Robert Rawson, Retiree and Former General Conference Treasurer

Surprise, Arizona

Summary: A senior steward shares his journey and discovery that there is more to life in retirement than just seeking one’s own personal pleasure and comfort.

One of my earliest childhood memories was of my mother and father sitting down with me to count out the pennies equal to ten percent of my allowance. From a small boy’s perspective, it was sometimes painful to see those pennies set aside for tithe, but how thankful I have been through the years for that early training in financial stewardship principles. I have discovered that small things are important to God.

I love the story in Scripture where Jesus is standing in the temple, watching the rich bring their big offerings and “then a poor widow came and dropped in two pennies. He called his disciples to him and said, ‘I assure you, this poor widow has given more than all the others have given. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has’” (Mk 12:42-44, NLT).

Following my college years, I was called into service for the church. For the next forty-four years, I, with my family, was abundantly blessed with opportunities to serve in financial administration, in medical, educational, media and conference organizations in many parts of the world. In July 2002, that service ended, and I launched into a new phase of life called retirement.

Not a clue!

I must admit, I did not have a clue as to how to enjoy my retirement years and yet be productive in service to God and my family. Committee meetings, board meetings, consultation sessions, travel responsibilities and daily interaction with colleagues had ended, and now what? Though I have no suggestions for others in this matter, allow me to share my pilgrimage into retirement.

Exhausted from the intensity of administration, I needed some time just to find myself again. I spent that time in extended hours each day in daily devotional experiences and in enjoying some casual reading of biographical and historical books. That time was a wonderful educational and inspirational experience for me.

For the first time in our married life, my wife Carolyn and I are able to be actively involved in our local church. We enjoy exercising and spend time each week in walking, weight training, swimming and golf. We bought a home in a retirement community in Arizona and found ourselves busy getting it furnished and ready for daily living. We have enjoyed entertaining family and friends who come to visit. Trips by car to scenic America were also an added pleasure.

Too comfortable

However, we found we were becoming too content in satisfying our own needs and felt a little like Jonah: “The Lord gave this message to Jonah, son of Amittai: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh! Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.’ But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord” (Jo 1:1-3 NLT). We were comfortable. So when God called, we were tempted to turn in another direction. Retirement was wonderful, but was there something else God wanted us to do?

Somewhere down deep, my wife and I felt there must be more to life in retirement than just seeking our own pleasure. What could we do to serve God and bring encouragement and hope to others in need? As we contemplated that question, I received a call from a friend who asked if I would be willing to volunteer with Gospel Outreach—a self-supporting ministry located in Walla Walla, Washington.

I had not heard of Gospel Outreach (GO), so I did some research only to discover that the ministry’s goal is to provide donated funds for church organizations in the 10-40 Window. These funds are used to employ indigenous workers to minister in the unentered villages in that area. I was assigned territory in southeast India. This assignment requires me to travel there once a year to meet with the Gospel Outreach pioneer missionaries. On these visits, I share devotional messages and assist in training these workers so that they may give more effective leadership in their territories. There are presently over four hundred GO pioneer missionaries in my assigned territory. A challenge to be sure!

On the other hand, Carolyn was impressed to volunteer locally with an organization called Interfaith Community Care. The mission of this organization is to assist elderly people with various needs that will enable them to live at home. Carolyn also helps me in my assignment.

What does this mean?

Jesus gave the following instruction to His eleven disciples in the mountains of Galilee, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this; I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:18-20 NLT).

For several months now, we and another couple have been holding Bible studies in our homes one night a week, inviting neighbors and new friends to join us. As numerous recent disasters have inflicted pain on unsuspecting victims, many around us are asking the question, “What does all this mean, and what is to become of our world?” These times offer us the privilege of sharing the good news that Jesus is coming again soon, and that there is hope for each of us in Him.

Waiting with eager anticipation

God has given us money and we want to be faithful to him in tithes and offerings. And especially as retired workers, He has given us time. We also need to be good stewards of our time. We place our time and resources back into the hands of the One who has given them to us in the first place, and we wait with eager anticipation for Him to show us how He desires to use us in these last days.

We have so much to share and the world is in such need. Current world events are opening doors of opportunities that we must walk through. As senior stewards, we may even have more freedom and opportunity to partner with Christ in reaching out to the world He loves.

An offering to God

I remember Paul’s final words to Timothy, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of His return. And the prize is not just for me, but for all who eagerly look forward to His glorious return” (2Tm 4:6-8 NLT).

Until the race is finished and we eagerly receive that prize, may God bless us as we continue to choose to live for Him.

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January–March, 2006

Senior Stewards