Thursday, March 26, 2015

When you retire, can you also retire from ministry?

For ten years, Reuben Stueckle and his wife, Judy, prayed about what God wanted them to do after retirement.  

And they searched the Bible for what it said about retirement.

“Over the years we saw Christians who were in ministry all their lives, however, at retirement, they checked out of ministry,” said Reuben.  

“It was like they were saying, ‘I have served my time, now I want to do my own thing.’

“As Judy and I studied Scripture,
we found no instruction to retire from ministry.
We only found a call to continue using talents
and experiences God has given us.”

And so when he and Judy retired from public school positions in Puyallup, Washington, they did not retire from active ministry: For two years, Judy worked as the secretary/bookkeeper at an MK school, Rain Forest International School in Cameroon, West Africa, while Reuben served as the school’s acting director.

Like we learned last week from Esther Ransom’s story, such folks have a wealth of experience and the expertise that comes with it. They have gained in wisdom and maturity. They still have good health. They have lots of energy.

The Stueckles, like Esther, wanted to make a difference in the world—a difference that counts—and they were ready to try something new. And they did!

 Around the world, MKs (missionaries’ kids) need educators, and a growing number of retirees are discovering that teaching on the mission field is just what they’ve been looking for.

Reuben adds, “It was our privilege to see the missionaries’ children grow in the Lord and to become the men and women God wants them to be.”

Teachers… enable missionaries to remain in their ministry instead of returning home to get an education for their youth,” says Stueckle. “Many couples were able to remain in Cameroon because we helped educate their children.”

But a person doesn’t just buy a plane ticket, pack up, and move halfway around the world. Everyone has questions that must be answered first.

What is it like to live in another culture?

And of course there’s God—What does He want me to do?

Where in the world does He want me to go?

How long does He want me to stay?

And the BIG one for the Stueckles: Will my extended family be okay while I’m gone?

During those ten years of praying for God’s guidance, Reuben and Judy faced a common but difficult question: “How can we leave our family?

The Stueckles had a large family, ranging from elderly parents to grandchildren. Both they and their family thought nine months was the maximum separation they could endure.

However, they continued to pray and, during three weeks of pre-field training in North Carolina, the Stueckles met Vince Giffis, Director of Rain Forest International School in Cameroon. God gently spoke to their hearts about His plans for them as Vince explained the roles they could fill while he took a furlough. During this meeting, says Reuben, “God told us He needed us for two years in Cameroon.”

That was a blow to Reuben and Judy. Two years? That wasn’t what they wanted or expected. How could they leave their family for that long?

Even so, Reuben says, “Before we left the training in North Carolina, we trusted God to change our family’s feelings.” And He did.

At times being away from loved ones was difficult. “However,” Reuben was quick to add, “we did not lose family and friends. We gained many new friends, both Cameroonian believers and fellow missionaries. And we received numerous emails [from home] giving witness to God’s care and provision for our family.”

Nowadays most missionaries have access to email, cell phones, Facebook, FaceTime, and Skype, and more, revolutionizing the way missionary families keep in touch around the world.

Working on the mission field is doable for retirees as long as they are willing, flexible, and trust God.

God uses those willing to go to the ends of the earth, wherever that is for each of us,” says Reuben.

Thinking about teacher needs this time of year
stirs up a bit of angst
because at MK schools around the world,

Each year hundreds of MK teacher positions go unfilled around the globe. Could you help fill the need?

Do you know someone who could help fill the need? Please forward this information to them.

And be sure to check out Teachers in Service. TIS has oodles of info about teaching at MK schools (two weeks ago I introduced you to Dr. Thom Votaw of Teachers in Service). TIS a great place to get started.

Think about it.

Pray about it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Crocodile and zebra on your menu

Esther Ransom lifted the receiver of the heavy, black, 1950s-style telephone.  She dialed a six-digit number.

"Jambo!  I'm bringing my students to your restaurant tomorrow after we visit the Giraffe Center.  The children hope you'll be serving zebra and crocodile.  Will you?"  She paused. 

Esther climbed almost to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro!
"You will!  Great!  See you tomorrow."

