Patrick and I (Jana) became full time missionaries with Africa Inland Mission in the fall of 2014, and began our ministry in Kenya in January 2015. AIM is an international, interdenominational organization committed to planting indigenous, Christ-centered churches among all African peoples, with a focus on the unreached. We serve in a support role through a special department of AIM called AIM Air. AIM Air exists to provide aviation and logistical support to our own missionaries, those of other like-minded organizations, and African church workers. We love our job, and are humbled regularly by the amazing, dedicated people we have the privilege of serving. We live in a hot, dusty border town called Lokichoggio in northwest Kenya, close to South Sudan and Uganda. 95% of Patrick’s flying is in South Sudan.
So I keep saying “we.” When I say that, people often ask, oh, do you fly too? Um, no. I can barely remember how to turn my headset on, and can never understand the garbled voices coming from the tower. But we are most definitely a team, and my role is pretty important, if I do say so myself. I mean, who else is going to wash out and refill the water bottles 😉? An AIM Air pilot has a stressful, unpredictable, lives-depending-on-you, “always on” kind of job. I am able to
· help with hospitality ministry for weary travelers coming through Loki
· stay connected in the local church
· work with a small arts and crafts group for truly impoverished women in our community
· educate and disciple three awesome kids (Hannah 10, Charlie 8, Caroline 6)
· supporting my husband practically and relationally
· attempt to create a (relatively) peaceful, enjoyable home in which others can retreat and rejuvenate
· be a part of our small AIM Air team in Loki.
· stay connected with our family and partners in North America.
· prioritize my own spiritual, emotional, and physical health and look for ways to grow as a person
Our website as a whole focuses on our job with AIM Air. But we are more than that, so the blog is a mishmash of the following spheres of our life , in no particular order
· conversations about cross cultural ministry
· living in rural Africa
I am currently sitting in the MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) terminal at Wilson Airport, waiting to head back up north and be reunited with my family after this unexpected and at first very unwelcome extra trip back to Nairobi. As things turned out, it became an invaluable time of forced rest to meditate on things God has been trying to get me to learn. My thoughts are usually, if everything could just go the way I had planned, it would be so much better. Thank God for His grace, His faithful chesed love, His pursuit of us in the sanctification progress even when we are naively oblivious to our blind spots and stubborn ways. That has been a theme of ours. As if, if we are in full time ministry, we should be past that business of God teaching us, changing us, or at the very least past God disciplining us. But I would be remiss to only talk about "ministry" and leave out what God is doing in our lives. We can’t just be working as part of the AIM Air team, supporting the spreading of the Gospel, disciple making, and Christ-centered churches among the unreached of East Africa. The day the Gospel stops penetrating and purifying us from the inside out, we just need to pack it up and go home. (Or go back to America, which may or may not feel like home.)
I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of how God has led us through things to help us grow. We are trying to submit to His hand in our lives instead of stubbornly continuing in our own way. Some of the painful but crucial ways we are trying to submit to God's way of doing things, or also known as, Crisp lessons from first term:
· Soul care. Find out what it is. Pay attention to it. Don’t neglect it. Work from a cycle of grace and abiding, you cannot add it as an afterthought. Your inner voice telling you things aren’t as they should might be quiet, and the work and demands of life may be much louder. Make sure to listen to it anyways. A weak soul, or inner spiritual life, is vulnerable to all manner of things, such as burn out, depression, loneliness, and temptations from the enemy.
· Build in margin. More than you think you need. More than you think you have time for. Respect the time you have allocated for particular things such as Sabbath/rest (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly). Make it a non-negotiable for your family.
· Speaking of family, you are a team. You are together. You are only as strong as your weakest link. If you are not together, re evaluate everything. Don’t compare your family to other families. Prayerfully seek the Lord, submit to each others’ needs, and pay attention to how every member is doing.
· Acknowledge your own limitations. Accept humbly what you can do, and be at peace with it. It is true that God wants to lead us into things that we cannot do on our own strength, so He can enable us. But sometimes it’s just pride that won’t let go of something, or a distorted perspective on what success in life and ministry looks like. Sometimes it really is a sincere heartfelt desire to do something, something good and worthwhile and worthy. But just like there is only so much money in the bank, there is only so much time in the day. You have to accept it, or it will only lead to frustration and feelings of failure when you can't accomplish as much as you think you should be able to.
· Community. Not just going to church or talking about ministry. But community, either in person or remotely, who is challenging you to grow, keeping you accountable in the hard things, who relates to you as a normal, flawed person needing to grow in Christ, not just a missionary. Be vulnerable with that community, even when it is uncomfortable and awkward.
· Time for study, contemplation, meditation, introspection, journaling, and prayer. Work is good. Team time is good. Church is good. Movie night is good. But absolutely foundational is to be regularly checking in with our most important relationship, our souls with our Creator. Are you growing closer, stagnant, or drifting away, in the business of life? It does not come naturally to some of us who are much better at “doing” than “being”, but withdrawing from life enough to listen to that still small voice is infinitely more productive and rewarding in the long run than anything else.
· The enemy is real, and out to destroy you and your relationships. Don’t let him find you weak, defenseless, and isolated. If he does win a battle, remember it isn’t the whole war. Don’t let a mistake or failure cause you to live in shame, which will only cause to you to hide from God and others. Run to the cross, find grace, stand up and fight again.
· Often, there’s no way out but through. Struggling and fighting against a difficult place you’re in will just hurt more as you brush up on all the sharp edges. Be still. Ask God to help you submit to His will and to strengthen your faith through it. We often don’t get to decide what happens to us in life, so looking for answers or explanations before you can move to acceptance might be a fruitless endeavor. But no matter what kind of dark night of the soul you’re in, you’re not alone. He will never leave you alone. Don’t try to run away from to get away from pain. You will never go deeper with the Lord that way. He will not lead you where He has not already walked.
Praise God that He who began a good work in us will continue to the day of Christ Jesus. Praise God also that He can use us while He's still working in us. We are glad to be back, and appreciate your prayers and accountability as we try to live out these things one day at a time. Check back soon for ongoing news from this side of the ocean, and stories of Kenya, South Sudan, and AIM Air.