It will be several years before I can officially retire from working. But, a few days ago I was reminded that retirement from working does not mean retiring from ministry.

Last week I blogged about the precious little girls I met at the annual Lottie Moon Tea. On Friday, I met with a group of women from Baptist Village Communities to share the message of missions. Instead of me teaching them, I was the one who “got schooled!”

First, these women all live independently and are quite active. Their activities director told me, “They wear me out! I can’t find enough things for them to do!” One of the women was the Children’s Specialist for our convention until her retirement in 1998. Another was an education minister in our state for many years. Talk about organizers! I’ve known Joyce Shelby since I was in college, and she was a woman in ministry long before it was acceptable in many of our churches. She paved the way for women in full time ministry.

These women had the room completely decorated. They had placemats made with the Lottie Moon artwork. They had refreshments. They had an agenda. They had it going on – even down to their Christmas sweaters. One woman even came straight from her church where she had been a volunteer for their food pantry. (In the back of my mind, I kept telling myself that I was looking into the future. I can just see me running the women’s meetings at the retirement center and looking for the right centerpieces!)

As I stood before them to speak and share my heart for the world, I was overwhelmed with emotion. For those of you who know me, that’s not too difficult to believe. As I looked into their faces, I was reminded that this generation raised me. They taught me about Jesus. They sacrificed for me. They gave of their finances and time. Most importantly, they prayed for me.  They encouraged me when I came to the convention. How could I not feel like I was standing in a room full of spiritual mothers?

Today I received a thank you note from their leader. Yes, people still actually write thank you notes that aren’t a Facebook message. Once again, I was reminded we should honor those who have gone before us.

As a leader, how have you honored those before you? How can you be an encouragement to them? I shudder at the thought of losing this generation of women. They are the backbone of many churches. The biggest honor we could bestow is to take up the mantle for missions by giving, praying, sending and going. We can honor them by deciding our retirement from work is only a step into a new phase of servanthood. Until we face eternity, let’s press on toward the mark of Christ Jesus. He’s not through with you.