Esther, age seventy-something, hung up the school phone and returned to her classroom, an amused smile on her lips. "Well, kiddo," she said to herself, "I don't think we're in California any more!"

And she's right, she wasn’t in California. She was in Nairobi, Kenya.

What was that California gal doing in Africa?

"For me, it sure beats playing bridge and golf," said Esther. She should know. After 26 years of teaching in California, she spent the next 16 years experiencing the retired life.
Esther at her desk at WNS

Then, eager to try something new, willing to share her knowledge, skills, and professional experience, Esther moved to Kenya where she taught at West Nairobi School from 1996 to 1998.

Today, many educators are retiring to pursue a life of leisure but some are finding their retirement, while fun for a while, soon becomes disappointing, lacking in meaning and fulfillment. They’re still energetic and healthy, they have a wealth of experience and wisdom to share, and they're ready to try something new.  And they want to make a difference—a difference that counts. 

And they can.  Around the world, missionaries’ kids (MKs) need educators, and more and more retirees are discovering that teaching on the mission field is just what they've been looking for.
MK teachers like knowing they fill a vital role in the core ministry of their chosen mission organization.

For Esther, the highlight of teaching on the mission field was "the sense that we're furthering God's kingdom by teaching." While in Kenya, she attended the dedication of the New Testament translated into the language of the Sabaot people.

Hundreds of Sabaot people welcomed the arrival of their New Testament with loud applause and joyful calls. A parade of Sabaot women danced with boxes of Scriptures on their heads.

"It was a thrill to see how happy the people were," Esther recalled. "They were so thankful." 

All educators at West Nairobi School felt a special sense of involvement that day because their school helped educate children of missionaries Iver and Alice Larsen and Jim and Henny Leonard, all of whom played key roles in the Sabaot translation.

Retirees who have taught on the mission field advise others to give it a try, keeping in mind that when they get there, they'll do what they're trained to do, whether it's teaching kindergartners or high school seniors, whether it's teaching math or science or art or history, whether it's being an administrator, a drama director, or a coach.

Each year hundreds of teaching positions go unfilled around the globe. Could you help fill the need? (Just think of all the adventures you could have—maybe you’d even find crocodile or zebra on your menu!)

Do you know someone who could help fill the need? Please forward this information to them.

And be sure to check out Teachers in Service. TIS has oodles of info about teaching at MK schools (last week I introduced you to Dr. Thom Votaw of Teachers in Service). TIS a great place to get started.

Think about it.

Pray about it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Begging God for enough teachers

Writing about the start-up of West Nairobi School recently has brought back so many good memories.

But thinking about MK (missionary kid) schools this time of year stirs up a bit of angst because at MK schools all around the world, people are praying and begging God to supply teachers for next school year.

And so, to help answer some of those prayers, let me tell you about Dr. Thom Votaw.

Thom is a dear friend who recognized his God-designed service opportunities nearly 15 years ago and embraced them with gusto! As founder and President of Teachers In Service, Inc. (TIS), he works internationally with teachers and schools on behalf of MKs—missionaries’ kids.

Teachers play a vital role in missions work around the globe because they free parents to do the unique work God called and prepared them to do.

However, if missionary kids’ educational needs are not met, parents must make excruciating decisions.

I’ve known and worked with such missionaries. They have had to:

—resign from their ministries and return to their homeland, or
—cut back severely on their ministries to home-school their kids, or
—search for another solution, often extremely expensive and/or painful in other ways.

This is a dreadful problem that usually creates numerous hardships for both ministries and families—every year.

This is where Teachers In Service comes in. It partners with a large number of mission agencies to recruit qualified teachers for MKs.

But there’s good news and bad news:

The bad news: There are never enough MK teachers. Each school year, hundreds of teaching positions go unfilled. Imagine how severely that impacts missions work!

The good news: There are two ways you could be part of the solution to the teacher shortage.

Are you an educator? Do you wonder if God has called and prepared you to teach children of missionaries? If so, click here to read about where to begin

Another option: You could help recruit teachers: You could forward this blog post to educators you know.

Thom says:

We believe there are under-represented pools of potential teachers, some of whom have been asking God, "Where to now, Lord?"

