Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 12:6 to “remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed” adding in verse 13, “don’t let life slip away before fulfilling its purpose to fear God and keep His commandments.” One of those commandments is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20): “go, make disciples of all nations, baptize, and teach.” There are no age parameters. Five 70-plus-year-old seniors with 27 combined short-term mission trips in eight countries know this well.
Harold and Helen Hancock (Meadow Brook Baptist, Birmingham Ala.) led pastors’ conferences and developed a radio station in Thailand. Doris Slappey (First Baptist, Birmingham, Ala.) conducted women’s Bible studies in Africa. Her door-to-door evangelism once produced a chicken gift that ultimately birthed “Chickens for Jesus” providing food support for African widows. Margaret O’Kelley (First Baptist, Sylacauga, Ala.) roamed Germany’s parks handing out pamphlets and then embarked on two India trips handing out Bibles, making crafts, and managing the team finances. Gloria Whitlock (First Baptist, Birmingham) focused on children. LOTS of children in India. What started out as a dozen energetic Hindi children attending Bible School turned into five dozen by week’s end resulting in fourteen conversions. Whitlock developed a picture book storyline from creation to salvation that each child personalized and took home.
Was their impact measurable? Well, the Christian radio station the Hancocks helped establish broadcasts daily. Slappey said she has seen “literally hundreds come to the Lord.” Sometimes the impact is elusive such as when O’Kelley encountered an elderly couple in Switzerland. Although skeptical, the husband was impressed enough to stop and listen to her, offering his bundle of cherries in exchange for his wife to take every pamphlet O’Kelley had. And who knows what the rippling impact of Whitlock’s picture books might have in the homes of the Hindi children she taught.
Age was rarely a limiting factor but the Hancocks noted when it was, “spiritual wisdom over-compensated.” Age often worked in their favor. Sins were more likely to be shared with gray-haired seniors. “I noticed older people gravitated to me before going to someone younger,” O’Kelley stated. Slappey confessed to having some trepidation before her first trip to Africa until the Lord informed her He once used a jackass (Numbers 22)!
Gratitude was expressed by each of these senior adults for the opportunity, travel safety, support, and development of new friendships. Each hopes to be an encouragement to other senior adults to expand their borders, learn from other cultures, and pray for God’s leading. Smiling the Hancocks offer the challenge: “Just go!”
-Karen Allen, Author of Confronting Cancer with Faith, www.confrontingcancerwithfaith.com