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Retirees’ 1,576 years in missions celebrated

ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–Fifty-three retired International Mission Board missionaries celebrated the highs and remembered the lows of their service overseas as part of an emeritus conference June 10-14 at the International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.

Though 15 years’ service qualifies for emeritus status, the 53 missionaries honored at a recognition service June 13 averaged 30 years and a cumulative total of 1,576 years on the mission field.

It was with disbelief that Wayne and Pam Jenkins of Georgia watched the Berlin Wall fall. They waited for the sound of gunfire to disrupt the Germans dancing and screaming victory atop the divisive wall. The shots never came. The occasion marked the end of an era and opened doors during their 26-year ministry in Germany.

A terrorist bomb at a Philippines airport claimed the life of Lyn Hyde’s husband, Bill, in 2003. A year later, Lyn returned to the Philippines. She showed God’s love and forgiveness to a man who had been responsible for the deaths of other believers. The former Muslim eventually surrendered his life to the Lord. Lyn, who is from Iowa, is retiring after 31 years on the mission field.

David and Janene Ford of Missouri experienced their share of highs and lows during their 25 years in Argentina. Anti-Western sentiment during the Falklands War strained their relationships in the South American country. But the Fords -– soccer enthusiasts — joined in jubilation with their neighbors over an Argentine World Cup win.

Ray and Patsy Eitelman’s retirement years probably will not include riding into the sunset on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The Texas couple wore out six motorcycles on West African roads, riding the equivalent of 16 times around the world during their 25 years in Togo. Including service in Burkina Faso, they were on the mission field a total of 35 years on the mission field.


“If anyone is ready and deserving of rest, it is you,” IMB President Jerry Rankin told the 53 missionaries during a recognition service.

Rankin praised the retirees for sharing the Gospel even when there was no evidence of success, for having faith when visas were denied and for continuing to serve after the death of loved ones on the mission field.

“Even when there was no response, you believed He would be exalted. Even when you felt inadequate, you believed, as [the Apostle] Paul did, ‘I can do all things,'” Rankin said.

Quoting Hebrews 4:9-11, he encouraged the retirees to enter into a phase of rest.

In this passage, Rankin explained, rest from labor is not “catapeusis,” which means a rest from weariness in New Testament Greek. The writer of Hebrews used the word “sabbatism,” or a cessation of labor, which reflects a completion of a task.

“You have completed the task that God appointed when you said, ‘I will go,'” Rankin said. “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest.”

However, he assured the retiring missionaries that there are future ministries ahead.

“Retirement is not the completion of your ministry. God has roles for you. Retirement is completing the calling of the missionary service on the field,” Rankin said.

How do missionaries transition into this time of rest?

Fear, faith and fulfillment, Rankin said: the fear of stopping short of fulfilling God’s calling for the rest of their lives; faith that He will be faithful until the end; and trust in the fulfillment of God’s promises.

“Having completed your labor, you’re now entering the rest,” Rankin said, “prepared by the One who will one day welcome you with, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.'”
Caroline Anderson wrote this story on behalf of the International Mission Board.

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