bring to it our broad experience in Africa—and the rich perspective that affords—along with the creative skills I’ve honed while serving with the field media team over the past 7 years.

What I will actually do day-to-day is quite similar to what I was doing during our last term in Africa: From the broad strokes of envisioning, planning, and executing media projects and campaigns. To the regular development of creative communications through writing, video production, design, and web. This new position may also include one or two trips to Africa each year for me—something I will greatly look forward to.

In addition to my role at the US Office, I’ll also continue to serve the On-Field Media team—on a part-time basis and from a distance—as their Creative Director for projects. Creative Manager, Creative Director… yeah, it’s a bit confusing. The jobs are intertwined and basically boil down to one thing: Telling the stories of missions, and in particular, what God is doing in Africa. The aim of this work is to inspire the next generation of missionaries to service, and the next generation of the Church to send them. The value of media and storytelling as a tool in support of the Great Commission is something I’ve witnessed first hand.

Sometimes when people ask me how I ever transitioned from flying to media, I tell them that my work as a pilot in Africa was to move people… and my work as a storyteller is something of the same: to move people. Over the years, I have learned that the pen can be a mighty tool to that end.

WHAT’S NEXT: THE IMMEDIATE,

Our furlough travel, visits, and speaking continued up until the middle of March. That time has officially come to an end now. We are in Georgia presently, staying at a missionary guesthouse until we can get settled more permanently. I am beginning to get oriented in my new job at AIM headquarters, while Amelia and Zach carry on with their respective homeschool programs and Renee tries to get familiar with a new “hometown”.

Since this change in assignment came after we had already returned for furlough, we did not leave Africa prepared. So this summer, we will need to make a trip back to close up our home, say some very important goodbyes, and hand off many of my field ministry responsibilities. We’ll spend about a month in Africa before returning on a direct flight to Atlanta. The plan is to be back in Georgia and in a “home” on time for the new school year.

So the next five months promise to be very busy for us: Settle into a new job, find and fill a home, move our “life” from metro Nairobi to metro Atlanta, find cars, sort out school for our teenagers, look for a new church, learn a new culture, figure out new rhythms for life, and in all this, rest. Rest assured that God is in control and that He will provide. We have the last 17 years to look back on if we ever doubt it.

AND THE LONG VIEW

So here we are. Americans again. Forty-three years old and starting over. After becoming to a certain degree “Africans”, we now feel like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. Out of step with American culture and values. Living in a borrowed home and driving a borrowed car. Feeling vulnerable. Feeling lost. Our feet decisively planted on Georgia’s red clay soil, and half our hearts still in Africa.

Even though this change was not the plan we had in mind for this moment in our lives, we absolutely see God’s hand in it, and have been hugely encouraged to see Him pave the way as we step out in faith once again. We are so thankful for the partnership, encouragement, and love from those who have “journeyed” with us for all these years. THANK YOU!

You will continue to hear from us—through newsletters, blog posts, and even in person as we find opportunity to travel and share much like we have through the many furloughs over the years. Perhaps you’ll even see us more often.

And we continue to covet your prayers and support in this new venture. For any of you who support us financially, please read our “support” page to learn how that works going forward. And for any of you who pray for our family and ministry, please don’t stop. The landscape may have changed, but what God is calling us to has not.

We may no longer live on the African continent, but I see our family’s role much the same as it has been. Called to the work of the Great Commission. Using our talents and energies to further that work. A heart for the lost and unreached peoples of the world. And a desire that God be glorified in our lives and vocation.

The journey continues…