Nancy and I are spending this Labor Day weekend with some long-time friends in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They have been thinking about their next season of life and invited us here to process with them.
Even though we are using the term “retirement,” it probably means something different to us than it does in general use. For the four of us, retirement means we have achieved independence in a number of areas which give us a new set of options regarding how and where we live the rest of our lives. For example:
- Nancy and I no longer have any biological children living in our home. Our Ghanaian “daughter” is still with us but will probably leave within the next year. Our friends have a ten year old daughter who we expect will be with them another eight years or so.
- Nancy and I do not have organizational ties that require us to be in a certain location. We can fulfill our Anda Leadership and Kidzana responsibilities from just about anywhere. Our friends are responsible for their medical practice.
- If things go according to our plan, Nancy and I could have significant financial flexibility (financial independence) in ten to 15 years. Our friends could be financially set for life within a couple years.
- Currently, we are all healthy, but we are aware that will not last. We don’t want to become burdens for our children.
We agree that “retirement” does not mean “unfocused.” We believe that the flexibility retirement offers provides us new opportunities to serve Christ and build his Kingdom. We are asking, “What is God doing in the world today and how can we best plug into that during the final season of our lives?”
We recognize the importance of community. Our friends are particularly sensitive to this issue and they are attempting to build a community now that will help make their retirement years effective. We also have options regarding where we live. Should we stay were we are to continue in ministry and relationships there? Move to a warmer climate? Become snow-birds? Move to Africa or somewhere else?
Have you thought about retirement? What have you concluded? Do you have any advice for us as we think and plan?
It was 21 years ago that the Soviet Union split apart. I was reminded of this while chatting on the phone with a long-time friend and former colleague who continues to serve Christ in Central Asia. He and his family have been there for more than 15 years. Uzbekistan became an independent country September 1, 1991. I was in Uzbekistan that summer scouting out opportunities for Caleb Project to send research teams. We did send the teams and that directly led to my friend returning there as a full-time Kingdom representative.
Caleb Project wasn’t the only organization to invest in Central Asia. At one time there were a couple hundred ex-patriots in Uzbekistan and hundreds more spread through the other newly formed Central Asian countries. A small army sharing God’s love with the people who had been cut off from the rest of the world during the seven decades of communist occupation.
Unfortunately, the Uzbekistan government has now returned to the oppressive tactics of the Soviets. Most of the Kingdom workers who were serving in the country have been forced to leave. Nevertheless, God is still at work. When I visited the capital in 1991, there was only one Christian that we knew about. Now there are hundreds. Their lives are not easy, but they are growing in Christ and taking risks to share him with their neighbors.
Thank God for the window of opportunity we had to enter Uzbekistan and thank him for those who are trusting him in that difficult place. May they have wisdom and peace as they encounter various trials.
Yesterday I had lunch with my friend David in Denver. Like a number of other people that I’ve talked to during this month-long road trip, David reads this blog, at least sometimes. I’ve been surprised and encouraged by the number and diversity of readers. I have not promoted it. My goal, when I started last fall, was to see if I had what it takes to regularly write. This is my 116th post, so I am gaining confidence that I am able to sustain a blog.
For me, sustaining a blog is not easy. I have considered quitting a couple times. For me, the steps to producing a post are:
- Remember that I should write something.
- Think of something interesting that has meaning beyond the incident itself.
- Find the 30 minutes or so that it takes to write approximately 300 words.
- After gaining confidence that the blog communicates what I intend, hit “Publish.”
- Enjoy the comments that people offer in response to what I have written.
I intend to not be “preachy.” Rather, I try to recount personal experiences, current observations, and lessons I am learning. I prefer to say, “Therefore, I want to change,” than to say, “Therefore, you should change.” I hope that what I am observing and learning will encourage others. However, that is up to them.
David encouraged me to begin promoting this blog. I am willing to do that, but I will have to learn how. Do you have input that would help me? For example, it would help me to know why you read this. What have I written that particularly encourages you? How could I improve this blog? What would make it appealing to more people? Your feedback is appreciated.
Laura and Kagi were married in a beautiful ceremony August 18, 2012. On the way to their wedding, Nancy and I stopped for a couple days at my parents’ home in Pennsylvania. While there I noticed that the Queen of the Meadow flowers were in bloom. That reminded me of the times I helped my great-aunt Vida Edwards, my grand-mother’s sister, pick them to take to her mother’s grave. Leah Seely Edwards, Aunt Vida’s mother, my mother’s grandmother, was born August 18, 1874, 138 years to the day before Laura’s wedding. She loved the Queen of the Meadow flowers that bloomed on her birthday.
