Aging Boomers told to
start now as volunteers
___By Jenny Rogers
___SBC International Mission Board
___RICHMOND, Va. (BP)-- Life seemed set for Texas native Evelyn Malone, who taught elementary school for 23 years and helped lead church-based outreach cell groups.
___But while visiting her daughter, who was attending a Christian college in Chicago, she met one of her daughter's favorite missions professors. He said something unexpected to her: "You're not here just by chance. The Lord has something to do through you."
___"I was so surprised!" Malone recalled. "I just stood there with my mouth hanging open."
___She learned about missions opportunities through the college and participated in several short-term mission projects. After working with teenagers in Bulgaria and singing in a
Choctaw church in Oklahoma, she began feeling an intense passion to reach non-Christians around the world. She also began to seek full-time missions opportunities.
|If boomers have not started some kind of regular
volunteer mission service by age 45, they probably never will, observers say.
___"What I see is the Lord preparing me for stages along the way," she explained in hindsight. "When my daughter graduated from college, I was without excuse."
___Malone followed God's leading to a two-year International Service Corps assignment in Mexico through the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board and currently is preparing for orientation. She will start a new career: teaching English as a Second Language at a college and starting Bible study groups--much like her cell groups back home.
___"I feel like the Lord's planned this from the beginning of the world," she said. "I'm as excited about this as I was the first day I started teaching school."
___Malone is in good company. She is part of a new wave in older adult missions workers, a wave fueled largely by the aging of the baby boomers.
___The number of Americans over age 50 swelled to 72.4 million in 1998, more than a quarter of the population. By 2001, baby boomers (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) will be turning 50 at a rate of one every 6.8 seconds--2.4 seconds faster than in 1996, when the oldest boomers started hitting the 50-year milestone.
___By 2030, about 115.5 million Americans will be over 50-- about a third of the projected U.S. population by that date-- according to the American Association of Retired Persons.
___These aging baby boomers are healthier, will live longer and plan to retire earlier than their parents and grandparents. And as they always have, boomers as a generation will continue searching for ways to change the world.
___That is beginning to have a profound impact on missions, according to IMB leaders.
___More Southern Baptists are looking at retirement--early or otherwise--not as a perpetual vacation but as a new opportunity to use their time, talents and resources for God.
___Older Southern Baptists have been serving overseas through the International Service Corps program since it was launched in 1990. More than 1,100 ISC missionaries over 50 years of age have been commissioned to serve in short-term assignments ranging from four months to two years. The oldest ISC worker currently overseas is Margaret Burks, 84, in Tanzania.
___With the number of Southern Baptist boomers continuing to climb, the IMB recently launched the Masters Program, a new avenue for mission service with assignments of two or three years. Similar to the popular Journeyman program for college graduates under age 30, the Masters Program is designed for people age 50 and above. It offers service opportunities all over the world, such as:
___ Church-planter intern in an unreached area.
___ Livestock specialist/agronomist in Tanzania.
___ Business manager/treasurer assistant in Ecuador.
___ Youth worker in Portugal.
___ English-as-a-Second-Language teacher in India.
___An even newer option for all ages is International Mission Stateside Partners, which allows Southern Baptists to volunteer long-term on the IMB's home office staff in a variety of management, professional and support positions.
___"If you are like many Southern Baptists, you may already be retired or facing that time of release from the daily grind with good health, adequate income and skills and experience that still hold great potential in God's kingdom," noted IMB President Jerry Rankin.
___Second careers in Christian service or short-term mission projects are a great place to begin investigating the possibilities, he suggested.
___Programs like Masters and International Service Corps make productive use of time and offer flexibility, adventure and, most importantly, significance.
___"Many people of the baby boomer generation have been very successful and done very well, but now they're looking for significance," said Jim Riddell, leader of the IMB missionary mobilization team. "So we want to provide them with an opportunity to have an impact on the world for the cause of Christ. This is an opportunity for them to make a dramatic shift in their lives."
___But there's a catch.
___Unless you prepare now, the odds you actually will follow up your "first half" with significant kingdom work are slim.
___Many people hear God's call but are afraid to step out into unfamiliar territory, writes Bob Buford in "Halftime," a book about preparing for success in the second phase of life. These well-intentioned adults decide to wait and finish what they're doing. But by the time they do, they're too tired and it's too late.
___He quotes management expert Peter Drucker as saying retirees have not proved to be the fertile source of volunteer effort they once were predicted to be.
___"Peter believes that if you do not have a second career or parallel career in service by age 45, and if you are not vigorously involved in it by 55, it will never happen."
___With God's leading and a little planning, the "second half" can become the most productive part of life, Buford writes.
___For information about the IMB's Masters Program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 789-4693. For information about the Stateside Partners program, e-mail email@example.com or call (800) 999-3113, ext. 1670. Information also is available at www.imb.org.
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