Picking Cherries or Cherry-Picking ?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

One of the many pleasures of living in Kyrgyzstan, as we did for portions of three years, was to pick cherries each spring.

First came the sour, pie cherries which we gladly picked to make cherry pie, cobbler, jam or a host of other goodies. Some friends had one of those trees in their yard and couldn’t use all of the fruit. So we spent several cool mornings picking away and adding to our supply.

About the time that the sour cherry trees completed their season, the trees bearing sweet cherries put forth their own fruit. Not only did we pick large quantities of those but, when we walked the tree-shaded streets of Bishkek, we often found cherry tree branches hanging over a fence or a wall. As we passed by, we, as well as many others, grabbed a handful to eat as we headed for our destination.

While picking cherries is a wonderful experience, I’m reminded that cherry-picking is something quite different than obtaining good fruit.

Dictionary.com defines the practice of cherry-picking as to “choose or take the best or most profitable of (a number of things), especially for one’s own benefit or gain.”

The cherry-picking that is most disturbing to me is that which involves looking for a proof-text biblical verse that supports one’s own pet belief or a point they are trying to make in a sermon or article. I often describe this process as a sermon in search of a text.

In a presentation I heard some time ago, the speaker was doing just that—presenting an inspirational message that, rather than use a biblical passage and interpreting its truth for the listener, snatched three short phrases from various places in the Bible to “prove” or illustrate his points.

In so doing, the speaker distorted the message of the biblical passage and missed the more complete teaching offered. As a result, listeners were short-changed by not allowing the text itself to reveal the complete message of the Gospel.

This is the text that the speaker used (Romans 3:23): “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Now, here is the complete section from Romans 3: 21-26 in which that quote appears:

 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

The sharp reader will notice that the text selected was an extracted phrase from a longer sentence and paragraph. In addition, on the overhead screen where the phrase was shown, the first word, all, was capitalized as if it was the initial word of the sentence, which it isn’t in the text. In addition, the punctuation was changed from a comma at the end of the phrase to a period—leaving the listener to assume that the thought was complete.

It wasn’t.

What was missed? Plenty, but particularly in just that sentence:

  1. The teaching applies everyone, both Jews and Gentiles.
  2. The passage demonstrates that all who sin and fall short are justified by God’s grace
  3. And, it shows that God’s grace is given through redemption in Jesus Christ.

That, my friends, is the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News, the understanding that in the face of universal sin, God’s forgiveness and grace come through Jesus Christ.

No wonder I was so frustrated that day. A grand opportunity to actually proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ was missed by a cherry-picked, incomplete quote, a changed punctuation mark, and the omission of the Gospel proclamation.

It’s a good reminder that while I will continue to pick cherries, I will always stay away from cherry-picking scripture to serve my own purpose and instead will allow God’s complete word to be proclaimed.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

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One Car to love—the saga continues!

(Here is an article I wrote in 2004 when we were living in Costa Rica. It’s light and perhaps will bring a chuckle to your day. –Ken

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

When last we joined missionaries Ken and Polly MacHarg, they were rejoicing that their “new” car was again on the road running.

You will remember that just two days after they bought their 1988 Trooper, it broke down, stalling five times in one day, once right in front of the U.S. Embassy.

A tow from a friend and three days in repair found them with new injectors and who knows what else. But, at least it was running.

We join them now as they are on their way to their teaching ministries at UNELA—The Evangelical University of the Americas.

“That sure was a good trip, wasn’t it Polly,” Ken comments

“Yes, seeing the active Arenal volcano and all of the beautiful mountain scenery was really nice,” Polly agreed.

“But that trip around Lake Arenal was something else—what a terrible bumpy road with all of those ruts, rocks and streams to cross,” Ken said. “What was that? It sounds like something fell off the back of the car.”

“Yes,” Polly said. “Maybe you had better check it.”

Ken eases the lumbering vehicle over to the curb right across from the Latin American regional headquarters of Habitat for Humanity. Stepping out, he surveys the situation and returned to the car.

“You had better get out. You’re not going to believe this, but the gas tank fell off of the car and there is gasoline spilling out onto the street!”

It took only an hour and a half for the tow truck to arrive and haul the car back to the mechanic.

Why not replace the fuel pump while we are here, Ken figures. When they did the original work they said it would need to be replaced eventually.

Four days later, Ken and Polly are back on the road—at least for a while. Two days later Ken notes that the brakes are feeling soft and not grabbing as they should.

“Hm…most of the time this thing won’t go, but now I’m afraid it may not stop!” he muses as he takes the car, this time under its own volition, back to the garage.

