"I don't want to be a poor old person"

I said this recently in one of the talks I've done this term. I was speaking to a group of women who are married to guys training at a Bible college in Sydney. I was speaking about what it's like to be married to someone doing parachurch work (ie. full-time Christian work that isn't in a church context). My husband has worked in both a church role and now with uni students so it was interesting to reflect on the differences.

One of the big concerns for families going into parachurch jobs is that quite a number of them (including my husband's job) involve raising funds to support your role. It also means that you will get a lower income than if you had a church based job.

While I'd really hope that money wasn't a reason to deter people from considering this type of work, let's be honest, it can be. Especially when the money doesn't always come easily.

I always said that we'd never do a fundraising job, yet 8 years later, here we are. One of my fears has been that we don't own our own home, and most likely never will in the city. We'll probably retire to something quite small using up our superannuation savings.

And then we'll potentially be poor old people. No overseas trips. No holiday house by the coast. No extra space for family to stay with us. It can be confronting to consider this, when many of our peers from university have almost paid off their first homes and are well and truly on their way to happy, rich retirements. The choices we made in our 20's, are now starting to look more different than ever to those of our peers.

So how do I feel about this as the confronting reality starts to settle? I realised recently in thinking through this that I truly believe that God will provide a roof over our heads (might be in a caravan) and that my retirement isn't about me having overseas trips. I have always aimed to make decisions that were about people and relationships rather than things and lifestyle. I'd say that I think my life is about living to serve others by being in relationship with them and showing Jesus' love to them. Will I run out of people to meet and serve in my old age? Will there be no one in that caravan park who will need a friend?

I have found this freeing. It's freeing to spend the now, when I have energy and health, serving those around me. I don't need to use up that precious energy and time getting worried about the future. He will provide and there will be good things for me to do.


ruth said…
Another by-product of choosing to live as if people are more important than money is that it frees you up to be generous. I have experienced your generosity and been encouraged by your approach!
It's better to have poverty on earth and riches in heaven than the other way around.
Meredith said…
And thank you.
It is brilliant to read posts like this that point us in the Right direction. Thanking God for your witness and for His work in and through you.
Anonymous said…
Not just relevant for people in church ministry. There are many of us out there who have missed the boat and lie awake with similar thoughts to you. Might see you in that caravan park...
Pip said…
Our 'joke' has been that we will retire to a council bedsit. At the moment I honestly have no problem with that. Being morgageless has meant that we have the cash to visit family interstate once a year, give our kids opportunities in music and sport. When I worked in aged care I saw too many people who's retirement trip was not overseas but to the hospital with a major illness. The future is in God's hands, we can plan to a certain degree but ultimatley as you have said well, we need to trust that God is in control.
Joanna said…
Jenny, I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I think there's also a class issue here (as with the public/private school issue you raise). Most clergy are university educated so their peers are people with degrees for whom home ownership is an affordable goal if that is a priority. Most people who go to reformed evangelical churches are also Uni educated or certainly middle class. So clergy find themselves socially connected primarily to one class while financially closer (though not THAT close!) to a less well-off class. If we went to churches where most people (like many Australians) couldn't even consider home ownership or private schooling, I think the sacrifice would seem less acute. This kind of discussion always makes me reflect on how class-restricted evangelicalism in Australia often is - and why.

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