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).


Three Steps to Being a Hero to Your Kids This Fathers Day

Engine roaring, our one-ton truck jarred, shook and rocked as it laboured up the steep rocky river bank. The screaming and pounding on the cab roof started as we finally neared the top. “Daddy! Daddy! Stop! Blackie fell off!”

My wife, clinging to her seat beside me, glanced at me but wisely said nothing. It was the afternoon on the third day of difficult travel from our home on the mission centre in Belem, to the Canela village in Brazil. Jo knew I was nearing the end of my ability to cope.

Sand, water, jungle, rocks, whatever it takes. (Note little blond head above cab)

I kept going, accelerating through a stretch of deep sand on the trail at the top of the bank. If we slowed down there we would get bogged down and never start again. After 100 metres, we reached a piece of solid ground and I stopped. As I slid out of the cab and walked back along the heavily loaded cargo, 10-year-old Valorie leaned down from her perch on the cargo and explained, “Blackie fell off just after we crossed the river. Leanne let go of him when she had to use both hands to hang on.” Wide-eyed youngest daughter Cheryl nodded, saying, “It wasn’t her fault.” Leanne, at the very back was hunched over, crying.

I slogged back through the scorching sand, scrambled down the rocky slope, and saw Blackie near the bottom, lying limply on the sharp rocks. I picked up the much worn, black stuffed toy dog and clambered back up the slope. When I tossed the toy up to Leanne, she smiled through her tears and said, “I didn’t think you would stop.”

That night, I kissed our girls goodnight as they snuggled into their beds in our mud-walled, palm thatch house. Leanne, holding Blackie with one arm, hugged me tightly around the neck with the other. “I thought I had lost Blackie forever. But then you stopped and walked all the way back to get him. You are the best daddy in the world!”

So what had I done to become “the best daddy in the world”? Spent money? Not a dime. Spent time? A ten-minute walk which is nothing in a three-day trip. Spent time in profound thought and planning? Naw, not a bit. Exercised my sensitivity? Well, maybe a little.

It was, after all, hard to ignore three daughters pounding their fists on the roof of a truck cab, just inches above my head, and screaming, Daddy! Daddy! And then, when I got down and saw a tearstained face and shoulders racking with sobs, even a relatively insensitive lout like me would tend to perceive there might be something going on that needed attention. I listened as Valorie explained the problem. Aha! A problem! I’m a problem solver, so this was right down my alley. And so I became, in the opinion of one 8-year-old girl, “The Best Daddy in the World.”

In summary: 1) I noticed something needed attention. 2) I listened as the problem was explained. 3) I used my gifts and abilities to solve the problem and meet the need.

If you are thinking, Hmm, I’m going to follow this simple three-step program, so that on this Father’s day I will be my kid’s hero, here is some advice. In this Blackie incident, I didn’t need my wife’s help to sense something needed my attention but usually I need to ask her to help focus my attention on what is needed. I sometimes need her to explain the problem. And when I am really dense she needs to suggest what I could do about it. You may want to do the same. Then you act, using your best abilities and gifting, and Tadaa! You become a hero.

It doesn’t take a lot to make a deep and lasting impression on a young daughter or son. May our heavenly Father help us earthly fathers to make positive impressions, maybe even heroic impressions, on our children.