When God speaks, go for it
Does retirement have to be the end of meaningful work? Or does God have adventure waiting for us at every stage of life?
Adrienne Toews was a little at loose ends after her husband Eugene died in September 2012. Yet joy and conviction are equally clear as she remembers her role as caregiver during Eugene’s journey through Parkinson’s disease: “It’s what you do for your best friend.”
After Eugene’s death, Adrienne, then 71, looked to God for direction, and soon found new avenues of service.
In her younger days, Adrienne poured herself her work in special education until her energy was depleted. She then moved on to a position as teacher-librarian. “I absolutely loved it!” she recalls.
In London, Ontario (Middlesex County School Board) she researched Kindergarten to Grade 8 library use. She worked hard to set up research stations in a school’s library, encouraging teachers to come in with their classes and eventually involved students’ parents, too. “Those were probably the best years of my life,” she says.
Eugene and Adrienne moved to Steinbach, Manitoba; Adrienne continued teaching. “After I retired from teaching I wanted to continue in the same area, so I applied to work part-time at the Jake Epp Public Library.” She spent at least six wonderful years there. She also went to Lithuania and helped set up a library in a Christian college and taught some English, too, making four summer journeys to the country of her birth.
At first this European opportunity was daunting, as Adrienne had to raise money to cover all her own expenses, but she is glad she went. It helped that she had retained her fluency in the Lithuanian language. “If I had missed out, God would have found someone else. So, even when you’re older, when God speaks to you, go for it!” she says.
Adrienne goes. She has found no example of retirement in the Bible. Eventually the Toews moved back to Ontario so they could be closer to a daughter there. Adrienne has no regrets about the 15 years she cared for her husband—“God gives you strength,” she says—and recognizes everybody has to make practical decisions when faced with personal care needs. Even though her husband did not lose his mobility, the couple had begun exploring care options shortly before Eugene died.
Shortly after, her family arranged a cottage holiday. “One morning I was sitting by the lake with my coffee cup, asking God, “‘What do you want from me?’” Adrienne remembers.
The answer indicated she would work with people from other countries.
“I reminded God how old I was,” Adrienne chuckles. Since then, she hosted a young Christian Nigerian pilot for three months, and had a Christian couple from India staying with her. Then she joined missionaries Jim and Hkaw Win Humphries in Thailand for a month, helping Jim edit some of his books.
Jim told Adrienne about Living Faith Bible College (Alberta) and the need to have library books catalogued, so she went to enjoy the lovely campus and work among youth, whom she loves. Her own five grandchildren are becoming independent, so she focuses on praying for them, as well. She is grateful for family support for all these service ventures. One daughter said, “Dad would be so happy!”
Adrienne gardens, reads, has joined the Penuel Septuagenarian Exploration Society, taking frequent wilderness hikes, and is active in church. She hosts a writers’ group in her home in Ontario. Members are preparing memoirs to pass on to their families.
Further adventure beckons on the horizon. Adrienne has to decide between returning to the Bible school for a three-month term as librarian, and going to distribute Bibles in Bulgaria.
“The Christian life is the most exciting life you can imagine...it’s never boring!” she says. “It sure beats sitting home, watching TV!”
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