When I was a young adult, I was proud of my apparent large capacity for work and my good work ethic. Both my parents had taught me well. My mother believed in hard work and in doing a job right, with excellence. My father was organized and attended to every little detail. Between the two of them looking over my shoulder, I couldn’t help but develop a hard-working attitude in life. And work hard I did…in school, later in jobs, and finally on the mission field in ministry. I could go from sunup to sundown, with barely a pause for lunch and people loved my work. This was a source of pleasure for me and continued up through my 40s.
But, something happened about mid-50s, I began to notice subtle changes in my ability to keep on top of things, to multi-task, and to work non-stop with barely a break. My body was whispering to me “slow down a bit”. I didn’t listen. I just pushed harder.
Finally, in my late 50s the whisper became a louder voice and I noticed troubling signs in my physical wellbeing. I went to Doctors, had tests, and the conclusion was I was still in good health, but stress was getting to me. My body was beginning to refuse the punishing demands I was putting on it. After much prayer, I came to the conclusion I had to slow down and make some changes. At the same time, my husband, Chip and I began talking seriously about succession for the ministry. We came face to face with our own mortality and had to admit we won’t be around forever and had best begin now looking for and training successor(s) for Ukarimu Ministries. We did not want to wait for a crisis to force our hands. This produced mixed feelings. In addition, we noticed that our ministry was already beginning to take on a new look. We were doing less ourselves and doing much more mentoring and facilitating than ever before…training the next generation.
On my walk one afternoon, I was musing about all this and had a mental image of a ‘pack’ so to speak of young people, all eager for ministry, to change the world, to see God’s kingdom come on earth. I was reminded of the scripture in Luke 2:1-3, 17-20, where the 72 disciples Jesus had sent out for ministry, came back all eager and excited, describing the miracles that were happening and exclaiming that “even the demons are subject to us!”. I could just imagine their excited chatter as they gathered around Jesus, all talking at once. Some see Jesus as rebuking His disciples when he tells them to not rejoice that demons are subject to them but that their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. I tend to see Jesus smiling indulgently at their excitement, while reminding them of God’s priorities. I imagine their excitement touched His heart.
Now well into our 60s, I see our ministry increasingly becoming that of advisors, consultants, mentors, ones who inspire and encourage young adults to do the active ministry. My mental image continued with the vision of the pack of young people rushing out to do ministry with the same excitement that the 72 had, then running back with a question, a challenge they came across, a problem to solve. We encourage, we pray, we teach, we challenge, and then out they run again to face new ministry challenges, with eager faces and zealous hearts, full of vigour, joy, and faith, until they hit another challenge and come running back.
Does it feel sad to not be running with the pack? Yes, it does. I loved running with others, the race set before me. I found it invigorating and faith-building. But at the same time, it is hard to describe the amazing feeling of inspiring young people, helping them make discoveries in ministry and faith, helping them transform from apathetic pew warmers to on-fire world changers! Perhaps it might be a bit like Jesus felt when the 72 came rushing back to him so excited about their first attempts in radical ministry. I just love seeing the pack run. Sure, I miss running with them, but I feel so grateful that my work is not done just yet. It has just changed form. Acceptance brings peace. I am still running the race set before me. It is just a different race from my younger days and I rejoice in it.