|COURTESY AVON UMC|
God isn't finished with us yet!
By Barbara Bruce
You can't retire from the church? Of course, you can! People do it every day. They are faithful people who have served for many years as Sunday school teachers and as leaders in all aspects of the life of the church. They believe they have served their time, done their work for God and now deserve time to relax and hand over the reins to younger folks. Every church has them. God bless them.
However, other people continue to serve well past the end of their business careers.
The United Methodist Church offers countless opportunities for assisting God's people in need. Visit their websites to learn more about a few:
- United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (VIM), www.umcmission.org/Get-Involved/Volunteer-Opportunities/About-UMVIM
- United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), www.umcor.org
- Nomads On Mission Active in Divine Service (NOMADS), www.nomadsumc.org
These are denominationally sponsored ways for United Methodists to serve, no matter their age or abilities. Other possibilities are the local, conference and denominational work of United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men.
Congregations take on local mission projects to meet specific needs in their communities. Often, these begin with the vision of one inspired church member.
Malinda Wilson, for example, has a dream. A retired woman who worked in a military factory and then in a nursing home, she has been a member of Avon (N.Y.) United Methodist Church for 48 years. While I was leading a retreat, she spoke to me about a need she sees in her community. She said many older adults seem to have lost their purpose in life and have no place to go. Her dream is to start a program at the Avon Church in which older adults would meet bi-weekly (at first) to share stories and connect with people socially for coffee. They might also play games or hear book reviews. Malinda knows the importance of socialization as we age. Once the ministry is up and running, she wants to add programming and mission work to give these folks a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. She sees the ministry as a "win/win" for seniors in the community and for the church. With the pastor's blessing, she has talked with others about making her dream a reality. God isn't finished with her yet!
|The Rev. Don and Barbara Weaver|
|COURTESY PHOTO |
The Rev. Don Weaver and his wife, Barb, retired in 1997. Don served churches and was a district superintendent in the former Western New York Conference. Though they are "retired," Don still serves as a visiting pastor. Their passion over the years has been disaster-relief work. They have worked with UMCOR and Children's Disaster Services, a ministry of the Church of the Brethren, for as long as I can remember. Barb trains leaders and helps children through the trauma of a disaster, while Don guides adults through hundreds of issues bound in red tape. They have served in the wake of natural and human-caused disasters, including the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, the 9/11 tragedy, Hurricane Katrina and catastrophic storms in Oklahoma nationally and internationally in Japan, Bosnia and several countries in Africa. They continue to live their passion for working in the world to help God's people in disasters. God isn't finished with them yet!
While teaching in the Small-Membership Church Initiative around the United States in the 1990s, I heard countless stories of small churches who took on community projects and made a huge difference in the lives of people in need. One small church, self-described as "we are mostly ladies with gray hair," took on the task of rehabbing items from a clothing drop-off. They took donated clothes, washed and ironed them, sewed on buttons and stitched hems. They saw their actions as a continuation of their service to God through their church. Some of these volunteers were homebound. One woman told me with pride, "I don't get around too well any more, but I can still sew a straight hem." God isn't finished with them yet!
|Jack Burke works on a metal piece that will become part of a Personal Energy Transportation (PET) vehicle.|
Jack Burke has been involved in the Personal Energy Transportation (PET) project through Memorial United Methodist Church, Fernandina Beach, Fla., for 11 years. The worldwide project provides mobility for people who have lost their legs. He learned about PET when a missionary from Zaire spoke at a Rotary Club meeting and the pastor at the time brought PET to the men of Memorial Church. The PETÂ® Mobility Project (www.petinternational.org) "seeks to reflect the love of God by bringing the gift of mobility and dignity to those in developing countries who are unable to walk." Jack and his team of men create the metal parts of mechanical devices. At Penny Farms, the devices are completed, packaged and sent around the world to more than 100 countries. God isn't finished yet with Jack and his team of a dozen or so men, including my husband when we are in Florida.
These engaged, committed and active seniors continue to serve God through their volunteer efforts. They have retired from their paying jobs, but not from the church or the new ministries to which God calls them. They are using God's gifts to change the world – one person at a time.
The church is aging faster than one year at a time. That truth will remain with us for the near future. The church is venturing into new territory as it finds ways to use the gifts and talents of the amazing numbers of people who are retiring at an astounding rate. Many of these people are searching for ways to add meaning and purpose to the productive years that lie ahead. Countless people are discovering that golf and bridge are not all there is to senior life. They are finding ways to use their gifts serving in God's community.
God's work is never done. If we are truly the head, hands and feet of Christ in our world, we must continue to find ways to serve. We who have many years of expertise and who have walked through the dark nights of our souls have much to share with those who are taking over the leadership of the church.
I invite you to find creative and innovative ways to serve your church through outreach and mission. God isn't finished with us yet. Amen!
Barbara Bruce of Rochester, N.Y., is a veteran Christian educator, speaker, author and workshop leader serving as vice-chair of the Committee on Older Adult Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Her passions include teaching about the learning brain and a holistic approach to successful aging. Author of 100 Days to Successful Aging, she was the first recipient of the Debra J. Mayberry Inspiration Award from the Alzheimer's Association. Her website is www.bbruce.com.