By Emily Owen, following a chat with some of Tearfund’s amazing over-65s volunteers.
What struck me most about Julie is what a deep thinker she is. When visiting an orphanage on a two-week trip to Zambia with Tearfund Go, she encouraged the children. ‘I told them of my adoption as a baby and that I had been a nurse,’ says Julie from Leicester. ‘Sharing our personal testimonies with people can give them hope.’
I spoke with three Tearfund Go volunteers: Julie, Earl and Pauline. At first glance it looks like their common ground is all being over the age of 65. But, after they shared their experiences of travelling with Tearfund, I discovered that it’s their courage and closeness to Jesus that unites this brilliant trio.
Recognise your skills, and God’s strength
Julie didn’t know that she was a teacher until she was faced with a room full of people to teach in Zambia. She gave a lesson in how to care for others, listen well and resolve conflict. You may think that you don’t have the skills to be a volunteer, but if you’ve ever led a Bible study, hosted a small group or been through a challenge in your life then you’ve got experience and wisdom to share.
Julie learnt that it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s about your strengths. ‘An older man was surprised to see me painting, and asked me my age,’ she says. ‘When he heard I was in my early 70s, his verdict was that I was strong.’
For Earl from Lincolnshire, the challenges started before he even left the country. First, where to go? ‘Cambodia seemed to stand out,’ says Earl. But after some research, he changed his mind. ‘I don’t do heat, and 28–32℃ put me off.’ Yet, within a few days... ‘God spoke to me through his word saying not to worry about conditions. He will help me cope in whatever circumstances,’ he says.
Next, the cost. Recently retired and on a pension, Earl had every reason to be careful. But a timely sermon confirmed the decision to travel.
Did age ever factor into Earl’s decision? ‘Yes, my age did make me hesitate,’ says Earl. ‘But not my ability.’ Earl’s courage comes from his relationship with God: ‘It is not what we can do, but what God can do through us,’ he says.
And then go for it
Speaking with Pauline from Eastbourne, her theology is clear. ‘If the Lord puts it on your heart, you have to go for it’, she told me. Her faith and willingness set her up to fly out to Colombia for a month with Tearfund.
Chatting with her, I realised that we often hold ourselves back. She quickly answered my question about whether her age affected her decision: ‘While I’ve got the energy and strength, why wouldn’t I?’ she asked.
‘There’s a fulfilment in helping,’ says Pauline, who took her English teaching skills into local schools and helped to lead women's ministry in the churches. And she’s already wondering what’s next. ‘If you’re healthy enough, if you’ve got it in your heart, then go for it!’
I hope you’re as impressed, inspired and challenged by Julie, Earl and Pauline as I am. Maybe you’re feeling led to explore Tearfund Go’s volunteering opportunities yourself! Either way, let’s pray.
Help us to put our trust in your guidance and provision like Earl,
to have courage and confidence in our abilities like Pauline,
and to let our experiences be used for your glory like Julie.
Thank you that you invite us to partner in your work across the world.
We pray that you’ll open our eyes to the opportunities you want us to use for your glory.