In Niagara Falls, I told Laura about the flowers and how Aunt Vida used to take them to Laura’s great, great grandmother’s grave. Laura liked the story and wished she had some of the flowers to include in the arrangements at her wedding. We discussed asking my mother bring some from Pennsylvania, but rejected the idea for a number of reasons.
Later in the week, I went to the bank of the Niagara River to spend some time alone praying and reading the Bible. While I was sitting there, I noticed Queen of the Meadow flowers in abundance along the river. I showed them to Laura. She loved them and decided that they could be perfectly incorporated with the white roses in the wedding bouquets.
Therefore, the Queen of the Meadow flower has become a five generational link. Leah Seely Edwards loved them. Her daughter Vida Edwards used them to remember her mother, picking them with the help of Gregory Fritz, her niece’s son. And, Gregory’s daughter incorporated them into her wedding ceremony!
My daughter Laura married Kagiso Phaladi Saturday afternoon. It was an amazing day. Actually, it was an amazing week! Our family has not even begun to slow down in recounting the stories of how the week and the ceremony unfolded. One theme in our stories has been how wonderfully God provided people to cover for our shortcomings. While driving to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon, my second oldest daughter, Allison, and I tried to list the people who stepped into specific needs that we had at just the right time. Here is a sampling:
- The Singh family, Artaj and Judy, allowed us to turn their beautiful home on the Niagara River into the wedding headquarters. They hosted many night-guests and even more day-guests. The served many meals. They provided counseling and local information. Their availability saved us a lot of money, but what they gave us was far more than money could buy.
- The Green family, Tim, Bethan, Ffion, and Mererid, from England, arrived several days early and added much needed expertise and manpower in preparing the venue. I especially appreciated the fun and laughter they brought to the process. Then Tim provided a wonderful sermon during the wedding ceremony!
- Bridesmaid Catherine Hamilton graciously self-assigned herself to the “director” role Friday and Saturday after she observed that the Fritz family was no longer effectively self-directing. Her competence was immediately evident and we spontaniously and gratefully responded to her leadership.
- Then entire wedding party worked together doing everything from preparing the flowers to protecting the bride from too much stress.
- Photographer, Amy Birdsong, proved her professional competence as she herded us for pictures and made it fun! I can’t wait to see her pictures.
- Videographer, JP Young, unobtrusively captured the event on video. Again, I can’t wait!!
- Peter Hedlund did an amazing job as event disc-jockey! His timely choice of songs made the reception memorable.
- Literally dozens of people spontaniously helped with set-up and tear down and in countless other ways.
- Almost everyone traveled a significant distance to come. Many people crossed an international boarder, some traveled from distant continents. Every attendee helped make the ceremony special.
Many people contributed to make the day special. Thanks to each and every one!
As I think about my oldest daughter during these final days before her wedding, I see certain characteristics in her that are particularly apparent and attractive. In my previous two blogs, I noted her adventurousness and responsibility. Today, I am thinking about her gift of hospitality. Laura has a knack for receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
As I write this, she is in the kitchen baking cakes for the desert table at her wedding. She is known to be an excellent baker on several continents. In fact, today I learned from some British friends of hers that when when she was staying with them, they restricted her to one baking day each week. They needed to find a way to control the extra pounds that were resulting from Laura’s prolific productions.
When Laura was in high school, our house was constantly filled with her friends. They came for meetings that Laura organized or to just hang out. During those years, there were many nights that I went to bed while our living room was still full of Laura’s friends.
Hospitality continued to be an important part of her life when she lived in Maryland. She and her housemates hosted a weekly gathering of internationals who enjoyed the fellowship and the treats.
If you follow Laura on Facebook or Pinterest, you will see how she enjoys hosting others and how she works to make others feel comfortable. Hospitality is a wonderful gift. I am grateful for Laura and her hospitable spirit. I have regularly been the primary beneficiary as she has baked me more pies, cakes, and cookies than can be counted.
(I just sampled the cake. It is good! Thanks Laura! 🙂 )
My daughter, Laura, is getting married Saturday. To prepare for the wedding I have been thinking about her and her character traits that I particularly admire. Yesterday, I wrote about her adventurism. Today, I am thinking about her responsibility.
Laura is responsible and exhibits other leadership qualities. Examples of her stepping into leadership roles include:
- She was elected the student body president when she was a senior in high school and tirelessly served her school in that capacity.