Now, while Troopers are fairly common in Costa Rica, it seems that, after the brakes are totally dismantled, that the mechanic can’t find the parts he needs. “I’ll probably have them tomorrow (mañana) promises the mechanic.

Definition (U.S.): Tomorrow—tomorrow.
Definition (Costa Rica): Tomorrow (mañana)—not today.

Four days later Ken again leaves the mechanic as the proud owner of a totally new brake system.

We join Ken and Polly again a few days later. It’s a Saturday afternoon and Polly has stopped at Yamuni Department Store to buy a few things.

Ring

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s me. I’m at Yamuni and the car won’t start.”

“Oh, Ok, I’ll be right there.”

Sure enough, thirty minutes later Ken observes for himself that the car, indeed, won’t start. Now, it’s late Saturday afternoon and all of the mechanics are closed for the weekend.

But, God provides. It turns out that one of the warehouse men at Yamuni just happens to be a mechanic and just happens to have his tools with him. Of course, it has started to rain, so a few folks in the parking lot are rounded up to push the car under shelter where, 30 minutes later, the mechanic has fixed the bad battery connection, and they are again on their way.

For now.

Let’s see, that was Saturday. The next Thursday, Ken is at the Escazú Christian Fellowship’s Men’s breakfast that he leads. Coming out of the restaurant, Ken finds that, once again, the car won’t start.

“Pour some coke on the connection, it will clean up all of that corrosion,” advises a fellow gringo who has stopped at Bagelmen’s to pick up his breakfast. “If that doesn’t work, I have jumper cables.”

Coke? “Let’s see, diet or regular…I suppose it doesn’t matter,” Ken muses as he pours the soft-drink on the connection. Presto—the corrosion immediately disappears. “I wonder what it does to your stomach?” he thinks, but quickly dismisses the thought.

One jump later, Ken is at a new mechanic from which, thirty minutes later, he drives out as the proud owner of a new Rocket brand car battery.

Now begins several weeks of tranquility and smooth running. Ken and Polly and Polly’s ESL intern drive a horrendous mountain road to the beach and return to San José without incident.

(They can’t tell you what the mileage on that trip was. When they bought the car the odometer said 84,000 miles. Today, three months later, it still says 84,000 miles. Perhaps that ought to be fixed sometime!)

All was going well…until Wednesday.

We join Ken and Polly as they leave their house headed for their evening Bible Study. It has been an extremely rainy day, downpours all afternoon—after all, this is rainy season in Costa Rica.

“Hmmm, Ken thinks. I can’t get the key into the lock. Polly, it looks like something happened to this lock—maybe somebody tried to get in. Can you open the door from your side?”

“Sure, give me a minute.”

A minute later, Ken and Polly see the reason for the lock problem. They are no longer the proud owners of a car radio. It seems that during the rain storm when everybody was inside, someone manipulated the lock and stole the car radio.

“I never keep a radio in my car,” explains Don Franklin of UNELA the next day. “If I do, someone will either break the window or damage the lock to get in and steal it. If I want a radio, I carry one with me.”

“At least the car is still running, but they stole the radio,” Ken tells the Bible study that night.

“I wish they had stolen the whole car,” Polly says.

“Me to.”

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Too flip or just right?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

The first time I heard our friend pray, I was surprised, and perhaps a little shocked.

I had always begun my prayers by addressing God as “Our Father”, or “Almighty God” or some such phrase that described Him as all-powerful, almighty, all-sovereign.

But our friend began her prayers simply with “Father Dear.”

Father Dear? That’s different, isn’t it? For me, at first hearing, it was a little, well, too personal, too flip, too casual, too informal.

Father Dear. It certainly makes you think.

Eventually I came to realize that perhaps what we are missing in our prayers is that level of personal contact, of familiarity with our sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing God who came to live among us in human form, knowing our desires and our frustrations, our faith and our doubt, our accomplishments and our sin.

And, I eventually realized that what we need is not only an affirmation of God’s power and sovereignty, but also an affirmation of his love, his care, his concern, his compassion, his forgiveness and his grace.

Perhaps, along with recognizing God’s might, we need to also recognize his tender care.

When we pray, we encounter an almighty God. An almighty God who is compassionate and forgiving and loving…and dear.

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He’s always near

In all the world around me I see His loving care
And though my heart grows weary I never will despair
I know that He is leading, through all the stormy blast
The day of His appearing will come at last

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian. Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ, the King
The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find
None other is so loving, so good and kind

He lives He lives,  Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives He lives , Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Consider Kyrgyzstan or Honduras or Kenya: On finding something significant to do with the rest of our life

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

“I want to do something significant with the rest of my life.” That’s what a former parishioner at an international church said to me in a recent conversation.

