My name is Carrie, I’m almost 60, and while most of my friends and other people my age are preparing for retirement, I did the unthinkable. Eight months ago I sold my belongings and left family, kids, and precious grandkids to move across the ocean to a small community in the east end of Glasgow. Why? Because I am not my own. The Bible says, ‘Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.’ (II Corinthians 6:19-20)
I have been inspired by people whose stories are written in the Bible. I wonder what’s your first thought when you think about Abraham, Moses or even Joshua? What about Sarah (Isaac’s mother) or Elisabeth (John the Baptist’s mother)? I guess you could say that they all had a great calling from the Lord. They were asked to do mighty things that moved the gospel forward in the world in which they lived. Whether it was a calling to become the father of a great nation, parting the sea for that great nation, or fighting a battle for that great nation – a battle that God promised had already been won – or birthing a baby much, much later than most women have babies, it was all to the glory of the Lord.
These people were living at different times, yet they all had one thing in common. God called them to do these mighty things later in life, well after what we would call their ‘prime’. Abraham and Joshua were around 70 when God called them and Moses was around 80. Even the women having children so late in life were for God’s purposes, because we can read how these two men were used for the Lord during their lifetimes. These are just a few examples of the people that God has called, and as far as I know age had nothing to do with their effectiveness. God called them each to a task and, as it says in Hebrews 13:21, ‘He equips you with everything good, that you may do his will.’
Life isn’t just about serving ourselves, it’s about serving others. Just because we’re retired or we’re our own boss, that doesn’t mean that we stop serving others. As I looked at friends’ posts on Facebook and Twitter I was beginning to see a shocking realization that retirement, for some of us, was on the horizon. We’ve all put in our many years of work and now we are ready to sit back, take it easy and enjoy the benefits of our previous labour. So what now? Sell the house and move to a cabin on the lake? Fishing? Hunting? Watching the sunrise? Watching the sunset? Sitting in our rocking chairs and watching the grass grow? Spending more time with the kids, the grandkids? Just how much golf, fishing, or hunting can you do? How many beaches or lakefronts can you lie on? Or, does just taking it easy and chillin’ out sound like the way to live? Is that your plan? Or do you even have one? Have you given much thought to those days? Beware, for they are coming soon.
I first felt the call of the mission field almost ten years ago. But God had a lot of work to do within my heart. I was still a work in progress. Thing is, I’m still a work in progress, but, as it states in Ephesians 3:20, ‘God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power within us.’ I have no degree in theology, the Bible, or even biblical studies. I have taken a few courses in OT, NT and Systematic Theology, but that was a layperson’s class at my church, and I received no credit for it. It was mostly just to help me understand more about the Bible. I believed that God would be true to his promises and that he does equip those he calls. I knew that I wasn’t going to be any type of minister,
definitely not a pastor’s wife, or even top staff person, so I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, but if I could trust God for my eternal life, why couldn’t I trust him with the direction of my earthly life?
In John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life, I read a story once about a couple who took early retirement while they were in their fifties. That’s a nice age to retire, old enough to have some good wisdom about life, yet young enough to still have a fruitful and eventful life. They moved to Florida, where they cruised around on their 30-foot boat, played softball and collected seashells. Some of you might know this story, but this is where it gets a little sad. We all have heard of the American dream and many of us would love to live that kind of dream but, in reality, that dream is more of a tragedy than a wonderful statement of someone’s life. Especially the Christian life. Can you picture them standing before God, the creator of all the heavens and the universe, and giving him an account of their life? ‘Look, Lord,’ they say, ‘see my shells?’ Somehow I don’t think that’s going to go over very well with God.
I think that story is pretty close to the same stories I read about real-life people and friends. And my response is that it’s such a waste of a life. As far I can tell, there is no retirement talked about in the Bible. If 50 is the new 40, and 60 is the new 50, then I’d say life is still going strong and, if a Christian, the Lord wants our lives to be in service to his will, not our own. I believe that older adults are a much-needed resource. We have hard-earned wisdom that no school can teach. Wisdom that we need to share with others, not just take it to the grave! Should we sacrifice our kids, grandkids, our friends and even our life? Don’t we deserve to finally ‘get the easy life’? Let’s face it, we’ve paid our dues for 20, 30 and even 40+ years in the workforce. Doesn’t that count for anything? Well, it certainly does. It counts because it means that God had graciously given you and me all these extra years to mature, to develop wisdom and discernment. He gave these gifts to us so we could give back to others.
So, I’m here to ask each and every one of you to think, if you’re retired, or in a better position to quit your job, or if you’re getting close and wondering what’s next, why not go full-time for God? There is a huge opportunity in just about any country in the world, and they could definitely use you. When I first felt that call to the mission field myself I had no idea where that would be or where in the world I would go. Like I mentioned before, I have no real skills, and, on top of all that, I’m a twice-divorced, now single, older woman (who would want me in their ministry?), but God gave me an understanding (acknowledgement) of what I can do. You see, I can walk alongside someone and be their friend. I can speak the hope of the gospel to someone that has no hope. I can listen when they want to talk. I can validate that they are known and loved by God. It’s pretty simple actually. God has equipped me even in the most simple of ways. So, when I saw a tiny ad on some random website that was specifically looking for mature women, I thought at first I had misread it. I had looked at many ministries and never saw any of them specifically looking for an older woman, someone like me. But there it was.