- She launched and led a group of Christian youth from our community who invested in mobilizing their peers into missions after the Columbine shootings near our home in Littleton, CO.
- She helped facilitate an outreach ministry to internationals from her home in Virginia when she lived there.
- Even though she was only an intern at the ministry she served with in the mid-East, she earned the respect of the organization’s leaders and was entrusted with leadership responsibilities.
When she recognizes a need or opportunity, she acts. She doesn’t wait for someone else to do something, she initiates and then she sticks with it until it is done.
Edmond Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (or women) do nothing.”
Laura has a keen sense of what is right and wrong. She refuses to join the ranks of people who “do nothing.” She continually strives to block evil’s advance and she fights for what is right. She is a good example and that is a large part of why I am delighted to be on her team at Anda Leadership.
Next Saturday, in five days, my first born is getting married. Laura will marry Kagi Phaladi here in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We are spending this week getting ready for the wedding. Along with the physical preparation, I realize I need to get emotionally ready. I was surprised by the strength of my emotions nine years ago when Nancy and I dropped Laura off for her freshman year at Grove City College. I want to be better prepared this time. To that end, I have decided to attempt to write several blog posts that express some aspects of Laura’s character that I especially appreciate.
When I think of Laura, I think of her inclination to take risks. I first noticed this element in her character when she was less than a year old. Unafraid of falling, she started walking when she was eight month’s old. One day she tagged along with me on an errand to Home Depot. As I was studying something at one end of the plumbing isle, Laura wandered to the other end. I was watching her and when she turned the corner at the end, I went to the next isle intending to head her off. Unfortunately, she was not in that isle or the next. Aware that cute little girls can be kidnapping targets, I began to run up and down the isles looking for her. After realizing that she had somehow disappeared, I rounded the end of one last isle to go to the front of the store and ask for a lock-down. It was then that I overheard a man mutter to no one in particular, “Whose baby is that?” He was looking straight up as he spoke. My eyes followed his gaze and my heart skipped a beat as I saw Laura ten feet off the floor on the top of a tall portable ladder-platform.
Shortly after the Home Depot incident, Nancy lost Laura in our house. We lived on a busy four-lane street in a high crime district of Pasadena, CA. As Nancy was searching high and low for her the door bell rang. When Nancy opened the door she met a Spanish-speaking lady who lived in a second floor apartment 500 yards down the street at the corner. Apparently Laura had wandered down there and climbed the stairs. Since we were the only white family on the street, the lady accurately deduced that she belonged to us and kindly brought her home.
Laura’s adventurist spirit continued through high school and college as she participated on various short-term mission trips and other adventures.
Immediately after she paid off her college loans, she began traveling again visiting and living in various countries, including several in the Mid-East and North Africa.
Currently, her adventurist spirit is leading her to enter a cross-cultural marriage and to continue working with me to launch Anda Leadership. Both current adventures are high risk, high reward endeavors — perfectly suited for Laura the adventurist.
Nancy and I left for a cross-country road trip eight days ago. Our agenda is to visit ministry donors and other friends as we travel to our daughter’s wedding. So far we have traveled in eleven states and met with numerous people.
Simultaneously, we are preparing for the wedding that is scheduled at a venue in Canada where none of our family currently resides.
As I’ve reflected on the trip so far, one word that describes our experience is, “generosity.” We have noticed that most people are adjusting their lifestyle downwards. The weak economy seems to be affecting everyone. Our friends don’t have as much financial flexibility as they used to. A small business owner is struggling with decreased traffic in her store. Employees at academic institutions are struggling with frozen salaries. A dentist is trying to increase his client base as people postpone their dental work due to lost insurance. Young people are struggling to find employment of any kind.
Nevertheless, people have enthusiastically welcomed us into their homes and have made us feel special. We have eaten some of the most wonderful meals imaginable. We have slept on beds that have been sacrificed by our hosts for us. We have received gift cards for gas and meals. A donor in Pittsburgh even lent us a company van including a gas card to transport supplies to the wedding.
We are also receiving various kinds of help from friends in Niagara Falls and other places as we approach Laura’s wedding day. Many people are working together to make that a wonderfully unforgettable event.
I confess, I am humbled by this outpouring of generosity that rises out of our friends’ love of God and appreciation for us and our ministry. I am the kind of person that is more comfortable with giving than with receiving. Nevertheless, I am deeply grateful.
Thank God for his unmatched generosity and for our many friends who are joining together to support us during this month of travel and celebration!