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Global Outreach International

Don't Let Age Limit Your Life On Mission

07.11.18
by Leanna Hollis
The path may look different as we age, but it's never too late to follow HIm.
When I was a girl, we lived across the street from the First Baptist Church. Like any good Southern Baptist family, we attended church every time the door was open. I participated in Girl’s Auxiliary where we did local mission projects, gathered supplies for missionaries, memorized verses, and completed “steps.” We reveled in stories of the missionaries around the world and prayed for them by name every week. I couldn’t imagine a more exotic and adventuresome life than that of a foreign missionary.
 
Surrendered to the call of God
 
I sensed God calling me halfway through college. The only call I’d ever heard mentioned, other than the call to preach, was the call to foreign missions, so I went forward one church service and “surrendered to the call.”
 
My heart was filled with images drawn from the pages of the mission magazines and biographies of my childhood. Visions of thinly clad, dark-skinned children danced in my head. I imagined myself treating sick children in the worst circumstances imaginable, providing food to those who would starve without it, sharing Christ, making a difference.
 
Not long after, the hall phone in my college dormitory rang. It was Sammy Simpson, Director of what would later become Global Outreach International. He needed someone to work with a Baptist missionary doctor in Honduras. Dr. Harms was a pilot and we’d fly into the mountains to hold mobile medical clinics during the day with evangelistic services at night. Sammy knew I was in nursing school at the time and a private pilot, as well. If there was ever an opportunity tailor-made for an adventure-seeking girl, this was it. I agreed and, somehow, it worked out for me to go. The experience was all I’d dreamed and more. When I left Honduras I vowed to return full-time after I completed my nurses’ training and seminary.
 
Then, life happened.
 
I finished nursing school and considered seminary. My next step made so much sense to me at the time. I needed more medical knowledge, I thought, so I deferred seminary and went to medical school instead. It was at that point that my plans began to take precedence over God's. Medical school was followed by residency and the American dream began to unfold. I built my career rather than the Kingdom of God and, in so doing, began to distance myself from my faith and my calling.  
 
I eventually married and had a son.
 
On the evening we returned home after my son’s birth, a near-stranger called me. “Now you’ll see what love is all about.” I think that’s what she said, but what I heard was, “Now you’ll know what unconditional love is all about.” Regardless, she was right. The more I loved that tiny boy, the more I wondered if God loved me in the same way.
 
God was still calling
 
God used my love for my son to reveal His love and draw me back to Himself. I truly surrendered - not to a perceived call but to my Heavenly Father - for the first time in my life and it changed everything. I regretted my failure to answer His earlier call, but I served the best I could for the next 22 years. Eventually, I started a blog and my words literally went around the globe. It was mission enough for me.
 
In early November 2015, I volunteered in the Prayer Room for the
Global Outreach Mission Conference and wrote a blog inviting people to attend.
 My words (dated 11/6/2015) still make me laugh. I imagine God laughed, too, because His decades-long orchestration was about to come full-circle and give me the surprise of my life.
 
The words that made God laugh:
 
“There was a time when I expected to be on the foreign mission field. That's not how my life turned out, for a variety of reasons that are best left to another time…
 
It is the ones who have left their homes and their families and the comfortable life in the United States who are missionaries. They've sacrificed in ways we can't begin to understand. Their lives are not easy. They are not so comfortable as we'd like to believe. They are heroes in the faith.
 
These superhero missionaries are sacrificing for our Savior. As one who is home, I'm deeply grateful for their work and their sacrifice. They are doing what we are not, and, as the body of Christ, we must be willing to support them by listening, by praying, by going to help when we can, by giving.”
 
It wasn’t too late to answer God’s call after all.
 
In the ensuing months, God taught me a surprising lesson. The path might look different as we age, but it’s never too late to follow Him.
 
One year later, at the age of 61, I presented a workshop at the annual Global Outreach International mission conference as a Global Outreach US-based missionary. I now serve as a peer-to-peer funded missionary in the areas of prayer and outreach, both locally and abroad.
 
Do I wish I’d begun my mission journey earlier? Yes. Were the years wasted? No. I bring a lifetime of wisdom gained through experience and the perseverance learned from trials and hard times, as well as an extensive network of friends and contacts developed over years of life in the public sector to this ministry. Those valuable assets have paved the way for many opportunities to share the love of Christ.
 
After I joined Global Outreach, I found out I wasn’t the only who started the missions journey as a silver-haired newbie. More than two decades ago, a silver-haired widow left her home and family behind and moved to Rwanda to share Jesus and serve the orphans of the genocide. She was sixty-two at the time and is still serving Jesus today. There are countless others who are using their retirement as an opportunity to serve more, not less.
 
Age is just a number when it comes to serving Christ on mission. You’re never too old nor too young. Just this morning, we prayed for an eleven-year-old girl headed to Africa with family friends to volunteer at an orphanage. We also prayed for an 80+ year old man with multiple medical problems who plans to return to Italy to share the love of Jesus.
 
We can serve Christ as long as we have breath, and we should.
 
What about you? Have you dreamed of serving Christ as a missionary? Why not take a leap of faith with a short-term mission trip? You can serve for a few days or a few months, no matter your age. If you’re interested in learning more about mission opportunities, both in the US and abroad, we’d love to talk with you and help you along your journey.
 
To learn more about opportunities for service, begin the process by using our contact form. Let’s serve together!
 
It’s not the years you’ve lived but the Savior you serve that matters in missions.
 
“…And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8