I was sitting at the breakfast table, over 5,000 miles from my house, and in walks Ed and Aretta Loving. The Loving’s are my neighbors, living two streets from Anne and I. We haven’t seen them in person for over eight
months and yet, I can catch up with them here, in Nigeria. How ironic.
Aretta wasn’t feeling well and made some oatmeal from a package that she brought with her. It was as much as she could manage to eat that day. And they hadn’t slept too well we were told. But, they weren’t complaining. Instead, they were laughing and joking, sharing some of their past war stories occurred during the time it took to complete a New Testament in Papua New Guinea. We were enthralled at some of the things we heard, recognizing that today’s missionaries may have it easy compared to what Ed and Aretta went through.
Somehow the topic around the table shifted to retirement. And frankly, I wasn’t prepared for their next statement.
“I’m 15 years past official retirement age”, Aretta said, “and we’re still not officially retired from Wycliffe.”
WHAT? Did I just hear that right? Did she say, “15 years?”
Quick calculations caused me to think Aretta was approximately 80 and, assuming Ed was of similar age, he was too. And, instead of enjoying the comforts of their home and family, they were sitting in front of me in Nigeria, traveling over 5,000 miles to arrive her, to help translate the Bible. At 80 years of age!
I’m 57 years old and for the first time in my life have come to realize that I am just a short ten years shy of official retirement age. And for whatever reason, it started me thinking… What’s next? Where will I go and what will I do after that? Should I enjoy the rewards of my labor (assuming my retirement funds haven’t dried up by then!), sit back, and enjoy a few rounds of golf (once I learn how to play)? Or, should I invest my time in something a little more significant, outside of myself and for the benefit of others? Well, because I am ten years shy of “retirement” and don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, I have chosen to give the thought a rest for a while. But, after watching some of my friends and colleagues, I have a clue of what I’ll do.
I was in Nigeria last week, teaching a workshop with Bruce Bridges, a Wycliffe Associates colleague. Bruce is 71 years old and has worked in an IT related field his entire life, in both the corporate world and in academia. Together, Bruce and I, working alongside our Nigerian colleagues, are up until 10:00 PM each night fixing mother tongue translators’ computers, ridding them of viruses, updating them, patching them, and anything else that needs to happen to make this tool perform at peak performance. Thereafter, we will be teaching computer file management, how to use Microsoft Word and Excel to expedite the Bible translation process, how to submit an email to the NBTT’s* new helpdesk for technical support, and other topics to help the MTT’s themselves become more efficient.
Bruce lives in what might be considered a retirement community and could be living the “good life”, similar to his neighbors. He and Gwenn, his wife, could be traveling regularly, taking frequent cruises, golfing, visiting friends & relatives, and participating all the other activities enjoyed by those living to his left and right. Bruce could, if he so chose, purchase a new Corvette, his driving passion. In fact, Bruce recently shared with me he thinks about that option often. But, a Corvette he has not. Instead, he has chosen a different course, including long hot days serving Nigerian mother tongue translators.
Because Bruce and Gwenn are so committed to God’s Word and its’ impact in people’s lives, they pay out of pocket expenses to minister with, and to, our Nigerian (and other national) colleagues to advance Bible translation. And, believe me when I tell you some of the places they have traveled and the work they have been involved in are anything but pristine!
I’ve quickly come to realize that the more I work along side of people like this dear brother and the Lovings, the more I appreciate them and their eternal perspective. And, the more I appreciate THEIR eternal perspective, the more it challenges me towards the same eternal, rather than temporal, perspective.
As I pondered Ed and Aretta Loving’s and Bruce and Gwenn’s motives, I suddenly started thinking of the many other people I know that have spent their “second half” ministering for the Lord. I know of the Ken and Flo Ginter, out of Florida, that have ministered for years with Children’s Bible Fellowship/Camp Hope/Camp Joy for years and years. I know of Bill and Barbara Bosch that have tirelessly worked at CBF in maintenance. I know of Don Storteboom and Bob Bates, Wycliffe Associates volunteers, who traveled to Nigeria with our team in June and deployed BGAN satellite modems in the remote regions of the country. And I know of tens, if not hundreds, of other “retirees” that are, after leaving the corporate world, spending their time and energy on serving at JAARS rather than on trips and cars.
The more I look at these saints, the more I suspect that the word “retirement” isn’t a part of God’s vocabulary or plan. Yes, we may retire from our normal source of income, whatever our employment may be. But, I am becoming more and more convinced that God has a work and a plan for each of us thereafter, for the “second half” of our lives.
So, what’s next for Anne and I? I can’t say for sure and, God willing, I still have some time to ponder the question. But, what about you? What is your perspective? And what’s next for you?