We’re officially New Yorkers now, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. We were in the state a mere ten minutes when I got a speeding ticket. I was rocketing along at a reckless 32 MPH as the officer explained it to me. I think the Jersey tags on our borrowed car had something to do with it. And to tell the truth I wasn’t feeling so gracious toward our new found state of residence after that. But even still, I am hoping to find that chipper “I love NY” feeling modeled by the Channel Four Eyewitness News team at ten o’clock. Maybe I just have to be patient.
I don’t know how they do it. The news team that is. Reporting on happy human-interest stories back to back with poisoned toys and the plummeting economy. One thing I’ve learned though. One absolutely must watch the news every night if they are going to survive. Somehow they know what we need to know. And they have that Acu-Weather forecast thing – the one with the really big Doppler radar dish. (Bigger than the one at channel two at least.) And need I mention the helicopters?
Where we’ve landed in New York is a little wooded plot in Pearl River. Home base for Africa Inland Mission. It’s from this very place that we were sent out as missionaries over ten years ago. There are good memories here, familiar faces, and a weighty sense of purpose within the nondescript brick buildings. Renee and I have moved into the one remaining empty apartment in the staff housing unit. Two bedrooms on the second floor. Adding to that New Yorker feel is the ability to say, “that’s my building over there” when someone drops you off. My building. The front door is glass and locks automatically when it closes. It has a buzzer panel at left where you can talk to the residents over a squealing, old intercom as they buzz you in. I press it for fun and the kids run to the corresponding panel in the apartment to push a button. Except that we’ve put a painting over the thing cause it’s ugly. So you just talk to a picture of a barn that my grandmother painted. Besides that I feel like Seinfeld.
So we work here now, and my commute up the hill takes all of two minutes. My first Monday morning was a little disorienting. The many AIM AIR calendars on display around the offices would grab me as I walked past – as if I had just jumped out of one into the whisper quiet halls, and could instantaneously jump back in. But despite my above-average grasp of quantum physics, I couldn’t. And I resolved to pray for the guys at each reminder instead.
But day one was fun. I unpacked a new computer which, thanks to the obsessive designers at Apple Computer, was a pure delight. There were donuts too. Real donuts with sugar in them. And on them. I had two since they were brought in as a welcome gesture for the new guy. I thought this was pretty special until I discovered that our office crew actively looked for reasons to buy donuts.
I’m working with Andy and Ted. Which is interesting because in Kenya I was working with Andy and Ted. I’m kind of like the token “Mike” in the AIM media circles. Sadly though, the guys in Kenya are Mike-less at present. So if you are into media and missions, and your name is Mike… we have a spot for you. I’m acting (yes, acting, don’t tell the boss) as an assistant in the PR and Development department here at the home office. It’s a good fit for me. Almost as good as the well-worn sheepskin of the pilot’s seat in the Caravan – which mostly felt like home despite the backaches. Here, I am privileged to put my experience in Africa and my bent toward creative communications to use, and for that I am thankful. The guys are a fun bunch too. But this place is no mere office.
We’ve sent out about a dozen missionaries in the last ten days. They come here for their last logistical push and a ride to the airport. A pile of Action Packers sits in the lobby bound in duct tape. The new missionaries give testimonies which sound so much like mine did ten years ago. And they are full of a familiar enthusiasm. The entire office staff of AIM gathers before departure time and sings a farewell in one big circle around the dining room. “May the Lord bless you and keep you…” (I know all the words now.) And as we do this I remember being at the receiving end of the blessing. I ponder how many have gone out from here over the years. And I marvel at the work of God in them, and in the few, like Warren and Donna (who passed through with us in 1997) who will never return. As I’ve said, there’s a weighty sense of purpose within these walls.
If this is a “sending office,” the operative part is in the word “send.” Which in the context of the Great Commission is the indispensable other-half of “go.” So I think as far as offices go, I’m in the right place. I love what they do here.
And no matter how I take to New York living, I think I’ll like this place. As for confirmation: Wednesday was National Donut Day.