The need has never been greater.

Teachers may be recruited from:

—working teachers,
—retired teachers,
—former teachers, or
—prospective teachers still in college or high school.

Thank you very much for your consideration and prayer for MK teachers.

If you’re interested in helping fill the needs, check out the extensive information at our TIS web site, and you can reach me at the links below.


Thom Votaw, President,

Teachers In Service, Inc.

Thanks, Thom!

Please pray about participating, and forward this post to everyone you know who might be interested. Share it with your church, too. Thanks.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Like swirling in a whirlwind

I wrote this to my granddaughter, Maggie on July 30, 1996, from Nairobi:

…Your grandpa can hardly contain his joy—he has leased a facility for West Nairobi School, and the principal, James, has arrived. He’s working like crazy to orient James and work through stacks of paperwork.

Mr. James Ashdown, Principal of WNS
Parents love the school’s location, and increasing numbers of students have enrolled.…

Life right now is wild but wondrous. New teachers and school-related people fly in one after another after another. We just learned that a teacher family will arrive Thursday—we hadn’t heard a date before—and another teacher will arrive Thursday, too.

Another, scheduled to arrive Thursday, hasn’t received her work permit yet. She might have to wait another two weeks.

… Another teacher and the dorm parents will arrive on Saturday, and the schedule goes on like that for a couple more weeks.…           

The arrival of each person or family involves a run to the airport, meals at our house, stacks of dishes—no dishwashers here—and orientation. We take them to church and acquaint them with the city and its ways. We teach them sanitation, hygiene, how to soak vegetables in chemicals, and how to filter drinking water.

We also do a few fun things with them because we want them to fall in love with Kenya.

I help your grandpa with all these on top of my full-time job so I feel like I’m swirling in a whirlwind, but an exciting one.

This school is a dream-come-true for your grandfather.

Our dear friend, Elizabeth
At this wild and crazy time, I’m so thankful for Elizabeth’s help at home. I couldn’t do all this without her. Sometimes I ask her to buy a few items at a duka nearby, and other times I ask her to chop vegetables for a pot of soup. She does all kinds of chores that I don’t even ask her to do, and she lets me know when I need to add something to my grocery list. “Leen-dah,” she says, “we need more OWN-ee-owns” (onions).

The other day a friend suggested that a working woman needs a wife. Amen! Quaint I ain’t!

(from Chapter 17, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Glory like the flowers of the field

Last week I was telling you Dave hired Wycliffe and Benson to tame wild vegetation on the two and a half acres of land for the new school.

Trees and bushes and vines and flowers grew so fast in Nairobi—I had never seen anything like it.

And the colors! The intensity of the hues and the variety of shades nearly made me cry.

The property had been neglected so Wycliffe and Benson really had their work cut out for them, and they did an excellent job of creating "glory like the flowers of the field" (Isaiah 40:6).

Here are a few pictures of God's handiwork and the gorgeous grounds Wycliffe and Benson tended so lovingly:

 Jacaranda blossoms coated the ground like a layer of snow!


  Acacia, I think                                              


Pepper tree         

And there were so many other beautiful flowers and shrubs and trees: poinsettias and African daisies and so many others I couldn't name—red and blue and white and pink and every color you can imagine. They filled me with delight!                                      

Near the front entrance,
Wycliffe and Benson created this garden with the initials WNS. 
This was when they first made the garden 
so the plants are little, but they soon filled out.

 Thanks to Wycliffe and Benson and God, we had
such lovely grounds!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The joys of sprinting through life

Dave could hardly contain his joy. He leased an old colonial house on two and a half acres of land for the school—it was only temporary until West Nairobi School had its own permanent campus.
In those few months Dave sprinted through life on a wild, riotous schedule:

Recruiting teachers and a principal from North America,

ordering textbooks from the States,

searching for affordable ways to ship them,

buying hand-made desks and chairs and blackboards,

ordering computers and office furniture,

ordering classroom and office supplies,

converting the old home and its garage into classrooms and a library,

buying school buses and getting them painted,

interviewing and hiring bus drivers,

buying playground equipment,

setting up the faculty room:  refrigerator, water filter, copy machine, coffee pot,

driving our car at least half a dozen times to Rift Valley Academy (an excellent school for missionaries’ kids up north) to bring their almost-outdated English and literature textbooks down to West Nairobi School,

….and that was only the beginning!

