In September 2015 IMB made an announcement that due to financial constraints and difficulties they felt it necessary to reduce the number of missionaries on the field by 600 – 800 people. The first step in doing this was to offer a Voluntary Retirement Incentive to all missionaries over 50 years of age who have served at least 5 years on the field. While we certainly did not think we’d have to make this kind of decision at this point in our lives, we felt that we were obligated to at least consider it and seek God’s guidance. After spending a lot of time in prayer, contemplation, conversation, and meditation, we have a sense of peace and certainty of what God is leading us to do. It is with mixed emotions that we can say we have decided to take the Voluntary Retirement Incentive and leave the field. This decision doesn’t come easily, quickly, or lightly but we do feel certain it is what God is telling us to do.
As we look back and reflect, we can see that God has been leading towards this for the last couple of years. When we returned from STAS in 2013, we felt more strongly about our call back to Kenya than we ever had. In this term we’ve seen work opened in Tharaka, the Cow Project completed in Ogembo, and the office work streamlined and organized well. God has blessed this term with success and has obviously brought everything to a good point of closure and ending.
Yet physically Africa has taken its toll on us. Jeff’s hernia surgery, Kathy’s neck surgery and other minor health issues due to the harsh conditions have come up this term. Those who have come to visit and work with us know that Africa is not very ‘user friendly.’ The terrorist attacks and security issues that are dealt with regularly also make daily life a little tenser. The upcoming ‘re-set,’ or total redefinition with IMB that most likely would result in a relocation and new cultural adaptation, coupled with our family needs at home – especially Jeff’s mom – have played into the decision.
But most importantly, the last two STAS’s we’ve come back from, we’ve felt a pull to our native country. In a way we’ve felt a bit guilty leaving the US – where you can’t openly speak of Jesus and where the morals and ethics are venturing so far away from God’s Word – and returning to Kenya where we can speak openly of Jesus on the street corner, in the schools, in the government buildings, where people are open and willing to listen and eager to respond. We feel that the US needs missionaries more than Kenya in many ways! While we will always be involved in mission work in one way or another, we feel God is telling us that right now it’s time to move our ‘Home Base’ back to America. That’s not to say we wouldn’t be open spending some time back overseas with volunteers or short term ventures, but it is to say that we feel God is telling us it’s time to return to the US.
We harbor no hard feelings over the VRI or with IMB. Matter of fact, we strongly agree that something has to be done. After working in logistics and seeing the financial situation, we agree that things could not continue on the track they were going – something major had to be done quickly. We also strongly feel that God has used this to take us where He wants us. He knew that we would never quit or walk away from serving as missionaries on foreign soil without a push from Him or reason to consider doing otherwise. We were not even contemplating returning to the US before retirement age before this came along. We are glad that we’ve been able to complete 20 years and will be considered ‘emeritus’ status at least.
All this to say – God is in Control! Your prayers would be appreciated as we return to the US and adjust to American culture again, and see what God has in store for us.