Still Bearing Fruit in Old Age

The Question
“So, when do you plan to retire Jack?” somebody texted me last week when Jo and I were celebrating my 82nd birthday by ourselves at home. Hmm, a provocative question. I thought about it for a while.

I started earning a wage as an electrician’s helper when I was 13 years old. In the past 69 years I have been employed by more than a dozen different organizations and businesses. Some notable occupations: mental institute orderly, pastor, linguist, Bible translator, CEO of Wycliffe organization, fundraiser, motivational speaker.

The Answer . . . Sort of
I have “retired” from all these jobs and positions, and for the past few years I’ve focused on a career in writing and publishing five books of God-stories, the first volume of my memoirs and am working on the next two volumes. After that, if God grants me physical and mental health for a few more years, I want to complete the half-finished children’s stories books on my computer and in my head.

The Angelic Visit Twenty Years Ago
“Jack,” my supervisor said, “as the new CEO of Wycliffe Caribbean, the first problem you need to tackle is the accounting system. It’s a mess.”
I’m the WordMan, I thought, not the NumberMan. Sending me to fix a finance accounting system is as helpful as sending a firefighter to aim his spouting hose at a drowning man.
The bookkeeper explained that Caribbean countries use a British system of accounting, but Wycliffe uses the North American system. No wonder things got confused!
I explained the problem to Wycliffe International’s VP of Finance, asked for help and got it.

A few weeks later a retired couple arrived from Great Britain. They were experienced accountants familiar with both British and American accounting systems and started work immediately. In a couple of weeks, they had solved the problems, revised our procedures, written a new manual, and trained our staff in the updated system. Then they left to enjoy a week on the beach before returning home – job well done. Not even angels could have done it better. Maybe they were.

Oh, how I appreciated those volunteers! We happily provided hospitality and meals. They radiated good will and oozed expertise. Like God the Creator, they turned our chaos into order.

This couple was neither the first nor the last of many highly effective retired people who practiced their skills on the mission field. I asked some of these folk why they volunteered. Here are their answers:

The Testimonials

  1. I hope God gives me many years of healthy retirement since I just love helping missionaries use their computers more effectively.
  2. In our retirement, we want to focus on what is important in our lives. So, we spend lots of quality time with our grand kids, but we also volunteer where we can use our experience in printing and publishing to help build God’s kingdom.
  3. Since I enjoyed certain aspects of my career more than others, I look for opportunities to volunteer my services in God’s service in missions in the areas I enjoy the most.
  4. My wife and I volunteer on the mission fields where we can use our chiropractic skills to improve people’s lives, but work at our own pace and on our own time schedule. We usually include a time of vacation after our volunteer service.
  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. During my career as a medical teacher I missed the hands-on service to people in medical need. Now that I’m retired, I focus on volunteering where I can directly meet the needs of individuals and show my love to them as I build God’s Kingdom.
  7. I’m now 85 years old. I look on the two years in our late seventies that my wife and I spent overseas helping Bible translators become more effective as the greatest two years of my life.

The Opportunities
Every year, hundreds of retired people volunteer to go overseas to practice their professions and skilled trades to build God’s Kingdom. Wycliffe offers numerous opportunities for volunteers to get involved. Check them out on these sites and, when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, volunteer to serve somewhere:

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


Try it, You Might Surprise Yourself!

NOTE: My computer has been down for repairs for two weeks. Although I lost some valuable files, praise God, I’m now back up and running again!

The Vision
At a writer’s conference, I participated in last winter, I saw a fellow author wearing a T-shirt emblazoned as follows: “10,000 Words – One Day!” Is this guy bragging? I wondered, Or is this his goal?

Ten-thousand words is the equivalent of fifteen of my weekly InSights & OutBursts blog posts. That’s a lot of words! For years, I have been keeping track of all my major writing, not just blog posts, but letters, stories, prayers and diary notes. My goal is 1,000 a day, 7,000 a week and 30,000 a month. I usually surpass my monthly goal, except during vacation or when I have trouble with my laptop. (Like just recently!)

The Plan
In June, with a travel-filled summer vacation looming ahead, I was aware of numerous auto-biographical stories rolling around in my head. So, having talked it over with Jo, my partner in everything I do, and with Jesus, the Source of these stories, I committed to meet this 10,000 words goal, not just one day but several days in a row. I had no idea if I could do it. I might run out of stories to write, or get physically or mentally exhausted. I just didn’t know. But I did know it would take intense, uninterrupted concentration, so I made a plan.

The following Monday morning I set up and plugged in our motor home behind the barn on a friend’s farm. No Internet, phone shut off, and several prominently displayed “Do Not Disturb” signs to keep me focused. By 9:00 a.m. I was writing. After a couple of hours, I went for a brisk thirty-minute walk, then wrote again. I kept doing that and by evening, I had logged 10,000 words of first draft, original writing, and had walked five miles. Yippee!