Not that he hasn’t already accomplished a lot: a high-profile job assisting his government afforded him comforts such as time for family vacations and travel. There was time for playing with his son. And to think.

I referred him to missionnext.org, a web site designed to help people focus on the last third of their life and use it to the glory of the Lord.

Certainly there are significant needs out there. Missionary Doug Nichols recently wrote, “Statistics say there are at least two billion people in the world with no near neighbor Christian to tell them of Christ (and salvation only through Him). So, if your church sent a missionary to serve with 10,000 of these unreached people (street children, prisoners, etc.), there would be a need for 200,000 additional missionaries now.”

Dr. Nichols added, “Perhaps you will seriously consider this desperate need (whether your church is 75 people or 3000) to pray, work, train, and trust God to send one or two missionaries from your church yearly. Yes yearly!

Women missionaries, ages 25-55, are needed to work with the 153 million orphans worldwide and the 100 million street children.

Mature, godly couples, ages 45-75, are needed to encourage and help train over three million undertrained, needy pastors throughout the world.

Evangelical men and women, all ages but especially older evangelicals, are needed to work in and outside the jails and prisons of the world with prisoners and their families. Some jail cells in Asia made for 12 prisoners are crowed with 50.”

One or two missionaries from our church yearly? Certainly he must be kidding.

But, why not? When was the last time that we prayed, individually or as a congregation, that the Lord would raise up pastors and missionaries from our church? When was the last time that we suggested to our young people or adults seeking a career change that being a Christian counselor, a seminary professor, a Christian education worker or a pastor was a worthy occupational goal? When did we recently encourage someone to become a career missionary?

I was very moved by what a Kyrgyz friend living in India where her husband is a pastor wrote to me a few weeks ago. She said,Please, whenever you have chance, share about Kyrgyzstan. We still need missionaries there. Does your church send missionaries out? Do you have outreach trips?

Despite all of the missionaries who have served since the early church, there is still a desperate need for more. In Romans 10 we read, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?

As my Kyrgyz friend says, “We still need missionaries” in Kyrgyzstan and that applies elsewhere as well.

In his book Life Together, the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote these challenging words: “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”

Whether you are 21 years old and completing your education; in your 30s starting your family; in your 40s grappling with mid-life crisis; 50s or 60s looking forward to retirement; or 70s wondering what you can do “to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24), consider the needs of those around you and in other parts of the world, consider Kyrgyzstan or Honduras or Kenya, check out missionnext.org (it’s a good place to start no matter your age) and find something very significant to do with the rest of the life God has given to you.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

In the midst of a tragedy, Who was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

It should not be surprising in the light of the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that most of us missed the irony of the tragedy occurring at that facility.

The school was named after an outstanding writer and social activist who is given much of the credit for establishing the Everglades National Park and saving the vast “river of grass” from development and destruction. In fact, the school is located less than two miles from the park boundary.

On the park’s website Mrs. Douglas is described as being “ahead of her time” in recognizing the value of preserving the Everglades. Many have compared the influence of her book, The Everglades: River of Glass, to that of Rachel Carson’s seminal Silent Spring which warned of the dangers to all natural systems from the misuse of chemical pesticides such as DDT.

Douglas worked at the Miami Herald, first as a society reporter, then as an editorial page columnist. Later she took on the fight for feminism, racial justice, and conservation long before those causes became popular.

Her book, published in 1947 — the year Everglades National Park was established, developed public awareness of the natural and touristic value of the area.  A revised edition was published in 1987 to draw attention to the continuing threats to the vast waterway even though it had become a national park.

Although she herself found the Everglades “too buggy, too wet, too generally inhospitable” for frequent visits, she soon became the public voice of the effort.

Following the development of a complex system of canals, levees, dams, and pump stations to provide protection from seasonal flooding in former marsh land that was being used for agriculture and real estate development, Mrs. Douglas criticized officials for destroying wetlands, eliminating the sheetflow of water, and upsetting the natural cycles upon which the entire system depends.

Mrs. Douglas taught that the Everglades was more than just a swamp, but instead was a vast, grassy river through which water from Lake Okeechobee flowed through a wide swath of southern Florida stretching from the western suburbs of Miami to the outskirts of Naples and Fort Myers. Some scientists say that water leaving Lake Okeechobee may require months or years to reach its final destination, Florida Bay.

“There are no other Everglades in the world,” she wrote. “they are unique…in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida.”

Today the park is home to 120 different types of trees, 100 seed bearings plants, and a plethora of animal and bird life including alligators and crocodiles, raccoons, skunks, opossums, bobcats, foxes, white-tail deer and panthers.

