The second missionary in King's introductory chapter is a 30-something guy who is multitasking on his cell phone and computer, has left his family in America while he checks out a project run by local leaders that his church supports. He has a career, but is arranging to take two years to spend overseas lending his skills. This is the new generation of missionaries. The break with their formal life is less abrupt, more fluid. They set boundaries and have high expectations of personal development, exercise, protected family time, organizational support and responsibility. Travel and communication lend connectivity, educational levels are high, they are task-oriented generally, outcome-focused, and missions is an important part of their life, but not their whole life. We meet amazing people like this here too. Skilled doctors donating a month, or six, or more to boost services and education. Teachers, engineers, artists, contractors. People with the funds and vision to start and orphanage or foster micro-enterprise, who will leave it within a few years in local hands.
As I finished the introduction and started into the book (I'm only a third of the way through) I had sort of an "aha" moment. When the two rivers flow together to create the Amazon, there is a stretch where their waters flow in parallel, then a period of mixing and turbulence. And we are squarely in that turbulence. With 18 years in Africa behind us, we are a bit past the half-way mark towards the classic old-time missionary life. This is who we expected to be. And this is why over a year out from Bundibugyo, I have to keep remembering the very specific ways God led us, and convincing myself it is right to be here at Kijabe. On the other hand, we carry iphones and text our son in America, we travel, we access grant funding for projects, we connect with the national health system. We're now working at a hospital that was founded upon the classic missionary model, but is largely staffed by more modern types. When I look at the December call schedule, we are 2 of about 5 missionary doctors with more than a decade behind us, the rest of the 30-some names on there are either short-termers or young Kenyans.
So we're in an in-between generation, uncomfortable not living up to the heroes of the past generation, but not really fully able to buy into the ethos of the new generation either. I guess that's OK, to be Hebrews 11 pilgrims and strangers. Being securely settled in one group is not our goal. I hope we can be part of the melding, the settling out of the streams to honor what is best in both. Combining longevity with innovation, relationship with technology, perseverance with enabling nationals. Maybe because we're spending our first Christmas in this new place, it's a good time to reflect.