Retirement? No – God Has Other Plans

Post a Comment » Written on January 10th, 2006     
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ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA (January 10, 2006) – When Paul Spjut, an avid golfer, retired in October 2004, he began living a life to which he had long looked forward – days spent on idyllic fairways and greens. God had other plans.

Now he and his wife, Joan, are in Antigua, preparing to serve in short-term mission work in Ecuador for two years. “After enjoying six months of retirement, setting my own schedule, playing golf, marshalling at a golf course, I came home one day to say to Joan, ‘This is good and fun, but I think God has something more for us,’ ” Paul says. Joan also had been sensing that call, however vague it was at the time.

The plan quickly crystallized. Within a month, they learned that a position for short-term missionaries was opening in Ecuador and they had met with the necessary people who just happened to be attending the FEAST and Covenant Annual Meeting in Keystone, Colorado, last June.

Lest God had not made his intentions clear enough, the Spjuts say they had their call confirmed shortly after the FEAST – on Sunday, July 3, to be exact. The couple was attending the morning worship service at Applewood Community Covenant Church when they noticed two new couples and families.

“To our surprise, one of the couples was introduced to the congregation because they were involved with . . . work teams when they went to Ecuador,” Paul recalls. “Joan and I looked at each and said, wow.”

Joan says the idea of doing short-term mission work had been in the back of her mind, but was surprised when the thought became reality. “Years ago I learned that retirees were doing short-term missions in the Covenant,” she says. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to serve, living in a different culture.”

There was just one small problem – they didn’t speak Spanish. During conversations at the Annual Meeting, the Spjuts were told that if they were willing to learn the language, they would be considered for the position. They agreed and their work was approved in September.

Both say the decision to spend two years in Ecuador was easy. “It felt like God was leading all the way, so the decision was not difficult,” says Joan. “God confirmed our decision to go ahead when our house sold within two weeks of listing it. To me, that confirmed the call for us.”

The Spjuts know a sign when they see it. Now it’s a matter of knowing the Spanish when they hear it. “It is a challenge at our age to learn a new language, but with God´s help we will improve daily,” says Joan. Both have individual instructors with whom they speak almost entirely in Spanish and also live with a family with children who can help them communicate. They hope to have a working knowledge of Spanish by the end of February, when their language training ends.

While immersing themselves in the language, the Spjuts are just as deeply participating in the culture. Though in Ecuador only since November 30, they have attended a variety of events such as Burning of the Devil, Parade of the Masks, Dance of the Giants, a student ballet recital and the more familiar presentation of The Messiah,” Joan says. All have taken place outdoors in the streets or in ruins now used for staging events.

The cultural experiences have been wonderful, says Paul, but they do not hide the other aspects of life in Antigua. Poverty is widespread and children, many of whom are orphans, offer shoe shines day and night at Central Park. Others sell jewelry and textiles.

“One boy told us he’s been doing this since he was six years old – and he is 16 now, hoping to go to college in the United States,” says Joan.

The immersion in the language and culture as well as coming to grips with the poverty in the area can be overwhelming. But each day, the Spjuts say they view the nearby volcanoes and green hillsides and are reminded of Psalm 121: I look to the hills for my help – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. “In this time of new challenges, it is good to be able to look to the Lord for our help.”

Paul has yet to find a golf course – there have been more important things to do, he says.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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