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Dick Senzig (center) with West Africa eldership class

Don’t Retire. Redeploy! Our Retirement Journey into Missions

“What does retirement mean to you?” That’s the question my wife, Sue, and I faced as we neared my 64th birthday. Our nest had been empty for several years, we were in reasonably good health, and our commitment to Christ and His Church remained strong. But retirement loomed on the horizon. How would it change our lives?

It’s an important question because many retirees are more concerned with funding their retirement than what they will actually do when they retire. And for Christians, that question is particularly important since retirement doesn’t change our loyalty to Christ or the imperative of His Great Commission to the Church to make disciples of all nations.

We decided that we would not look at retirement as quitting, or stopping, or even slowing down. We didn’t buy the idea that retirement should be a life of entitled leisure that we’d “earned” over the years. Rather, as we talked and prayed, we came to realize that retirement was a unique opportunity for a job change. All we needed to do was find our new kingdom jobs! Our motto became, “Don’t retire, redeploy.”

Of course, redeployment will look different for everyone because God has put each of us in a unique situation of His design. But the critical factor for any believer’s retirement is to recognize our primary loyalty to Christ and to seek His kingdom first in this new, and often more flexible stage of our lives. What an opportunity! Here’s how it unfolded for us.

Assessing our health, family obligations, giftings, and finances

First, we began by assessing our situation. Family obligations, financial status, health, and giftedness, skills and experience were all obvious areas to consider. But it was also time to take stock of spiritual gifts, and how the Lord had used us over the years. In short, how had God uniquely equipped us to be redeployed in His service—at home or internationally—at this stage of our lives?

From the start, we recognized a natural pull toward international missions since both of us were raised in churches with strong missions ties. Another contributing factor was my early work experience as a faculty member of the Wheaton College Graduate School and related travels to teach in Africa and South America.

Dick and Sue

We were also blessed in our family life with our two children married and walking with the Lord. Meanwhile, God had been preparing me with teaching, communication, computer and business skills, along with a lifetime of service in the church, including almost 20 years of service as a ruling elder.

But our assessment also turned up a point of caution. We had made a major commitment to Sue’s elderly mother who had moved close to us so we could care for her. We knew that with her declining health, she would become increasingly dependent on us and we needed to be there for her, a fact that became Sue’s primary ministry.

We also did a financial assessment. Given the complexities of retirement plans and government regulations, we turned to a financial planner specializing in retirement. With her expert advice, we entered this new phase of our lives knowing that God had provided for us.

Engaging our church, expanding our knowledge, and serving on short-term trips

Our next step was to engage with our local church, Park Cities Presbyterian Church. This is the biblical way to move into any ministry and be in step with our church’s vision for missions. While not every church is well equipped to do this, it is important to establish a strong relationship with your home church leadership so they can help you evaluate your call, offer encouragement, and point you to helpful resources (MTW’s Regional Hubs, for example). We met with the leader of our church’s missions ministry and explained how God was moving in our lives. He encouraged us to pursue our emerging calling, offered valuable advice, and affirmed the church’s support for us.

We also realized the need to increase our exposure to foreign missions. We began by taking the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” course hosted by our church. It was like a big dose of “missionary vision vitamins” to us, reacquainting us with many aspects of world missions that we’d encountered years before, including the biblical foundations for missions as well as new trends and opportunities. Then I was asked to serve on the church’s missions committee for a period, and eventually, I joined our church’s short-term mission trip to the West African country of Senegal.

Praying

Honing our calling and looking ahead

Then, shortly after retiring in 2012, MTW invited me to be part of a team that visited three West African countries to assess the opportunities for a business as mission program. The third stop on that trip was Senegal, my second visit that year. While there, God spoke to me, confirming a call to serve along with our MTW missionaries to assist the growing national church in West Africa to realize the vision God had given them to reach the lost. As a result, we became volunteer non-resident missionaries with MTW.

Now, 10 years and more than 30 international trips later, I’ve taught classes on a variety of subjects ranging from drip irrigation to the role and work of elders in the church. I’ve preached, worked on project plans, and we’ve spent precious hours with national church leaders humbled by their testimonies of faithfulness in the face of persecution, and encouraged by the vision God has given them. I’ve prayed, laughed, danced, and cried with my brothers and sisters there. And I’ve seen missionary life “up close and personal” as together with my MTW colleagues on the field, we forge deep relationships with our national partners.

DS with Leaders

And when I’m not traveling, I am able to support our missionaries from home, freeing them from administrative work (one of my gifts), so they have more time to exercise their gifts directly with the national churches they serve. How gracious of the Lord to allow us to assist the men and women on the front lines of building His kingdom in West Africa!

And as a board member of the West African Reformed Mission (WARM), MTW’s partnership with West African national churches, I care for WARM’s finances, represent the ministry to churches and individuals here at home, and work closely with the staff at MTW.

But as age takes its inevitable toll in health and strength, we are aware that there will be fewer overseas trips in the future. But that doesn’t mean “finally” retiring. It simply means another redeployment, and already, new opportunities to serve our Lord are emerging, some of which build on our experience of the past 10 years.

The last two verses of the hymn "Jesus, Master, Whose I Am" (Frances R. Havergal, 1865) are especially dear to me:

Jesus, Master, whom I serve, though so feebly and so ill,
strengthen hand and heart and nerve all thy bidding to fulfill,
Open though mine eyes to see all the work thou hast for me.

Lord, thou needest not, I know, service such as I can bring;
yet I long to prove and show full allegiance to my King,
Thou an honor art to me: let me be a praise to thee.

The job isn’t finished and neither are we. So, until the Lord calls us home, we’ll redeploy as He directs and serve Him with the strength He provides. You can too!

Find out how you can serve, at any age! Visit mtw.org/serve to explore opportunities or engage with your regional hub at mtw.org/hubs.

Dick Senzig is a global volunteer serving with MTW’s West Africa Reformed Mission and MTW’s Workplace Ministries.

Dick Senzig Sep 13, 2022
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