In her book, Douglas described the historic nature of the Everglades: “The shores that surround the Everglades were the first on this continent known to white men. The interior was almost the last.”

Her work did not end with the creation of Everglades National Park. She continued to fight against efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers to divert the natural flow of the waters and in 1970, she founded Friends of the Everglades to broaden the constituency for its protection.

After the Stoneman Douglas schools were named for Mrs. Douglas, officials chose wildlife from the Everglades as mascots The Anhinga as was chosen as the mascot of the elementary school while the Eagle became the symbol of the high school.

The Bald Eagle can be found in virtually any kind of American wetland habitat including seacoasts, rivers, large lakes or marshes and other open bodies of water. Meanwhile, the Anhinga is a freshwater bird, sometimes called the “snake bird” in that it has the ability to swim with its body submerged so that only its long neck protrudes out of the water, looking like a snake.

Douglas lived to 108, working until nearly the end of her life for Everglades restoration. Upon her death, an obituary in The Independent in London stated, “In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures than Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”

Her ashes were spread in the Everglades National Park.

In the light of the spontaneous activism in the wake of the mass shooting it is altogether appropriate for students from her namesake high school to exhibit the same type of civic engagement in response to this current tragedy.

This article was published in the Times-Georgian newspaper of Carrollton, GA.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Pop theologians and the real meaning of Christmas

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

It’s the Christmas season again, the time for pop-theologians to take to their computers and churn out articles that at best distort the biblical meaning of Christmas. These good-hearted but often uninformed people latch on to a spurious interpretation of the meaning of the holiday and purport to know the theological significance whether they have ever studied it or not.

Take the recent column in an out-of-town newspaper. After skewering those who wish her a “Merry Christmas” or whistle a piece of (secular or not) Christmas music on their way to the water cooler, she offers what she calls “this little…girl’s recommendations on how to really promote the true message of Christmas, ‘Peace on earth, goodwill towards all.’” (The ellipse is the name of her faith, the underlined emphasis is mine.)

Let’s take another look at this from the biblical view—a good starting point. When we do, we can more easily ascertain the “true message of Christmas.”

Yes, the story in Luke 2 does contain the line “Peace on earth, goodwill to those on whom his favor rests.”

But, that phrase provides a deeper understanding of the central point of this passage–that the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, the savior of the world has been born. It means that the focus of the Christmas story is on the birth of the baby Jesus. Peace and goodwill flow out of that act and, as a footnote in the New King James Version Study Bible comments, “the promise of peace and goodwill would come to those who welcome God’s only Son.” (My emphasis)

Here is the complete passage:  “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 Do you see the focus of this narrative and the message of the angels? It is on the Savior “who has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord”

 The long-anticipated Messiah, forecast throughout what we Christians call the Old Testament, has, at last, been born. That is what is celebrated by the messengers from God, what is proclaimed in their message, that is what has been celebrated by believers in Him throughout the past two-centuries.

As one statement of faith puts it:

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord,
he has come to us
and shared our common lot,
conquering sin and death
and reconciling the world to himself.

And, as it later confirms

     He promises to all who trust him
forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace,
courage in the struggle for justice and peace,
his presence in trial and rejoicing,
and eternal life in his kingdom which has no end.

There it is…the affirmation that for those who trust in Christ, there is peace and goodwill.

Professional theologians and every-day readers of God’s Word, the Bible, will see that all of it is in God’s promise, but the exact message of Christmas is the birth of His son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Serving in retirement; how to stay active later in life

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Much attention has been given in recent years to the idea of living abroad in retirement. Americans by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have chosen such countries as Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and the Dominican Republic as their new residence.

According to numerous newspaper and on-line reports, expat seniors find those locales to offer good health care, low costs of living, warm weather year-round and a strong social community for friendship and support.

(While figures vary from one report to another, Mexico is reported to house at least one million Americans with second homes or retirement property while Costa Rica hosts upwards of 70,000, Ecuador around 10,000, Panama 25,000 and the Dominican Republic 200,000).

While that prospect is inviting it isn’t for everyone. Issues ranging from health concerns (including insurance) to family ties and property in the home country discourage many from selling all and making a permanent move.

My wife and I considered retiring abroad after having lived in three Latin American countries during our work career. However with two grown children and three grandchildren in the United States we decided that settling in our home country was preferable.

But, still, we craved the expat life and the benefits of living in another culture, being immersed in an expat community and the desire to keep working on at least a part-time basis.