The property was lush with trees and tropical vegetation but it had been neglected and needed a lot of work. That’s why Dave hired Wycliffe as a gardenerremember Wycliffe from last week’s post? I was delighted we could give him and his wife jobs! That was an answer to many prayers.

Dave hired another man, Benson, to help Wycliffe with the grounds and all-around chores and maintenance.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Benson. I was working in my office when he stopped at my door on his way to his job interview: bright-eyed, wearing a wide, nervous grin, clutching his hat in front of him, and dressed in his Sunday best—as long as a man wore a sport coat or a tie, he was properly dressed; he wore a sport coat. Benson was so excited he seemed to bounce when he asked me to direct him to David Thomas’s office. It was right next door so I showed the way.

For the next few minutes I couldn’t help but smile, wondering how the interview was going. On his way out, Benson poked his head in my office, even more radiant than before, and thanked me again for helping him find Dave’s office. He was about to burst with joy at landing a job. That was the beginning of an eight-year acquaintance with Benson.

It was a busy and exciting era, and we cherish the memories.

Benson (center) and Wycliffe (right) with our daughter Karen. She taught at WNS its first year!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Giving Wycliffe and Hellen jobs: One of my biggest joys

He was there from day one and, in the end, eight years later, he was one of the last persons I said goodbye to on the day I left Kenya for the last time.

At first I didn’t take any special notice of him as he stood with another guard by a wrought iron gate at the entrance to the Kiambere apartment complex. It was only after Dave and I had finished our orientation and began working in our new jobs that I looked into that young man’s face.

He and the other guard would open the gate for us on our way to and from work. The other guard didn’t catch my attention, but there was something special about him—his gentle voice, his kind eyes, his thoughtfulness, his presence.

During our first months in Nairobi, when Dave and I stepped through that gate, we set out into what seemed, to me, like a realm where evil lurked every step of the way until we got to the gate at our office.

The distance between the two gates was short—around a corner and about half a city block down a boulder-strewn hill—and at first I refused to walk to the office alone. I begged Dave to let me walk to and from work with him.

Eventually I marshaled enough courage to walk to the office by myself—at least sometimes—and that’s when that young gateman seemed like an angel, a visible gift from God, watching me until I rounded the corner. I knew he’d help if anyone tried to hurt me.  

And his name was Wycliffe. What a coincidence—Dave and I were working with Wycliffe Bible Translators!

I assumed Wycliffe had been hired to open and close gates for residents and their cars—every property and office had gates and guards—but later I learned he was unemployed. Kenya’s unemployment rate was staggering, hovering around 50%. Wycliffe was just donating his time, helping with the gate out of the goodness of his heart.

Week after week I was really troubled by Wycliffe’s lack of income. My heart ached for him and his young wife. I couldn’t imagine how they could be feeding themselves and where they might be living. Millions of Kenyans blessed to have jobs had to live in slums with no running water or plumbing or electricity. I wondered how he and his wife survived day by day, month after month.

For a long time I hoped and prayed someone would give Wycliffe a job but little did I know Dave could help answer those prayers!

Some two years went by and, in the spring of 1996 when Dave began staffing the soon-to-open West Nairobi School, Wycliffe was his first choice for maintaining the grounds. Dave also hired Wycliffe’s wife, Hellen, to cook lunch for the school’s cleaning staff. Giving Wycliffe and Hellen jobs was one of the biggest joys of my years in Kenya.

Wycliffe and Hellen (Karen Thomas Kelly photo)
The school’s first campus was in an old colonial home on a large piece of property that also had a couple of servants’ quarters. That meant Wycliffe and Hellen could live in a stone dwelling—small, but sturdy—with cement floor, electricity, and water! My heart still sings at the thought of it.

Year after year, Wycliffe and Hellen proved to be fine Christians, quiet, hard working, and dependable. 

How poor my life would be if God hadn’t caused my path to cross theirs!