This is a letter about change, and how we are sometimes slow to recognize God’s hand in it. This is also a letter about being thankful, which I hope we are less blind to. Our newsletter is long overdue, but perhaps you will understand why once you’ve read it.
Today is my last day with AIM AIR – at least for a while. I can’t say what may happen in the future, but today marks the beginning of something new for our family, something we are excitedly looking forward to even if the journey which brought us here has been a tough one.
For most of you this is probably the first you’ve heard of it, and I’m sorry about that. I haven’t been blogging about it or sending out related prayer requests. You might have noticed that I haven’t been writing much of anything this past year – an activity I’ve missed even more than the flying. But there was much about the past year that wasn’t appropriate to write home about, and much that I didn’t know how to express.
As you may recall, our ministry took a sharp turn shortly after we arrived back in Africa in 2009. AIM AIR was struggling, and one of the key managers was about to leave. I was asked to step into the vacant position, which I did about a year ago, right on the heels of an airplane accident that killed two of our colleagues. Since that time I have been entrenched and absorbed in the administration of this ministry, and it has been a difficult year. AIM AIR is a complex operation. We function in a chaotic environment and there are inherent hazards and stressors in our everyday task. We are also a pretty big team: thirty families spread out across multiple bases. But over the past two years we’ve had an inordinate number of setbacks, including four airplane accidents and several resignations in upper management.
Through much of this our family was tossed and turned, at times disheartened, and often left wondering what God was teaching us or where he was leading us. The administrative load pulled me away from what little media work I was still doing and eventually wiped out my flying as well. I found my emotional energy completely spent by the end of each day, and in a very short time I had developed an ulcer and lost some of the admiration of my children.
As much as we felt a duty to hang in there and help find solutions to AIM AIR’s challenges, Renee and I both realized that I was wearing out. This became the theme of our prayer life, our late-night talks after the kids were in bed, and each dinner-table conversation with trusted friends. In this search for understanding I discovered that common to many of the heartaches and headaches we faced as an organization, communication, either poorly executed or nonexistent, was a significant factor. And we began to ask if what we had to offer to the larger ministry of AIM was not so much in the role of a manager or even a pilot, but in the role of a communicator. We also began to wonder if God was not already a step ahead of our thinking.
Maybe the best way to convey how God has led us since then is to copy you in on a letter I recently wrote to my teammates at AIM AIR…
October 11, 2010
Perhaps you’ve already heard that I am stepping down as the Flight Operations Manager at the end of November. Even so, I wanted to write a short letter to provide some context and hopefully avoid misunderstanding. It’s probably a little disconcerting to see managers packing up their desks one after another, but I want to assure you that my move is no reason for concern.
You need to know that my departure from Flight Ops is also going to be my departure from AIM AIR altogether—at least for now. I’ve requested to move over to the On-field Media (OFM) team full time, and have already been assigned a position there. I am not planning to continue flying or hold any other responsibilities with AIM AIR.
It’s important to know that I have not been “dismissed” in any way, nor am I leaving in frustration. I am going to miss AIM AIR tremendously. But at the same time, I have assurance that this is the right move. I have been somewhat careful in sharing my plans too broadly until we had a solution for who would replace me. Now that we do, I wanted to give you all a short account of my decision.
The media ministry was founded in 2006 at my dining room table with my good friend Ted. We were, in many ways, over our heads when we pitched the idea to AIM. But we both shared a strong vision for the potential of such a ministry and a calling to step out and see what God would do with it. OFM has been around for a few years now, but I’ve had precious little time with it.
My expectation at the onset of this term was to finally begin exploring my place there while continuing to make a contribution as an AIM AIR pilot. Last year, when I stepped into the Flight Ops role and set aside the media ministry, it felt like a setback.
I can appreciate that God had other plans, and that His purpose for me this past year was right there in the Ops Manager’s office. It’s one of the reasons I accepted the position. But I can also appreciate the fact that my passion and calling from 2006 are still alive. In 6 months I will leave on another home assignment and I fear that if I leave without exploring this call, I may never come back to it.
In regard to my role at AIM AIR, I have learned over the past year that I’m not really cut out to be a manager. My personality does not do well with the complexity and ambiguity of how AIM AIR runs. Granted, this has been a tough year for us as an organization. But looking back over my 13 years, I can’t imagine any of them where I would thrive in this position. This job will wear me out; it might even burn me out. Any one of us can probably fill an urgent need for a limited time, but we cannot act outside of our gifting for too long.
