Not Ready for the Rocking Chair: A Story
At age 54, Judy Pitt made her first trip to Africa to fulfill a dream to see the continent. Now she's traveling there twice a year to help the people of Kenya.
Do you feel as if God has "put out to pasture" now that you've reached midlife or beyond? Maybe you believe He "can't teach an old dog new tricks" or use you. Unfortunately, there are many older Christians who ascribe to these misconceptions.
In our youth-oriented culture, that's not surprising. But millions of baby boomers are entering "retirement age." They bring with them an immense wealth of talent, experience, knowledge and, yes, energy. Will much of that go to waste?
Not in Judy Pitt's case. She's a boomer who's not ready for any rocking chair.
Sixty-two-year-old Judy has been a real estate broker in Boulder for 30 years. Though she had no missions work experience, her dream for decades had been to travel to Africa. In 2001 she had her first opportunity when she helped her parents move to Botswana. She was not disappointed by the experience and vowed to return to help those in need physically and spiritually.
The following year, Judy was at a Christian gathering in Boulder and met a man named Shem Okello from Kenya, Her African trip came up in conversation, and Shem asked Judy if she was thinking of going to Kenya. When she said no, he asked her if she would like to go. She was taken by surprise but said yes.
Her trip revealed the urgent need of the people living in Shem's village and the surrounding areas. There is no fresh water, no plumbing or modern sanitation. Food is hard to come by, and typhoid, cholera and malaria are part of everyday life. Children die daily of hunger and disease. Judy says her heart was broken, and certain Bible verses began to haunt her at night:
"The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them" (Isa. 41:17 NIV).
"All her people groan
as they search for bread;
they barter their treasures for food
to keep themselves alive.
"Look, O LORD, and consider,
for I am despised" (Lam. 1:11 NIV)
"Because of thirst the infant's tongue
sticks to the roof of its mouth;
the children beg for bread,
but no one gives it to them" (Lam. 4:4 NIV).
Following violence brought on by disputed political elections in December 2007, more than 1,300 people were killed and more than 300,000 were displaced in the Rift Valley and Western provinces of Kenya. Because of this sin and suffering, she says many Kenyans believe God hates them. Judy says the spiritual needs in this region are just as great as their physical needs. Her biggest goal is to provide a well for fresh water while at the same time providing them the Living Water and spiritual peace and healing. Those words, peace and healing, will be posted just above the doorway of a health center that her ministry is planning for the area.
Beginning in 2003, Judy has been taking small teams of about 20 volunteers to the region twice a year. They have built 18 churches. However, one of her pet peeves is groups that travel to foreign lands, build a church and then just leave. She complains that Kenya also has too many empty church buildings. So once a church is planted, Judy follows up with pastor training. Her teams also provide agricultural training and seeds for planting. Locals receive instruction on how to protect water supplies and midwives learn care for pregnancies and for newborns. Judy says many women are forced to give birth in open fields because this rural area has no health care.
In 2008 Judy formed a nonprofit organization for her ministry, Kazi Yake, Swahili for "His Works." Since then her ministry has broadened its scope. In partnership with the Baptist Mission of Kenya and Engineering Ministries International, Kazi Yake has plans for building the St. Clementine and Ruth Medical Clinic in Othoo. This 2-acre site will have a medical facility which includes a room for basic surgery, another for dental work, rooms for mothers in labor and one for post-birth women. HIV education would also be a critical part of the facility. If it's financiallly possible, Judy would like to install large-screen TVs in order to show the Jesus Film. There will also be three small resident buildings for visiting physicians, pastors and other volunteers. And one of Judy's long-dreamed-of wells would be on the premises.
In order to raise awareness — and money — for the ministry, Judy and a group of 11 supporters from Texas will be attempting a six-day trek to the top of 19,000-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro. When she first heard of the proposal, she thought people were asking for her prayers and encouragement. But when one of the other climbers called to discuss the climb, she was informed that she was supposed to go along. After a little hesitation, she decided to give it a try, though only 8-10 percent who begin the hike make it to the top. But knowing Judy's gutsy determination, she just might conquer Kilimanjaro.
Are you feeling ready for the rocking chair, that God has set you aside because He has no more use for you at your age? Then remember Caleb's words as he was getting ready to conquer Hebron, giants and all:
"So here I am today, eighty-five years old!
I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.
Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said" (Joshua 14:10-12 NIV)
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