…Wherever the established believer is driven,
he carries the knowledge of the gospel,
and makes known the preciousness of Christ in every place.
(Eighteenth century theologian Matthew Henry)
Once each week I work a few hours at a local Christian agency. My grand and glorious job title is best described as Go-fer, as in “go fer” whatever my overworked and underappreciated boss has piled up on his desk. Sometimes it’s as dramatic as shredding old copies or discarding outdated files. Always it’s making a fresh pot of coffee.
And then there are the days when I line up mailing envelopes on the work table, attach a proper mailing label to each and begin filling them with travel instructions, flight plans, insurance papers and other necessary documents for people going to countries around the world. Some of these destinations are “friendly,” others more “secure,” but in every place trip participants will assist educators in better preparing their young people to be responsible citizens. While presenting these sound teaching and administration principles, the teams are always ready and well equipped to sensitively present the claims of Christ.
I’ve been filling these packets for several years but recently my attention was arrested. Many of the same names are on the labels time after time, trip after trip. These are not pleasure or tourist adventures, but experiences that challenge the participants’ physical, mental, financial and spiritual resources. They rarely return with suitcases full of souvenirs (they rarely have time to go shopping!); instead they come home with hearts crammed full of stories of teachers having caught their own enthusiasm for opening young minds. More important are the stories of teachers who have finally come to believe, accept and commit their lives to the Savior and, in the process, become eager to share this Jesus with their students.*
While I don’t have access to personnel files, I asked my boss to guess the average age of these people whose suitcases show the wear and tear of frequent travel. His answer didn’t surprise me in the least: early to mid-sixties. These people have, in the mind of our Western culture, earned the right to retire and relax (“unwind, rest, slow down, lighten up, settle down, unwind”—all thesaurus synonyms for relax!). Most of these people once earned their incomes in secular fields and now joyfully, willingly labor in another Kingdom locale though not one advertised in Seniors’ River Cruises© or Sun City© brochures!
A friend, now retired from his career as a university professor, describes this period of his life as “re-treading.” Retread—a re-manufacturing process for tires that replace the tread on worn tires. Retreading is applied to casings of spent tires that have been inspected and repaired. How true of the people represented by the mailing labels. Many are “worn and spent” from long careers, but the Holy Spirit is inspecting and repairing in preparation for the next phase of the journey.
Christians in the New Testament were forced by persecution to “retire” from their homes, families and businesses in Jerusalem and environs. They scattered to places as distant as the Black Sea to the north, Mediterranean Sea to the south, Aegean sea to the west. “Those who were scattered went about preaching the word…” No visas or passports. No emergency evacuation procedures. Scars their only souvenirs.
What if every “retired” Western Christian obeyed the same call? Packed the same bag whether traveling to a neighbor across the street or reaching out to teachers across the globe? Waking every morning with the clarion call of God emblazoned on their personal horizons? “Where do you want me to go today, Lord? Who do you want be to love?” It’s not just for the favored few, for the theologically schooled, for the economically privileged. It’s for all who have chosen to follow the Savior. Your name—my name—can be on mailing labels!
*For more information on these projects, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.