By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
JARRETTSVILLE, Md.—James and Diane [names changed for security reasons] admit when they retired, missions was not on their mind. But they did love to travel.
Diane retired in 2003 and James retired in 1997.
They visited a church in Canada, where James was inspired to suggest his church bring back a mission team. The pastor agreed, with one caveat—that James lead the team.
“So I really took that as a challenge, and that is how I began doing this work,” James said. Subsequently, he led three trips to Canada and then three trips to Western Maryland.
Then, their local associational director of missions shared about partnership vision trips to Scotland and the Middle East, both of which James soon visited.
“The partnership was the beginning of my seeing the big picture that God had for the world,” James said. “But my picture wasn’t exactly the picture God had intended for me.”
Ultimately, he was asked to be the project coordinator for the partnership for the Middle East. He explained, “I was convinced God was sending me to Scotland. My focus was Scotland. I really wanted to go to Scotland to be a part of that partnership.”
Nonetheless, God never shut the door to the Middle East, and he walked through it. “Being obedient to that has been the biggest blessing of my life,” he said.
But it wasn’t easy. He struggled to find people who were willing to travel to the Middle East. Finally, there was a breakthrough, and the partnership sponsored three trips to a closed nation in the region.
“God led us through all of this. We met a lot of people, things began to open up and the next thing we knew, we were looking for a way to get into [the closed nation]. If somebody would have told me that, I would’ve said, ‘You are crazy!’”
James and Diane attempted to become “tentmakers” [holding a job that allows them into the country], but everything fell through. Then several people suggested they try the Masters Program at the International Mission Board.
The Masters Program is designed for those 50 years old or older with no dependent children who are available to make a two or three year commitment to serve overseas utilizing the maturity, skills, and experience they have gained over their lifetime.
Having never gone to seminary or been a pastor, James admitted the application process was challenging. But the next thing they knew, they were in training in Richmond for the IMB’s Masters Program. And soon after that, they were in the Middle East, not in their target country, but one close to it, to serve nearly three years.
“I tell my friends, ‘The last three years of my life have probably been the worst physically, but they have been the best spiritually.’” James said. “It’s been a tremendous blessing to walk with this partnership that started with a vision from our director of missions and some others that helped us along the way.”
Diane added, “So in case you ever think you are ever too old to go overseas or to do anything for the Lord—baloney! That’s about the best way to put it. If you would have said to me in 2003, when I retired, ‘Guess what! In five years, you will be training at the International Mission Board,’ I would have laughed in your face. I had no thoughts ever of going overseas, at least not for a long period of time. But it truly was a blessing.”
Getting a little emotional, she continued, “As hard as it was to say goodbye to family here, it was even harder to say goodbye to our Arab friends.”
She explained they lived in a village where they were treated like family. James and Diane shared their lives with their neighbors, sharing in meals and activities, tutoring them in English, and even answering questions about Christmas.
They expressed gratitude for those who support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and to the Cooperative Program, which made all this possible.
“Without those two offerings, we would not have been able to go where we were. The training that we received through the International Mission Board would not have taken place,” Diane said.
“We could be poster children for the Lottie Moon offering for the International Mission Board because, as far as we are concerned, it is the Cadillac of missions-sending agencies.”
She added, “Without you, the 5,000 missionaries that are on the field right now would not even be able to be there. So, we just thank you for that.”
Due to the current economic situation, only a limited number of priority job requests are available through IMB’s Masters Program. If you have further questions call the IMB at (888) 422-6461 or visit online at http://going.imb.org.