When I first looked into 20schemes and the ministry that they had, to be honest, I was uncertain. I was
living with my elderly mother and helping her. I couldn’t just run off and leave her there. Both of my sons were married and I very much enjoyed spending time with them, not to mention spending sweet time with my precious grandchildren. I wrestled with God at first, because the more I looked into 20schemes the more I saw a future there and it scared me. I was scared to step into the unknown – a new ministry, a new country – not knowing anyone. How could I just walk away and leave my home, my family, my grandchildren? They were so young that maybe they wouldn’t know me anymore.
What about all my stuff, my furniture, my memories of the last 40 years? Let me say that all those treasures you’ve stored up over the years, loving them and wanting your children to love them also, chances are good that they won’t. Just because we value things in life doesn’t mean that anyone else will. So, don’t bother giving them to the family, because they probably don’t want them either. If it’s your desire to hang onto treasures, why not put your treasure in Heaven? ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matthew 6:19)
Also, in looking further into 20schemes and more specifically the community of Barlanark, which I was most interested in moving to, I found that about 14% of people are retirement age, yet the majority of people who are interested in joining church-planting efforts are in the 20- to 30-year-old age group. I am the oldest worker here, and from abroad, so what does that say? Who will reach the older generation of Scotland who are desperately in need of hearing the gospel before it’s too late? Recent Barna research found that fewer than 2.5% of Scots are evangelical Christians. So much focus is put into youth workers, and for good reason; however, we cannot ignore, dismiss or disregard the older Scots. Who’s ministering to them? Since arriving here I have found an amazing group of women that I am so proud to call my friends. They are strong, hardy, and fierce. And yet, they are loving, caring and in great need of knowing Jesus. Who else will reach these women if I don’t? Most pastors that come are young, with young families, but these women need other like-minded women that have shared experiences in life. Some of the activities that I participate in are walking groups, craft groups, cooking classes, or just helping with our small café that our church operates two days a week. I meet up with some of the women and go on day trips to visit sights around our area. I just give them time and we talk. It’s not hard to do that, but what might be more difficult is for a 30-year-old to truly understand how a 50-60-year-old feels. That’s why I feel our age group helps others in that same group. So, maybe God has someone like you in mind – just like me, someone that has a heart for people to hear the good news.
Now, granted, most people aren’t called away from their homes and families because, let’s face it, there’s a huge mission field in their own backyards. You certainly don’t have to go overseas to find one. But, for those that do feel the call to overseas missions, I want to address some of the questions that I had to process myself. I remember very distinctly telling God that if he wanted me to go, I would, but he would have to help me because I certainly didn’t know what to do or how to do it.
First, I knew that my mom would not be able to take care of herself, so in speaking to my brother, we decided that she would go and live with him and his family. I know that some people don’t have that option, but there again, I believe that if God has called you, he knows your circumstances and will make a way for you. But please hear me when I say it probably won’t be easy. My mother is in the middle stages of dementia. She knows who most of us are but doesn’t recognize time or distance, so leaving her was bittersweet. Bitter because I don’t know how much time she has, but sweet because she doesn’t really know how long I’ve been gone or where I am, so she isn’t worrying or anxious for me. Leaving my kids and grandkids was not easy; I cried every time I thought about it for months. But God was working in this situation also, because people would come up to me and tell me how they still kept in touch with their grandkids that lived in other states or even countries. I knew then that many people face this dilemma every day, and have for years, since our world is so mobile with jobs taking families away from hometowns. How thankful and grateful I am for Skype, Messenger, Facebook and other social media. It makes the distance not quite so far and I can still see my family and talk to them face to face.
I’ve also heard the argument of how can you leave? But my answer is how can I not? For the Bible says ‘Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.’ Strong words, but the most comforting is the last sentence: ‘Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’ Is Jesus worth losing your life in order to find it?
For the first time I can truly say that I feel fulfilled in my own life. I get the fantastic opportunity to not only live in another country but I get to experience a life I never thought possible. Most companies wouldn’t have given me any type of job, due to my age, but God has given me new life and new direction. He has equipped me to do the job he has set before me. I am so eternally grateful that he has given me this opportunity to work on his behalf, to give me a love for people, a love for Scotland, and has put a new song in my heart.
So, age really is a just a number. Do you love people enough to be concerned for their eternal state? Can you see the bigger picture of a world lost to sin and hell? There is such a need for people like you that love the Lord and want to be obedient. Come and see what 20schemes is doing. Come be part of that bigger picture, for the lost so desperately need you. You have skills and abilities that you’ve never thought of and they are so needed here.
Remember that when the day comes and you stand before the Lord, you don’t want to be holding seashells, but a life full of God’s promises and the fulfillment of those promises, that you were used for his good and for his glory. What a testament to a well-lived life!