By Kenneth D. MacHarg
This is the second of two blog postings taken from a presentation at the Honduran Missionary Conference a few years ago.
If you are a missionary, I hope you will take this to heart. If not, perhaps you know a missionary or your church supports one and you could pass this on.
When I presented this at the conference, about half-way through, I heard people laughing. Personally, I didn’t think it was at all funny. Then, I realized that the laughing reflected nervousness, a reaction to some thoughts that were difficult or uncomfortable.
However you react, I pray that if you are a missionary, you will take this seriously, think about it and pray about it.
This is a delicate topic, so I ask you to listen closely. Again I will share with you this scripture:
Matthew 25: 23: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
We all know that someday we will retire, or we will die. And we know that at that time, the ministry that the Lord has given to us will no longer be our responsibility. We trust that the Lord will say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!
I assume that we have all made some plans for that day. Plans for old-age care, plans for retirement income, plans for how we may be cared for.
But maybe you have not:
Some of you may say, there won’t be any Social Security when I get to that age. Well…maybe yes, but let me tell you that 50 years ago I heard that same thing—Social Security won’t be around when you retire. But you know what? Polly and I have been retired for more than ten years, and half of our retirement income is from Social Security. And, without it, we never could have carried out those post-retirement volunteer ministries that we have done since we retired. The Lord provided, nudged us to save money and pay into Social Security, and He has used us for His glory in retirement.
Others of you will say, “The Lord will provide.” Here is where it gets sticky. I agree that the Lord will provide.
The Lord watches over you—
The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
But, what I want to gently but forcefully nudge you about is the development of an exit plan.
This is important for all, but especially for those who are caring for foster or adopted children.
An exit plan is a deliberate setting out of how your work will be carried on when you are no longer able to do it.
It tells what happens to your facility, to the children, to the students, to the parishioners, to the organization, to the community when you are gone.
And note, I didn’t say when you are dead and gone—just gone!
I want to urge you to write out three exit plans, and to review them faithfully every three years.
- Exit plan for what will when you retire or die
- Exit plan for what will happen if you have to/decide to leave five years from today
- Exit plan for what would happen if you were forced to leave tomorrow morning.
1. Exit plan for what will when you retire or die
Now, I know, you are 25 and it seems ridiculous for you to be worrying about what happens 40 or 50 years from now.
But, it is not ridiculous, it is just responsible. It won’t take long to write that one out. It may be 40, or 30, or 20, or 10, or (gasp) five years from now, but it won’t hurt you to outline where you think your project will be then and how the Lord would want you to leave it for someone else.
Remember, you will be reviewing this retirement exit strategy every three years so you can modify it as situations and needs change. But at least you will be assuring that the assets the Lord has given you will be respected and used well after you leave the field.
2. Exit plan for what will happen if you have to/decide to leave five years from today
Now, you aren’t planning on leaving in five years. I know that, you know that, but….during our time in Honduras several years ago, at least three people came to us and opened a discussion about “how do we move on to….”
You need to be thinking about what might be happening in five years. And, oh yes, if you are caring for needy, abandoned children, when you are offered the opportunity to take on responsibility for a new child, use either old math or new math, and figure out what age you will be when that child is 18.
3. Exit plan for what would happen if you were forced to leave tomorrow morning.
Aw, that’s not going to happen, not as long as my health holds and my kids get along here OK and my parents don’t need any help as they age, and the social and legal situation allows me to stay….
- A good friend was air-evacuated overnight from her country of service a few years ago by a health concern which was uncertain at best and raised the initial issue about whether she could return.
- A missionary family experienced a sudden emergency with one of their children and had to evacuate the country for his protection—never to return.
- On our first morning in Honduras, a missionary was flown out on less than 24-hour notice because he had received an extortion threat from a gang. It was leave or risk possible kidnapping or murder.
- We know of missionaries who have unexpectedly died on the field. A friend pastoring an international church in Europe lost a substantial percentage of his congregation in a plane crash. Some were business people, others were teachers, and, yes, some were missionaries. That’s never something we plan for, but it does occur.
When we first moved to a new country over a decade ago, some of the first information we received was that if our own government decided that we must be evacuated, we would have perhaps only an hour’s notice and could only take one suitcase
Three exit plans, three steps to living and serving here responsibly. I raise these not to frighten you but because I firmly believe we need to be prepared.
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