Hoping this letter finds you well. We are, somewhat unexpectedly, in the United States right now. In case you didn’t already know that, this letter should fill you in on some of the “why and where, and what next?” Our family arrived in New Jersey on March 8th… but our trip home started on December 26th.
It was then that I called my parents from Kenya to wish them a Merry Christmas. It was not a very good holiday for my folks. I found out that dad had just gone into the hospital with some unexplained pains after a short time of not feeling quite right. Over the next couple of weeks, in the midst of our government falling to pieces there in Kenya, we learned that dad had an aggressive form of leukemia.
Renee and I struggled for a short while on what to do. It was clear that I couldn’t leave her and the kids alone with all the political instability around us, but we also couldn’t “dart” home to NJ and then back again without counting the cost of such a trip. So, we kept in close contact with my parents for about a month as we put together a plan. Friends from all over the U.S. donated the extra money we needed for plane tickets, and friends close to our hearts in Kenya helped us on our way emotionally. We had not planned on being home again until December of this year, and so our arrival was premature. We are currently home on what AIM calls “Compassionate Leave.”
We came back at just the right time. Dad is in between battles right now. The first, as he fought for his life, took over a month at a renown cancer center in New York City. The next, will likely occur about a month from now as he goes back for a bone marrow transplant. In between, dad is on outpatient chemotherapy while he lives a life with as much normalcy as he can muster. He’s adding to these weeks a good dose of the grandchildren, and meaningful time with Renee and I.
It has been wonderful to re-enter mom and dad’s lives during this trial. They have been well supported by thoughtful friends and the church family over the past several months. But having their children and grandchildren back is something really special… for them, and for us.
Our family is currently staying at a missionary apartment near our home church in New Jersey. In April we remained local, visiting and sharing around here. In May, we are planning to do some of our traditional furlough traveling, down south to Tennessee and Virginia, up to Indiana, and a few places in between. However, the length of our trip will depend on how dad is doing.
I know there are many of you who would love to see us, and as we fashion some kind of plan for the month of May, we probably will not be spending as much time on the road as we have in years prior. However, we will post our plans on the website, and perhaps look you up if we are in your area. All of our contact information is below, and we would love to hear from you even if it’s just a phone call or an email.
kenya’s uncertain days
Many of you followed the news, or our blog, during the opening weeks of 2008. It was a rough start for our “home” country. After a fumbled presidential election in the last days of December, Kenya exploded into violence and froze to a halt in almost every other way. Considered to be one of the most stable countries in the region, it was a surprise to everyone, even Kenyans, that such a thing could happen. The numbers now stand at 1500 killed, 600,000 displaced, and billions of dollars in damage to the country and the economy.
It took a while for Renee and I to understand what was really behind the chaos. We learned that the grievances which led up to it were complex, as political and social ills often are: An election presumably stolen from the rightful winner, opposing candidates representing opposing ethnic groups with long, muted histories of distrust for one another, and the fault lines of poverty and privilege, land and power, “us and them”–all giving way under the pressure of a botched election that was supposed to right the wrongs.
Through it, our family was safely locked behind the walls of our compound in Nairobi while I took part in mass air-evacuations from different regions of Kenya–flying Kenyans of one ethnic tribe or another to safety. Kenya was unrecognizable to us for a couple of very tense weeks in January. Now, months later, it looks normal again, but there’s much to be done to heal the country. There is peace again. The government has awkwardly “patched” the political impasse, and it might stick. But the people are hurt. And after ten years living among them, we are hurt too.
During some of the tense times, shortly before we headed home to the USA, I was working with our mission’s media team looking for stories of God at work in the chaos. It was a difficult assignment–some of the traveling we hoped to do never happened because the roads were just too dangerous–but we did find some stories of hope among the many heartbreaking ones. And we pray there will be more of them.
a detour for our family
The uncertainties in Kenya, as you can imagine, were paralleled in our lives. Not only because we were caught up in the emotion of everything happening in Kenya, but also–maybe more so–because we were swept away with the emotion of what was happening back home with my dad. He is, if you don’t know him, a remarkable man. A masterpiece of God’s grace–once a heart out of control, now a heart completely sold out for the Lord–he has a burden for youth who have been battered by the worst of life’s situations. In some way, both dad and I are in the business of “rescuing.” Me with an airplane. And dad, with an arm around the shoulder of a young drug addict on the streets, or at the side of a kid abandoned and lost in the system.
The cancer has left a few kids standing on their own right now, and this breaks dad’s heart. His prognosis is unknown. Only a bone marrow transplant will give him any chance of returning to his ministry. We knew when we came home that it would be hard, if not impossible, to leave mom and dad again just a few months later. So before arriving in March, we prayed for God to make a way, and make it known to us. Our mission headquarters in New York, only a half hour’s drive from my mom and dad, contacted us about meeting together, and that has since developed into a viable “open door” for our family.
AIM would like me to take a temporary assignment here locally utilizing our experience on the field, and my skills in communication, to help with the PR and Development of AIM. I would be doing design, writing, and working with websites and video production–very similar to the work I was doing with the On-Field Media ministry we started in Kenya last year. To me, the assignment is an exciting detour, as I have seen the impact of communication as a ministry over the years. AIM is thrilled at the prospect of Renee and I joining them here in New York. We are still working out the details but we do know that we will need to remain on support. And AIM knows that we are only looking at a commitment of one year. God knows what good things He will do in us and through us in that year. I expect that we will be blessed to be a part of it.
But perhaps the biggest blessing will be the simple gift of being near mom and dad during his illness. Our family has been apart for most of these past ten years. And Zach and Amelia know very little of the remarkable man they call “pop-po
p.” Our hope is that he rubs off on them. Renee says we are building a legacy for the family. At the very least, we hope to honor our mother and father.
Thank You for the many prayers. There’s probably not a day that goes by when we are not covered in prayer, which is an incredible thought. There have been days out there in Africa that the simple thought has helped carry us through. And now, we need those same prayers here in America. Pray for us as we shift gears for a while–that God will truly use us, and teach us. Pray for the ministries left waiting in Kenya–AIM AIR will be short-handed this year, as will be the media team I was working with. And pray for my dad–for his health and God to be glorified no matter what.
–Mike & Renee