The next day, I did it again! And the next! By Friday, late afternoon, I had written 50,000 words, and walked 25 miles! I felt great, both in body and in mind, satisfied that I had a good first draft start on my next book of God-honouring stories. Also, I was very surprised. I had no idea I could do this. I hope to do this again after summer, I thought, as I drove home with gratitude to Jesus in my heart.

How to Surprise Ourselves
We all know that our enemy, Satan, loves to discourage God’s people from using our talents and native abilities to accomplish things that bring God honour—things we may have done successfully in some small measure, but hesitate to do in a major way. Sometimes he fills our hearts with a false humility, and makes us think, Oh, I could never do a job that big!, blotting out of our minds the Scripture that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I have leaned on that affirmation numerous times in our decades of ministry. Translating a collection of stories from the life of Jesus is one thing, but to tackle the translation of Romans is quite another.

It’s one thing to lead a Bible study in a small group, home meeting, but quite another to travel to a foreign country, and speak ten times at a deeper-life conference to a large congregation, through interpreters. That is certainly another case of needing to lean strongly on Jesus’ strength. And being surprised at the positive result!

Many of us would happily take a Saturday to help a neighbour or a church member renovate his basement, or fix up his garage. But what about going on a two-week missions trip at our own expense and be part of a construction crew to build a church somewhere on the mission field?

Others of us routinely cook meals for our families and occasional guests. What about leading a team of volunteers to prepare 300 meals for destitute, homeless men and women once a week?

Most of us church-going folk put something into the offering plate each Sunday. But how about committing to give a substantial amount regularly to a special project, becoming partners with a missionary, or helping to get a major missions program started?

To surprise ourselves by accomplishing a great task for God requires commitment, and reliance on God’s Word. May God daily remind us that we really “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
But first of all, we need an inspiring vision—maybe from a T-shirt!

Been There, Done That, I Understand

Back in my hotel bed after yet another productive time spent in the bathroom, I tried to remember when I last had such a severe case of diarrhea. Hmm, Indonesia a few years ago, I thought, and of course Brazil, nearly every work session in the Canela village.

I then started a mental conversation with Jesus, first asking Him to heal me and give me my strength back, and soon. I also reminded Him I was supposed to be in a suit and tie, giving a story packed speech that evening and every night that week before an audience of nicely dressed banquet guests who would be severely distracted if, in the middle of the speech, I had an accident or had to rush out to the nearest bathroom.

I was still mentally explaining my suffering to Him when the thought came, “Yes, I know.” And into my mind popped a vivid picture of Jesus grabbing some leaves and hurrying behind a boulder along the Jericho road to relieve Himself for the umptieth time while the disciples grinned knowingly.

Yes, the divine Jesus was also fully human and suffered the same problems we tend to suffer. “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. . . . Though He was God’s Son, He learned trusting-obedience by what He suffered, just as we do” Hebrews 4:15, 5:8 (MSG).

Jesus2Meaning He was tempted to complain about being afflicted with infections and the resulting weaknesses especially when He was busy in ministry.

The next mental picture I got was of Jesus rejoining his disciples and laughing at his predicament.

I, however, was not laughing. I was not only tempted to complain, I did so, frequently, bitterly, and at length. I also claimed healing faithfully, but then doubted His willingness to instantly heal me since day after day nothing positive seemed to be happening. No, not a pretty picture.

It’s now a week later and after a five-day liquid diet, I’m happy to report my digestion is back on track. I’m thankful that there were no distracting accidents or interruptions during any of my five speeches although my presentations were noticeably weaker and less peppy.

I’m also thankful that I got a clearer view of the humanity of Jesus. He was not the thoroughly healthy figure in impeccably spotless white robes, wearing a halo and a devout expression so often pictured in paintings and biblical illustrations.

He looked and smelled a lot more like a Brazilian peasant farmer trudging back from his field to his village at sunset. Sweat stained shirt, dirt streaked pants, and feet the color of the soil they had been tramping since dawn.

Jesus traveled and ministered out in the open air. He also lived there. He and His band of young men slept on the ground, the grass, or the sand many nights, close to the dirt and dust of the earth. That showed on their clothes. He had dirt under his fingernails, and in many other places. He was often dead tired, falling to sleep instantly and soundly even in a tossing boat during a storm.

You know how when you go camping for the weekend you tend to feel gritty and grunky, smelling of sweat and campfire smoke? Then, when you get home, one of the first things you do is have a shower and put on clean clothes, right? Now think of going camping without a tent, sleeping bag, pillow, propane stove, lamp, flashlight, or canned food, and hiking 15 miles a day, week after week for months. That’s what it was often like for Jesus and His band.

In comparison, my problem was a mere inconvenience. Instead of having to walk everywhere, I rode in a van. I slept in an impeccably clean hotel bed every night, and most afternoons, instead of in the sand off the side of the road. I had clean clothes, plenty of liquids, food, medicines, and  . . .

Oh, Lord, forgive my complaining!

Are you complaining about something today?
Jesus says to you, “Yes, I know, I’ve been there too.”