Part of me would really like to return to those months I had as a pilot/media guy. This was the place where I felt my gifts were most effectively applied to the mission of AIM. But I’ve learned that I can’t return to that place, at least not in the near future. Unfortunately, AIM AIR is such that I will continually need to put aside the secondary ministry (OFM) for the sake of the primary one (AIM AIR). But over the past year I’ve come to a realization that this secondary ministry is too important to me. And I’ve come to the conclusion that AIM AIR can do just fine without me.
Let me finish with an encouragement. I truly believe AIM AIR is looking forward to some the greatest and most important years of its existence. AIM has an awesome vision in sight: Christ-centered churches among all of Africa’s peoples. And after a hundred and ten years of effort, the work that’s left is some of the hardest. It will take us to the hardest to reach people and places, and AIM needs AIM AIR in order to pursue that vision. This is what AIM AIR is here for—for such a time as this.
As for me, I expect next time I fly I’ll be in the back seat with a notebook and a camera—making known what God is doing, and making known what still needs to be done.
And, of course, cheering you on.
As you know, we’ve been loosely connected to AIM’s media team for the past several years. Up until now, we had never really imagined joining that work full-time. In some respects I could never envision having a genuine desire to put aside the flying ministry, and so this decision has been one of the most difficult I’ve ever made. Yet at the same time, this “change” has been unfolding in a way curiously familiar to us. Open doors. Answered prayers. Encouragement from spiritual mentors in our life. A strong heart-desire. Gifts to offer. And peace in the decision. These were the things that led us to the mission field in the first place. Put together, they are the means by which God leads us – what we sometimes think of as a “calling”.
This time in Africa has been, by many measures, our most challenging ever. But we’ve grown through the trials and learned to appreciate even more the privilege of ministry. We’ve also grown more deeply inspired by AIM’s work out here. We are thankful for the part we’ve played in AIM AIR’s crucial mission over the last 13 years, and grateful for the experience and skills we can now bring to the media ministry in helping advance AIM’s vision of “Christ-centered churches”.
We are also tremendously, and humbly, thankful for all of you. I don’t know how many times in recent months we could have used a face-to-face with many of you – or even a hug – but we have been encouraged nonetheless. Our financial support is doing better than could be expected, and we know without a doubt that we have been carried in prayer. Thank you for remembering us.
With love from Kenya,
Mike, Renee, Amelia, and Zachary
Family News and Prayers
Despite the trials, our family has been blessed. We enjoyed having some special visitors this year, including a couple from our supporting church in Indiana, whom I flew up to central Kenya for a ministry visit. Renee’s sister also came for a whole month to encourage us and love on the kids. And my dear cousin and I took a week in July to climb Mount Kenya – a grueling but awesome trek. These visits have been among God’s mercies to us this term.
We also spent a week with a mission team from our church in New Jersey. The whole family joined them in a medical outreach to the Masai. It was pretty neat to see Amelia helping with eye tests for the optometrist, and Zach helping the dentist (or appearing to help the dentist at least). It’s not often we get an opportunity to minister together as a family. In reality, I’m not sure we were much help to the team, but the team was a huge encouragement to us.
In August, Amelia moved away from home to try out 6th grade at AIM’s boarding school in Kijabe, about an hour away from Nairobi. She loved being a part of the school community, but life away from home was a really big transition. After two weeks she decided she wasn’t quite ready for boarding school, and came back home. We were proud of her for giving it a try. Renee continues to homeschool, which she continues to excel at even though she doesn’t think so. Zach is 9 now, and Amelia nearly 12. Our family is growing up fast.
We are planning our next furlough in May 2011 for four months. As always, we are looking forward to visits with many of you. But between now and then, will you join us in prayer for a few things?
- Mike’s transition to AIM’s media team – pray that God will lead and bless this new venture.
- AIM AIR’s ministry, as it is still going through a lot of transition.
- Renee’s health. She’s been having chronic headaches that we are seeing some doctors about.
- Our kids. They are missing many of their friends who have moved away.
- For Africa. Pray for peace as South Sudan soon votes on independence and possibly reverts back to war with the North. Pray for the church to grow and to be salt and light in all the dark places.