It has been said that the graying of America is a God-ordained phenomenon unique in the history of the world and of the church. Never before has any country had so many retirees who are Christian and suited to invest their best years to make strategic and meaningful contributions to God’s kingdom around the world, especially in tentmaking missions. The same is true for Canada where social benefits are excellent and the Canadian dollar is getting stronger all the time.
With advanced degrees, a wealth of work experience and marketable skills, many BEEs can serve as self-supporting professionals overseas where traditional missionaries are not welcome. International business travel is increasingly commonplace. Some have taken short-term business assignments overseas. They are familiar with the work scene abroad.
In addition, BEEs are often experienced in ministry—teaching Sunday school, leading small groups, counseling, and various leadership roles. Some have taken seminary classes, earned theological degrees, and gone on short-term mission trips. Few people would say they are adequately prepared for missions. But with the opportunities God has given them, many have been preparing all their lives. Some BEEs are definitely ready to go.
While young or mid-career professionals are burdened with school loans and home mortgages, many BEEs are financially free. Children are grown. The house is almost if not all paid up. Money saved from years of hard work and frugality now allows them to do what captures their imagination.
Then there is the age advantage. In many parts of the world, especially in the traditional cultures among unreached peoples, a few gray hairs command respect and life-long careers lend credibility. Compared to younger tentmakers, what BEEs might lack in energy and speed, they could make up for with wisdom and patience.
Concerns & Solutions
Some BEEs may need to care for grandchildren or aging parents, but these are usually shared family responsibilities. Most are able to travel or at least spend a season serving abroad. Affordable international travel, the availability of the internet and inexpensive long distance phone services make staying in touch with loved ones at home and managing one’s finances and affairs online very doable.
While a few may struggle with illness or chronic conditions, most BEEs are enjoying better health than previous generations because they are well informed and choose to stay active. Accessible air travel, modern medicine and worldwide health coverage mean that health care needs can be readily met abroad.
Some BEEs may worry about physical adjustments to living overseas. But more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities as a result of economic migration. This is especially true among unreached peoples in the two-third world. As developing countries advance, urban living overseas is increasingly amenable. Moreover, affordable domestic help will relieve them from daily chores so they can more readily give their time and energy to ministry.
BEEs who speak the language of their ethnic origins can serve in their home countries with considerable ease and effectiveness. Those who do not speak a foreign language can still learn; the mind stays sharp with learning.
As for BEEs who are immigrants to North America, they have gone through cultural adaptation once and learned a few things. They can challenge themselves to do it again, especially in cultures akin to their own. When we are open to change, we can continue to learn and grow.
The China Call
China has become the world’s second largest economy. But unbridled materialism, greed and corruption have resulted in chaos at all levels of society, as evidenced by recent news events and the outrage expressed by millions of China’s micro bloggers. Many of these netizens are young men and women with an unprecedented openness to new ways of doing things and looking at the world. Some of the brightest among them are in the business sector, working for multinational companies. BEEs who are qualified professionals could go to work among them, mentor them, and impact them.
Options To Consider
Explore serving abroad, beginning with a few weeks to a few months. If possible, go for two years or longer because relationships and ministries take time to develop. Regardless of the duration overseas, you will return with your horizon stretched and your life enriched. You will become a better mobilizer and sender for missions in your home church.
Or make multiple trips every year on a regular basis and make yourself available to local partners whenever they could use seasoned helpers, say in training or outreach.
If health or personal circumstances prevent you from going overseas, reach out locally to international students, visiting scholars, and professionals sent to North America for short-term training. Make supporting missions part of your retirement plan. Be a sender through prayer and giving.
Your Timely Offering
Six days before Passover when Christ would go on the cross, Mary anointed the Lord with an alabaster jar of perfume worth a year’s wages. Some objected that it was a waste of resources that could have been used for alms. But Jesus declared that what Mary did in preparation for his burial was “a beautiful thing”. Then he added, “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Will you, like Mary, go beyond the dictates of worldly prudence and self-preservation to take hold of the present opportunity? If the thought of serving overseas has come to you before, perhaps more than once, this could be your timely offering, your call to action.