How to be Happily Productive in Old Age: 7 Testimonials From Retired Volunteers

“Jack, one of the first problems you need to tackle is the accounting system. It’s a mess.” My supervisor went on to orient me to other issues in my new assignment, CEO of Wycliffe Caribbean, but my mind was stuck on the first problem.

I’m the WordMan, I thought, not the NumberMan. Sending me to fix a finance accounting system would be as helpful as sending a firefighter to aim his spouting hose at a drowning man.

When I arrived in Trinidad, the bookkeeper explained that Caribbean countries use a British style of accounting, but all the Wycliffe accounting is done in a North American manner. No wonder things got confused! I wrote an email to Wycliffe International’s VP of Finance saying I was in way over my head and needed help fast.

“Okay, Jack,” he replied, “We’ll have someone there soon.” He was right. A few weeks later a retired couple arrived from Great Britain. They were experienced accountants familiar with both systems and started work immediately. In a couple of weeks they had solved the problems, revised our procedures, written a manual, and trained our staff in the updated system. Then they left for Barbados to enjoy the beach for a week before returning home – job well done.

Oh, how I appreciated those volunteers! Except for their meals, they cost us nothing since they came at their own expense. They radiated good will and oozed expertise. Like God the Creator, they turned chaos into order. Godly people.

They are not the only ones. Every year, hundreds of retired people volunteer to go overseas to practice their professions and skilled trades to build God’s Kingdom. Wycliffe Associates, Wycliffe’s lay organization, offers numerous opportunities for volunteers to get involved.

Wycliffe and many other mission organizations deeply appreciate these types of highly effective volunteers. They come with every type of expertise, from medical doctors to marketing gurus, agriculturists to architects, carpenters to computer specialists, and economists to electricians, all doing what they love to do and doing it well.

I meet many of these people at Wycliffe Associates promotional banquets where they see videos and hear stories of volunteers advancing the cause of Bible translation around the world. They catch a vision of what they could do and sign up to receive more information. In due time they are “out there” happily doing their thing.

I often talk with happy, fulfilled retired volunteers and ask them questions. What moved you to volunteer? What did you receive from the experience? What advice do you have for other retirees? Here’s what they told me:

  1. In our retirement, we wanted to focus on what is important in our lives, and in the lives of those we love. So we spent lots of quality time with our grandkids but now we also volunteer where we can use our professional skills.
  2. In retirement, I wanted to do more things that I enjoy. Since I enjoyed certain aspects of my career, I look for opportunities to volunteer my services anywhere in the world in those areas.
  3. My wife and I volunteer on the mission fields where we can use our professional skills but also work at our own pace and our own time schedule. We also plan a time of vacation away from work doing something we enjoy.
  4. People in the medical or teaching profession spend their whole career meeting the needs of society. During my career I contributed only peripherally. Now that I’m retired, I focus on volunteering where I can directly meet the needs of individuals, show love to people and build God’s Kingdom.
  5. I have always loved being a businessman. Now I love consulting on site with people who have gone overseas to start a business that meets physical, economic and spiritual needs.
  6. I hope God gives me many years of healthy retirement since I just love helping missionaries use their computers much more effectively.
  7. I’m now 85 years old. I look on the two years my wife and I spent overseas helping Bible translators become more effective as the greatest years of my life.

“The godly will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” Psalm 92:14 (NIV).