The Great Commission doesn’t include a retirement age! Thanks to Warren Johnson for this peek at some missionary adventures that prove missions isn’t just for young adults. You can read more from Warren at Focusing the Lens of Life.
Where have you served on missions and at what age?
Two weeks on the YWAM ship Caribbean when I was 35+/- Two week trip to Bungoma, Kenya @ 55+/-
What made you decide to serve there?
Not sure that I knew I should go; found out that the ship would be dockside for repairs and determined that I would go if they’d take me. Kenya trip was in response to our Pastor’s ministry there. He was going again and I had the opportunity to sign up. My question to myself and the pastor was, “This may be my good idea, but is it God’s will?” Pastor said yes.
What was your greatest challenge while serving?
I went to serve however they liked. Going with that in mind, I wouldn’t call the trip challenging, other than trying to sleep in a ship bunk made for 5’6″ people when I’m 6’4″. The Africa trip went well except for the deterioration of the country infrastructure. What should have taken four or five hours to drive, took twelve. My knees were painful to tears by the time we arrived. A couple of aspirin and twenty minutes of no vibration ended the challenge until the trip home.
How did you see God at work while you were serving?
The crew of the ship was made up of many people groups. I bunked with Bill, a guy from an island in the S. Pacific. Others were from around the world and each working for God’s glory in the day to day tasks of refitting the ship with an eye surgical suite, replenishing food supplies, cleaning, chipping paint, painting, greasing things, cleaning, bible studies, cleaning, etc. My Bungoma mission was to support pastor and his wife during the trip. The Bethesda girls school had 50 young women/girls attending on campus. As little money as there was to run the school, sacrifices were made daily so the girls could learn. The bigger mission for the group entailed encouraging over 100 pastors who came on three days’ notice to hear Pastor speak. Some walked 11 hours to get there. I was asked to speak for a couple of minutes, but I simply referred to the scripture about being poor, blind and naked because that’s the way I felt compared to their demonstration of faith.
What opposition did you face before you went or while you were serving?
At one point, although the Mercy Ship was a privately pursued venue, the young man appointed as the “Missions Director” commented to our pastor that I hadn’t contacted him. He was right, but Pastor allowed me to go. This was a case of positional authority rather than relational work. I think we both learned something. The big opposition occurred on the way back while changing planes in Istanbul. I had previously traveled to Dubai on business and went through Israel on the way home. No passport check occurred on the way to Kenya, but on the way back there was a small incident. Apparently relations between Turkey and Israel changed. I took the last position of passing through customs and the girl behind the kiosk took one look at my “stamps” and said, “Wait here.” She passed me on to another who passed me to another who passed me to another. Finally, the supervisor says, “Do you read or speak Hebrew?” I chuckled (and thought to myself, “don’t say Shalom”) and said, “No.” He waved me through.
What would you most like people to know about the place/people group you served?
YWAM Mercy Ships personnel do a tremendous work with sparse resources. If you’re looking for a place to leave a legacy in the medical missions field, this is a great place to invest. Bethesda Ministries International deserves your consideration, especially if you value education for the local people. The vision is to grow to a 300 seat school and the foundation is being built. Funds are always required.