Enter the exciting and fulfilling world of temporary, international, volunteer work. It turns out that there is a wealth of international service opportunities in various countries that offer the lure of meaningful work combined with getting to know more about the culture, politics and daily life of another land.

Living abroad for a portion of the first decade of retirement allowed us to experience shopping in local grocery stores and open street markets or ferias. It led us to concerts of all sorts in Central Asia, Latin America and some of the grand concert halls of Europe. It provided summer-long berries in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, tasty Pupusas in Honduras and Gallo Pinto in Costa Rica.

We were also able to learn culture (and a little language) as we volunteered to teach English, worked in a woman’s craft center and visited inmates at local prisons.

And, we learned about day-to-day shopping, entertainment and living in a variety of cultures.

Finding such opportunities isn’t as hard as one might think. First, consider your own career, training and experience. I’m a retired pastor/missionary and there are over 2,000 international, English-language protestant churches serving expatriates and third-culture people worldwide with at least one in almost every country. At any given moment several dozen are without a pastor and need someone to come for a limited, interim term, either full or part-time.

Thus, in the first nine years after our official retirement my wife and I served for a portion of almost every year in such churches. The average length of service was from four to six months, though one was for a year and another invited us for portions of three years adding up to 14 months total in that country.

While many Christian missionary organizations recruit retired people for limited terms from six months to two years, one need not be an ordained pastor or commissioned missionary to serve outside of their home country.

Volunteer positions exist in a host of other fields as well including teaching in expat, English-language schools or universities, working on environmental projects or archeological digs, serving with relief and development agencies (including the Peace Corps), assisting in orphanages, teaching English—the list is endless.

Some such positions are fulltime; others offer flex-time opportunities according to the desire or capability of the volunteer.

Hundreds of English-language schools dot the landscape in international capital cities. While some are privately hire only full-time teachers, others are not-for-profit institutions that are more than happy to receive volunteer teachers for a semester or the entire school year.

Dozens of such opportunities can be found here, here and here

Speaking of languages, there must be hundreds if not thousands of opportunities for teaching English as a second language around the world. Ranging from mom and pop storefront institutions, to accredited schools and universities, one can find a myriad of opportunities on line or, conversely, walk into any one of these schools in major cities and start teaching the next morning. The pay isn’t always the best (and the quality of teaching is often hit and miss), but these are opportunities for service abroad and the meeting of local people. A web search for “teach English abroad” will point to numerous opportunities.

Environmental and archeological organizations seem to relish the help of volunteers in their various projects around the world. Whether testing water and air purity or cataloging bones and other artifacts, these types of positions can take a retired volunteer or employee to places where the lifestyle is different, the food exotic and the expat colleagues are fascinating.

Then there is the Peace Corps which now offers volunteers more of a say as to where they will live and what they will do. Check out their page for those over 50  and their list of available opportunities.

A word of caution: While many places offer a lower cost of living compared to a home country, there are costs which must be considered. Some organizations may pay your out-of-pocket expenses, but most will not. So you need to factor in airfare, housing, expat medical insurance and other expenses during your time abroad.

In addition, some voluntary organizations may actually charge you to work for them. While that may sound odd, one must remember that they have expenses  including administration, housing, transportation, insurance and other fees.

Be aware also of visa requirements. While most countries offer an initial visa for thirty to ninety days, getting one to stay longer can be a bit more complicated and costly. Also, getting one for volunteer work will most likely be easier than requesting a visa for a paying job. 

So, if your heart flutters at the idea of living overseas during retirement but circumstances are working against it, consider the short-term work or volunteer openings that are available. There is a world of opportunities available for the asking.

 

Sidebar

Some additional resources for working or volunteering abroad in retirement

Mission Next (formerly Finishers) is a source for those seeking a second career in Christian service or retirement volunteer opportunities. 

Projects Abroad provides links and guidelines to voluntary assignments around the world. 

Go Overseas provides guidance and links to senior volunteer opportunities.  

Action Without Borders, offers an interactive site where people and organizations can locate opportunities and supporters.

Samaritan’s Purse, related to the Billy Graham organization, offers numerous volunteer and paid positions around the world, especially for medical personnel. 

Religious Opportunities Your religious tradition may offer paid or volunteer opportunities for seniors beyond the traditional ten day mission trip. One of the largest programs is offered by the Southern Baptist denomination. . Opportunities with Roman Catholic organizations can be accessed here

Relief and Development opportunities   Check out this website for information and guidance in helping out with disaster and development issues. . A listing of volunteer and paid opportunities through Reliefweb is here: 

www.volunteerforever.com offers links to a wide variety of opportunities.

(A version of this article with the links in the text may be acquired by writing to missionaryjournalist@gmail.com.) 

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