Retirement Provides Opportunity for Missions Service
Richard and Pat Little* are not your average missionaries. They aren’t former ministers, they don’t have seminary degrees, and they already have grandchildren in the states. Still, the Lord has taken them across the world to serve people in other nations.
Since the Littles were married, they felt the call to go on mission, but they were not able to because of career and family obligations. Now that they have taken an early retirement, they decided to take this opportunity to go on mission. After researching missions opportunities, the previous year, the Littles began applying for missionary positions with the International Mission Board in fall of 2016.
Their family felt especially called to East Asia because of their experience there as expatriate workers. There they met and grew close with one missionary family who was being called to East Asia as the Littles were assessing which position they were being called to.
Tim R, Director of Missions Partnerships on the SEND Team, says the Littles’ experience in the working world is an invaluable resource to missionaries that come from backgrounds of theological education and full-time ministry.
“They are able to use their experience that they’ve had from a lifetime of business and raising a family and translate that right to the mission field,” he said.
One of the most memorable moments from the Littles’ experience was landing in East Asia two weeks before Christmas and immediately being asked to help with a project another missionary was working on.
“Being flexible is always a key component of any missions work, whether its domestic work or foreign mission work you always have to be flexible and willing to roll with the tide and do whatever it needs to be to get your job done,” Richard said.
The Littles were chosen to take on an administrative role that supports missionaries that have more language experience and seminary education. The Littles worked closely with the friends they had made in East Asia before.
Richard said, “We went there as administrative facilitators, basically as admin for our boss … but we were also looking for opportunities to do our own sharing and our own work.”
Outside the office the Littles’ unique skills and experience made a big impact. Because of Richard’s career experience and training as an engineer, he was able to connect with engineering students that were encountering IMB ministries at local universities on a different level than the other missionaries. Additionally, for first-generation believers in this area, having missionary families like the Littles as examples of what Christian life and relationships look like is extremely important.
The Littles were also able to support and speak into the lives of their fellow missionaries. While many missionaries leave for the mission field immediately after completing their education, the Littles’ experience working in a secular field gave them unique insight into different perspectives.
An ongoing theme in their missionary story is their willingness to build on the foundations laid by the people that came before them. They saw where God was already at work, such as English education programs and local church outreach, and they supported those ministries with their specific giftings.
Though they missed their family very much, the Littles said that technology like video chatting and phone calls make it easier to stay connected even when you are living on mission far away.
They were also thankful for the support of their church back in South Carolina. Before their missions project was fully funded, the church generously paid for their medical insurance. They also supported the Littles with prayer and sent one of their staff members to visit while they were on the mission field.
Tim R is thankful for the Little family for modeling a non-traditional missionary journey. He said, “They’re living their life on purpose. And that’s really what I like about the Littles is they recognize, ‘Hey, we still have a lot to give, why not give it to serving on the mission field and really giving our best to the Lord.’”
The Littles plan to travel back to East Asia when they can to continue their ministry for another term of two years. They hope to continue equipping local believers to be able to run some of the missions projects run by the IMB on their own and to lead more couples Bible studies including seeking couples who want to know what a God centered marriage looks like.Pat said of people who are feeling a call to go on mission, “If they think God is calling them to the mission field then they should not ignore that call. And there are opportunities for people without seminary or without extensive language training.”