What in the world are we doing? (30/12/12)



It occurs to me today that it’s already been a month since we left Kijabe. It has been so far a delightful whirlwind of seeing old friends, reconnecting with family, detaching from the intensity of work in rural Kenya.

I know some of you have been wondering, though – 6 months? What on earth will you do for that long? So I thought I’d explain why we’re taking so long to get back home.

Historically, Christian missionaries spent months on a boat to venture to distant lands. They sometimes took their coffins with them, secure in their call and their hope. As travel became more feasible, the concept of a regular missionary “furlough” became the norm – missionary families staying in their adopted country for 4 years, and returning home to their country of origin for 1 year – a time to connect with financial partners and partner churches, rest, obtain healthcare, restock on supplies for school and survival, connect grandchildren with loving grandparents and themselves with friends and family.

Army chaplain, lawyer, microbrew aficionado.  Also always ready with "Blue Steel" when a camera is nearby.  Why yes, that is my brother in law - A..

Army chaplain, lawyer, microbrew aficionado. Always ready with “Blue Steel” when a camera is nearby. Why yes, that is my brother in law – A.

If you look up “missionary furlough” on Wikipedia, it redirects you to “vacation”…not even close to an accurate synonym. The term “furlough” has now been replaced for many with “home assignment”, which is closer to what these 6 months are for us.

So…our first home assignment. What does that even mean? For us, it’s a few things:

A much needed rest. The intensity of poverty, death, success-followed-by-several-steps-back, distance, living in another culture, learning language means that we need a break. So we are building in some special family time to this period – a weekend in Chicago. A few days at a cabin in northern Michigan, courtesy of a ministry to missionaries that donates vacation rentals. We’ll have some special girls and MaMa (my mum) time in Melbourne, Australia in April. And it is a joy to detach, to rest, to celebrate togetherness.

The Brennans... Andy's sister Hanna's family and dear friends.

The Grand Rapids-based Brennans… Andy’s sister Hanna’s family and dear friends.

A time to connect with our incredible partnership team – family, friends, new partners we’ve only ever met online and now get to meet face-to-face. We work hard to keep people updated through our blog and Facebook, but distance still makes connection less than perfect. So we are seeing as many of you as we can – wonderful dinners and lunches and playdates and outings with families that we and our children love and emjoy. Preaching and speaking at churches whose love and support have been a foundation for our lives, both separately and together. These connections and sharing the results of the last two years are an important part of our work.

A time to tie up loose ends in Australia. When we left in 2011, it was for 2 years, so we put our lives there into suspended animation – furniture, clothing, dishes into storage, ready to hit re-start when we came back. Except that now we are committed to Kijabe for at least another 5 years, and it no longer makes sense to keep things on “pause”. So we need to unpack our belongings and sell most of our household goods – not a minor task after 14 years of marriage! So we will spend 3 months in Australia doing that (among other things) while the kids attend a term of school to give them a sense of structure and stability during this transitional time.

A time to meet and connect with new partners, to broaden the team of people “with us” in Kijabe. We’re sharing at people’s home groups, dinners, informational events, connecting with people one-on-one from Michigan to Florida in the US and in both urban and isolated rural areas in South Australia, preaching and speaking at new churches. Sharing our passion and love for the suffering and oppressed in the developing world, sharing our hope and joy at being a small part of bringing restoration to a broken world in the name of Jesus. Inviting people to be a part of this ministry with us.

Speaking at New Life Christian Fellowship two weeks ago, the church planted by Andy's grandfather in the 1960's.

Speaking at New Life Christian Fellowship, the church planted by Andy’s grandfather in the 1960’s.

When we decided to move to Kijabe in 2011, we quit one set of jobs and signed up for another. The jobs we left in Australia had provided us with income and security – our jobs in Kijabe provide the joy of a calling and a mission, without any income. We receive no benefits or salary from Kijabe Hospital, so for the last 2 years, our living and ministry/business expenses have been provided in part by wonderful partners, faithfully participating with us by providing monthly or one-off support. The rest has been covered by our savings. When we signed up for a 2 year committment, this made sense. Now that we have committed to at least another 5 years, we simply can’t continue to self-fund part of our expenses.

Building relationships with our partners during this home assignment is a joy – being with people all over the world gives us a deeper understanding of how important and necessary every part of the “body of Christ” is. But it’s also an important part of our work. Because until we have enough committed financial partners we won’t be able to return to Kijabe.

And we really want to go back. We both feel like Kijabe is exactly where we are supposed to be right now.

Uncle Lonnie and Aunt Diane, pastors of New Life, recovering from a horrific car accident a month ago.

Andy’s Uncle Lonnie and Aunt Diane, pastors of New Life, recovering from a horrific car accident a month ago.

We are grateful for the people already committed to partnering with us on an ongoing monthly basis. As of today, we need to raise an additional $4800 per month, plus upfront costs for airline tickets and a car that won’t slide off the road in the rainy season or require frequent repairs. We’re slowly getting closer to our goal, and it’s because of partners who are people like you. Already in our first four weeks of home assignment we have been so very blessed. Encouraging emails and calls, new partners committing to support us financially every month or once-off. It is an incredibly humbling position to be in – watching God work through people around us, when we can’t really DO anything to reach our goals except share stories of how he’s been working through us already.

So that’s what these 6 months are. A not-quite-home assignment, since Kijabe is home for now – work and rest, connection and encouragement. Partnership in the flesh for a short period of time before we head back, with you, our partners, to continue what we started.

To partner with us on a one-time or ongoing basis, please click here to reach our “how to partner with us” page. You’ll be able to see our current needs as well as a breakdown of where your monthly support goes. We are so grateful for our partnership team and couldn’t do this without you!

– M.

Auntie Hanna and Riley making Christmas cookies

Aunty Hanna and Riley making Christmas cookies


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Author: steeres

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