The idea of having a mission in retirement is very big for me.
As I approached my post-career phase of life, I was dogged by the question: What am I going to do with myself?
I knew Nancy and I would continue to be involved in the church and other ministries. Our occasional travel might increase, I surmised. To stay in touch with the community and to be physically active I would learn to play pickle ball. Of course, I wouldn’t miss a beat on my recumbent bike since I’d have an additional two hours every day with no more work commute. But as I added up these commitments, I realized I still had lots of time to invest in something.
The more I probed, the more I focused on requirements for my investment. I needed something robust—a vision that couldn’t be accomplished in a month or a year. It had to be God-sized in scope.
And wherever I landed needed to have an emotional attachment. My mission had to have purpose—it would have to be meaningful to me and help others.
One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 19:17. It boosts my motivation. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. This verse tells me how God feels about the poor and how he feels about the people who help them.
Return on Investment
Another determining factor for my mission came from Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. Like the master who gave his employees money when he left for a period of time, God entrusts skills, energy, creativity, resources, and influence in me. Even though I am retired, God is still looking for a return on his investment in my life.
I considered building homes for the homeless, serving food to the poor, engaging more deeply in efforts in our local church. Frankly, none of them seemed big enough.
About this time, I attended a conference where Wess Stafford spoke. He was President and CEO of Compassion International at the time. His talk was riveting, and his stories inspiring. Shortly after that I read an article in Christianity Today magazine that reviewed the research by a third party on the outcomes and effectiveness of Compassion’s child development program.
Again, I was impressed. I decided to do my own research about Compassion. The more I got to know about the ministry, the more I decided this matched up with my criteria for purpose and mission. My next step was to see their work in person.
So I took a trip to El Salvador to visit several Compassion child development centers. What I experienced caused my emotional attachment to soar. I saw the kids from pre-school through high school learning appropriate topics in their own cultural context. Since each child development center is implemented under the accountability of a gospel-centered church, I learned that all lessons are taught through the lens of Jesus’ life and teachings. Work ethics as well as treatment of peers, authorities and cultural norms are all viewed through Christ’s example.
I saw teenagers learning skills that could change their economic outcome, too. I realized Compassion works to pull people out of extreme poverty and to give them hope through Jesus. These two things are what make me emotionally attached to Compassion’s work.
The business analyst in me is all about solving problems successfully. I reflected on the tens of thousands of dollars that our church spent to send a team on a short-term mission trip. Sadly, there were no long-term results whatsoever. Contrast this to Compassion’s work through indigenous churches having a profound effect on children living in poverty—and influencing their families and future generations. When I saw this, I knew I had found my calling.
My passion is to share Compassion with pastors in the northeast. The ultimate goal I’ve set for myself is to be responsible for 1,000 kids being sponsored in New England through churches’ presentations of Compassion. This is a God-sized goal.
A God-sized Project
I’m finding the most effective way to connect with pastors is through emails. In order to keep track of my work, I started a spreadsheet of all the churches in New England. I tried for about two weeks and realized this is, indeed, a God-sized project! There are a good 8,000 churches in this area! It just wasn’t possible for me to tackle a project of this scope by myself.
About the same time, another volunteer like myself expressed a passion for online research and spreadsheets. It’s just like God to connect the two of us for a common mission with Compassion. This other volunteer researched and created a spreadsheet that empowers me to send out about 50 emails to pastors each week. It’s like eating an elephant one bite at a time, but over the years I see progress. I’m getting about a 30% response rate. Not all are positive, but a lot of them ask for more information. If I’m faithful to plant seeds, I know God will be faithful to bring in the fruit.
So, every morning I get up and say, “I have a purpose! Let’s go do this!” Sometimes I have to stop feeling sorry about my aches and pains, but I feel very fortunate to have something that really grabs me in my soul, and something I can really contribute towards. This is a privilege in my book.