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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: The Software Side of Retirement
By Coleene VanTilburg


Hardware, software, download, Google, mouse, internet, browser...well, a mouse I knew; those pesky rodents that gnaw into the bags of rice. For sixty years now on the mission field, I had "run my race" as the Apostle Paul would say. Now, approaching seventy, I was being told to come back home; permanent furlough. God had a new plan. It would be overwhelming to finally sift through all my journal writings. I was always used to getting things done myself, not a real social guy and lately it seemed I was not thinking as clear so I knew I could not delay any longer this decision. Now, here in my home church, the faithful are giving me a retirement luncheon and have just presented me with a generous gift of a laptop computer.

"Tom Wyatt, we have been blessed by your many letters over the years telling us of your work and God's miracles on the mission field.” The minister continued, “Many of these letters have inspired others to pursue the mission field as well. Your work, translating God's words, giving people in remote tribes in Africa the Bible in their own native tongue is continued throughout the world, as there are still 2000 people groups who do not yet have the scripture. With today's technology, we are seeing the time table this normally takes, begin to shrink.”

How ironic that I would be the one needing a translator facing a world made smaller by new technology that I had conveniently avoided. I would need someone to come along side me and guide me through this new mission field of cyberspace. In all my adventures, spiritual battles and diseases God had brought me through, I had always depended on his promises and wisdom. So now, why was I so anxious returning to a country, to a home that now felt foreign to me? I felt illiterate but too prideful to say anything. I did not have a clue how to use a computer and I had kept that a secret. I am sure they were all assuming I would have the first draft of my book ready for edit in a few short months. Actually, the mission’s board was hoping for some copy within a few weeks. When I returned to my room in the retirement community apartments, I knelt, as so many times before on the dirt floor of thatched-roofed huts and besieged God.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to be of service to you all these many years. You know Lord, I really did not want to leave, but it seems I need to make room for younger servants as you lead me in this new direction. I feel the softness coming into my head sometimes; what time I have left, well you know Lord the number of my days. Lord, only I can tell the story of this journey. I pray you soften the pride of this hardened, grub-eating, malaria surviving, old school missionary and continue to use me until I am called Home. I want to translate your Glory and faithfulness to this next generation of workers. You have supplied me with tools, this hardware, this software…these many boxes of journals surrounding me to write and teach, but Lord I pray for forgiveness of my pride and direct me once more in your wisdom needed to achieve this daunting assignment before me. Allow me to be teachable once again; to be soft, malleable clay in the Potter’s Hands, forming a new vessel."

It is Saturday morning and there is an overly-energetic knock on my screen door. I recognize this young man as my home church’s youth pastor and it seems he brought along a few students as well.

“Good morning Mr. Wyatt; their arms filled with $4.00 coffees and the wide-eyes of someone who already had their first cup. Did you remember we were coming by? said Josh, as he read my face of unexpectancy. We would like to help you with your transition and maybe give you a few lessons on that new computer of yours, but mostly we came to learn some things that God taught you on the mission field.”

God was quick to answer my call. What I had to fear and what pride I had to relinquish began to soften that morning as the Lord would rework this stubborn heart and prepare me for the softer side of ministry translated through the Body of Christ.

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This article has been read 534 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mary McLeary04/30/09
Wonderful story of transition and how God can use us until He calls us home.
Charla Diehl 04/30/09
I enjoyed this tender story of learning new things upon retirement--maybe even things that are scary. And I liked the message within--no matter what our age we can be servants of God. Good job.
Clarissa Barge05/02/09
To know that God LOVES us still in our older years is heart warming. As written in scriptures, we know God has used the older generation to lead, guide those who would have an ear to hear and to do. Nice article, indeed.
Deborah Porter 05/07/09
Hi Coleene. I just wanted to leave a quick note to let you know your entry, The Software Side of Retirement, actually did very well in the Hard and Soft Challenge. Although you didn't receive an award, you made it into the Highest Rankings for Level 2, placing 7th in that Level. Well done.

If you'd like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.
Again, well done. :-)

Hope to see you at the FaithWriters' Conference in August.

With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)