Dereham's OMF prayer lead promotes Third Age Mission
79-year old Janet Barrow, the coordinator of the OMF Prayer Group at Eckling Grange and a former missionary in the Philippines during her retirement, has a passion to see more retired people experience the benefits of Third Age Mission. Janet talks to Jenny Seal about the benefits of becoming a missionary in retirement and her own experience.
When Janet Barrow’s late husband Roy, a Deputy Head at Alderman Peel High School in Wells Next The Sea retired in 1995, the couple accepted an opportunity with the Christian mission agency OMF International to teach at a school for missionaries’ children in the Philippines.
The couple were based at the school for four years, before taking a break and then going back to the Philippines for another year to do an administrative role with the mission.
Janet Barrow, who now lives in sheltered accommodation in Eckling Grange, the Christian residential complex on the edge of Dereham, continues to lead an OMF Prayer Group and is eager to promote mission opportunities to people of retirement age.
Janet says about her time in the Philippines: “The whole thing was just a thrilling experience.”
Whilst at the school on the edge of Manila, Roy taught a range of GCSE subjects and Janet, who is also a trained teacher, helped in the school library, took the occasional class and encouraged mothers with young children within missionary families.
Janet said: “The great thing for Roy was, after having the responsibility of being a Deputy Head, he was now able to teach, which was what he loved to do. He said, "it was the Lord’s bonus at the end of his teaching career."”
Roy and Janet met at an OMF conference and throughout their married life led OMF prayer meetings at their home. Janet, who attended the recent Celebrate exhibition in the Forum in Norwich, as an OMF representative, now has a passion to encourage other retired people to engage in overseas mission.
She said: “There is a lot of opportunity for people of retirement age to go and be missionaries. Our children were grown up. It was a great adventure; it really was.”
One of the benefits, Janet has found, is the result of not accepting the conventional path of settling down in retirement, but instead trusting in God to go outside of your comfort zone. She said: “It was a help when we were downsizing because I knew we went to the Philippines with two suitcases. And all the stuff we left at home, we didn’t actually need. Gradually downsizing for when I came here was not as difficult for me as it can be for some people. Also we had already experienced this moving from out of our comfort zone into somewhere different, so simply moving was much easier.””
Janet also found that the experience of living as a foreigner brought meaning to the teaching of being a citizen of heaven. She said: “We were foreigners – we weren’t citizens of that country. That is a lead into remembering that we are strangers on earth and we are travelling to a heavenly home.”
Roy was a Reader at St Mary’s Heacham before and after living in the Phillipines. The couple attended a Filipino Baptist Church whilst in Manila which Janet describes as a ‘revelation’. She said: "We were sharing in the lives of people who lived in real poverty, and knew how to trust God in all circumstances. Seeing the poverty and experiencing the heat, pollution and typhoons of a tropical country such as the Philippines were real challenges to us, who had never been to Asia before."
“People said that after the time in the Philippines it enriched his preaching hugely. So from that point of view we had more to give to the local congregation when we got back”.
Janet said: “There are many mission organisations now which have opportunities for people in their retirement. And it isn’t like it used to be in the old days when you went to the other side of the world and it was a seven week journey by boat. Now you can fly there for a short time, and return quite easily. The benefits and the joy of doing something different in retirement are just amazing.”
If you would like to explore the opportunities for mission with OMF International please click here or www.omf.org/uk.