Excuse #3. 99 IS too Old?!

I have recently been impressed with the FACT that there is NO good time to become a missionary.  I mean if you are single, you may want a spouse.  If you are recently married, you may need “time”.  If you are having children……well who would want to expose them to a third world environment?  If you have teens, will you dare disrupt their life?  Careers.  Security.  Retirement plans.  Sick parents.  Special Educational needs.  Personal sickness.  Mid age and being away from your young adult kids and emerging grandbabies.  Retirement age and then parents back home are more in need then ever of your care.  When can one “Go” and it be the “RIGHT” time?  NEVER.  Except when God calls, He makes up for the lack, the unknown, the need and the EXCUSES.  I hope to tackle some of these missionary “Excuses” by talking with current missionaries, in the field, who authentically had/have great excuses.  I think we are about to happen upon some of the greatest stories to be told………
I think everywhere John goes, he is talked about.  Not because he is heroic or famous.  He is kind and bright.  Tender and eager.  Loves people.  Loves the Lord.  Has had a successful career.  But these are not the things that get tongues talking.  No.  It is John’s age.  He is 99 and only a month from one hundred years old and he is here in Papua, as a foreigner.
Too old, to come?  Too old, to serve?  Too old, to transit around the globe?  Well, I’m afraid that Mr. John has set the bar high and given excuse #3 a huge margin of “you are not too old yet”.
Recently, I had the privilege of going to Johns home and taking out some stitches from a minor surgical procedure.  Honestly, my motivation for going was slightly inspired by this blog series I’m working on (Excuses).  I KNEW John would have some refreshing insight and I had one hour to try capture his story.  One hour did not even begin to  unravel Johns story but it did give a glimpse into John’s full and abundant life. 
As the ceiling fan whirled, trying to keep us cool from the tropical heat, John began his story, in part.  He told of being raised in the Dutch Reformed church and in his teens going to some meetings where for the first time he felt assured of his salvation in the Lord.  From there 8 or 9 young people gathered in his pastor’s home often.  They were energized and on fire.  The Lord was using them.  During this time John met Bill who was a great musician and very talented.  John’s first tenor voice, was striking and before long Bill, John and 2 others formed a quartet.  Within 6 months they were singing every night for a traveling evangelist.  From that point on they had invitations to sing in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York State and North Carolina. 
Every weekend this group traveled and sang for 6 years.  Not only did they sing, but John tells about Bill placing a mandolin on John’s lap.  John asked, “Do you expect me to play this?”  Bill responded, “Put your finger on the first fret and start bowing.  Take it home and practice.”  And with that, instruments were added to the group.  They never charged.  Soon they started doing a radio program every Sunday morning.   After a while they purchased a car for $100.00.  Fortunately, Bill was a mechanic also.  They worked on the car, every Saturday.
During these 6 years, John was challenged to go to college.  Despite not having any money, he began to take one course at a time and study accounting.  Meanwhile he did book keeping for Macy’s Department Store in New York City.  Within 2 years he took over the management position in that department.  In time, John graduated and became a travelling auditor. 
A twinkle came into John’s eye when he told me the next part.  He said, “This is notable!”   : )  The quartet went into a church in Elmwood Park, NJ and were getting ready to sing.  John carried in over 50+ song books and as he looked up he saw a girl smiling at him.  He thought, “She doesn’t know me.”  He admitted that during the program she continued to smile at him and he couldn’t keep his eyes off of her.  After the service they were able to meet.  It turned out that “Katharine” worked in NYC also and that they would be on the same ferry.  They met again, on the ferry, out front as planned.  Over the next several years, Katharine also came to know the Lord and was born again.  They were married in 1940 and “Kay” lived until 2013.  She died peacefully from Alzheimer's with faithful John as her caregiver.  On the morning she died he sang to her, “My Home Sweet Home”.
I shyly glance down at my watch, hoping that I am not being too obvious.  Unfortunately, the watch demands that I leave John soon.  A son to pick up from soccer practice.  We haven’t even touched on why John is here and what happened between marriage and 99???  There was a World War and so, so much more.  Three children.  Grand children.  4 visits to his missionary daughter, who has lived overseas close to 40 years. 
“John, why are you here?”
“Why did I come?  Because I can’t live alone.  I have macular degeneration.  The 2 centers of my eyes are dead so I just see out of the sides.  While I am here I am helping people with their English.  To talk and say English properly.  To have conversations.  The Titip School that is teaching English to the Indonesian people has more applicants than they could handle.  So three days a week I meet with some of those people and work with them on English.  And they are so nice.  I love what I do.  They are so warm and give me hugs.”
“John”, I ask, “Isn’t 99 to old to be here and to be serving and helping people, haven’t you already done enough?”
“No, 99 is not an excuse to say, ‘I’m too old’.”
Thank you John.  That is what we needed to know.  Your faithfulness to keep doing your part is inspiring


  1. That is amazing! I would love to read his whole story! Does he live with someone there?


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