Why students and retirees are critical to reaching the unreached

October 17, 2018

The Bible calls our journey as Christians a race.

Once you trust Christ as your Savior, your race begins. As you move through different seasons of your life, God has a plan for you. Your desire should be to finish strong.

Students and retirees are two diverse groups who are at different points in their respective races, but they both have tremendous potential to make an impact for God’s kingdom.

One group is striving to complete their education and looking forward to beginning a career in their chosen profession. The other is approaching the end of a career and looking forward to some rest, relaxation and extended time with family and friends.
Both groups possess unique opportunities to labor in the harvest field and share the good news of Jesus on a campus, in their community or around the world.

For students, American universities have a large and growing international student population. Many of these students come from countries where traditional missionaries are not allowed. This provides a golden opportunity to engage international students with the gospel.

Many international students would welcome someone to come alongside them in practical ways, such as going shopping, understanding bus routes around town and navigating locations on campus. Take time to learn about their culture, religion and family because they may be lonely and looking for a friend. The bottom line is to be aware that they are here and be intentional and motivated to reach them.
For retirees, American culture has portrayed retirement in an unbiblical way. Every TV commercial directed at retirees portrays retirement as the time to finally focus on ourselves and our desires.

As believers, we need to reject this idea. We never retire from being God’s ambassadors, nor are we released from the joy and responsibility of advancing the kingdom.

Retirees have a number of advantages when it comes to ministering to the lost. They have that most valuable of commodities — time. Many have substantial financial resources that give them tremendous freedom and flexibility. They also have a wealth of experience and maturity to weather strong challenges. In many cultures and situations, age and maturity are revered and respected, which gives retirees a tremendous advantage over their younger colleagues.  

Retirees must resist American cultural norms and maintain the motivation to stay involved in ministry. Why not “adopt” an international student? Or maybe you could teach conversational English to immigrants in your community. Many retirees are involved in disaster relief ministries, particularly in North Carolina. Or think really big and move to an urban center where the need for missionaries is great.

As recent retirees, my husband and I have wrestled with these issues. We spent 18 years as missionaries with the International Mission Board in Asia and 10 more years in ministry in the United States. At the ages of 63 and 62, we sold our home, cars and other possessions to move into a one-bedroom apartment in Queens, N.Y., where we are involved in church planting.

God placed New York City on our hearts through a partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. We made many trips to the city and through a variety of circumstances, and God made it clear to us that He wanted us here on a full-time basis. God is opening amazing doors for us to minister to a wide range of people groups in our own neighborhood, including many who are unreached.

We’re also helping train the next generation of young missionaries who will carry God’s work forward long after we are gone.
None of us know how much time we have on earth, but the finish line is approaching. Our desire should be to finish strong, to run the race with endurance and to be sprinting toward the finish line when He calls us home.

by Debra Smith  
/  Contributing Writer

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