(NOTE: Yes, this is Jack’s InSights and OutBursts blog. It looks different on the blog site because I have switched to a different, cheaper and yet, more up-to-date and safer system. Here’s hoping there will be no more computer breakdowns!)
Twists and Turns in Life’s Road
No part of our life corresponds to a long, straight, flat road. When we think about our relationships, our living conditions, our health, or our careers, we have all experienced ups and downs, twists and turns, and unexpected detours. These changes in direction are usually caused by some startling experiences which force us to make a decision—a decision that often turns out to be pivotal, moving us into a very different path.
This spring I had that kind of critical experience and wrote about it in the blog post “I’m Sick.” I was surprised that I had to cancel a speaking engagement. I can’t remember ever in my long career as a public speaker not being able to fulfill a speaking commitment. I took it as an indication that it was time to change our career focus.
The Turns in Our Career Path
It’s not the first time Jo and I have retired from one type of work and taken up another.
- We started full-time Christian ministry fifty-five years ago, at age twenty-four, pastoring a church.
- At twenty-eight we left for Brazil, having made a pivotal decision to join Wycliffe and become linguists and Bible translators. This was a long road, lots of ups and downs, but we were on it for twenty-six years until the Canela people of Brazil were reading a partial Bible in their own language.
- We left Brazil at age fifty-two to travel throughout Canada and the United States, speaking at churches, schools, conferences, and Wycliffe promotional banquets.
- Then, at age fifty-six, I was appointed as President of Wycliffe Canada and later of Wycliffe Caribbean and traveled in a completely different career direction.
- When I was sixty-four years old, I returned to traveling to hundreds of cities and speaking at seventy to ninety events per year.
- Now, at age seventy-nine, I have retired from speaking—except for local or specifically Wycliffe Canada events—and have turned the corner into yet another vocation as I enter my eighties.
A New Focus: Write My Autobiography
During our fifty-five years of full-time ministry, I wrote almost every day—diaries, newsletters, reports, and sermons, and for the last twenty years, weekly blog posts. Wycliffe published three books of collections of these blog posts in the past ten years and I published the fourth one, A Tickle in the Funny Bone, this year. My writing has always been a part of whatever ministry career I was involved in, but it was never the primary focus.
Recently I asked myself, “What might God still want me to accomplish before I die?” And the answer was clear. “Leave a legacy of personal God-stories of my life for my family, friends, and the public.
So, although I still do some speaking, my primary focus is to write my autobiography. I wrote the first book this year as a family project.
- My wife Jo has always been my primary critic. (No, she doesn’t criticize me, she critiques my writing!)
- Two granddaughters, who are also designing the cover, illustrated the thirty-seven stories.
- Another granddaughter and our oldest daughter edited the book.
- My sister wrote the foreword.
- All eight of our grandchildren are delighted to know these true stories are being published since they enjoyed listening to them as small children at bedtime.
The book covers the first twelve years of my life, including the years of Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, up to the time we left for Canada. The Misadventures of Hansje, the Boy Who Kept His Guardian Angel Busy is written for children. It has thirty-seven true stories of events I experienced as a child which show how I became increasingly aware of God’s actions in my life. It should be ready to publish in January 2018.
Exciting Writing Ministry
I’m excited about my new career. The second book covers my arrival in Canada at age twelve through to our departure for Brazil at age twenty-eight. It is already half written in first draft. I’m inspired to write about all the things God did for Jo and me, and through us, and sometimes despite us.
What About You?
So, what excites you in your current work? Are you thinking about retiring? Many Christians simply park their car along the side of life’s road and just watch the ministry-filled lives of others go by.
Take it from Jo and me. We look to God for a new direction in life’s road and keep going for as long as He gives us strength. Don’t be afraid of the twists and turns, or the ups and downs. They are simply indications of the changes and growth that make our Christian lives exciting, invigorating, and worthwhile.