Barb Allen and Liz Loeffler discuss what it's like to retire from full-time ministry. Is that even a thing? What does it feel like? And how might you even start a new ministry after retiring from a job?
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TranscriptTodd Randall [00:00:02]:
In today's episode of Entrust Equipping Leaders, we pick up our conversation with Liz Loeffler and Barb Allen. Both have served God overseas and in the U.S. They've entered a time that some might call retirement.
Barb Allen [00:00:18]: I don't know all the answers yet, but like every new life phase, Jesus accompanies us. And He has a plan.
Liz Loeffler [00:00:26]: I've often wondered if this is what it means by making me lie down in green pastures. They’re not exactly the green pastures I was anticipating.
Todd Randall [00:00:36]: We hope that by the end of this two-part series, you'll discover some good questions to ask of yourself, your family, and others. Even if you're not called to full time ministry as a follower of Jesus, can you ever really retire from serving him?
Laurie Lind [00:00:56]: Both of you are considered officially in quotation marks here, maybe, “retired.” And so how did you each come to that decision to retire?
Barb Allen [00:01:08]: Well, I'll start out. My husband, Jeff was retired and had some health issues. And after a while, I realized I sensed that was from the Lord as well, that we both needed to be on the same page. We'd had pretty separate ministries before. The difficulty is that Jeff hasn't found a niche, but he's encouraged that I want to be in ministry with him. So that was part of the decision for me. And we're waiting on God, realizing that it's not about purpose or even serving, but like Jesus, it's God's will that we go through trials and sometimes suffering to glorify Him. And I was reading not long ago in John 16, where it talks about Jesus, says, in this world, you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. And so simply having more time to spend with Jesus, more time to work with Jeff, we're trusting Him and trying to consider it all joy amidst all of the trials. And then I also know that I need to daily surrender all of my expectations to Him, because doing women's training and these leadership conferences that we've done for so long, it's in my blood now. And so not to be as involved is a little hard. But Auggie, thankfully, has said, barb, you can come over to Europe anytime you want to. So I'm planning to be back over there in April next year. I think that I need just to daily surrender all of my expectations to God's love and sovereignty and simply let Him work and show us what the next steps are. Once again, it's taking one day at a time and trusting Him that he will work either. Philippians 310 has been a big verse for me, where it talks about how Paul says, I want to be one with Christ in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his sufferings. So I don't know all the answers yet. Just been retired for a few months. But like every new life phase, Jesus accompanies us and has a plan.
Laurie Lind [00:03:40]: We'll follow up on more of that, what that all looks like. But Liz, how did you come to the decision of retiring?
Liz Loeffler [00:03:48]: Well, it was kind of an easy decision when I did my last facilitation from a hospital bed.
Laurie Lind [00:03:55]: In Russia?
Liz Loeffler [00:03:56]: No. Here in the States.
Laurie Lind [00:03:58]: Oh, okay.
Liz Loeffler [00:03:59]: It was May of 2022. Last May, I ended up in congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and then got COVID on top of it. In 2020, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's and I was trying to keep on work. I cut back my hours when I got the Parkinson's diagnosis so I could do exercises to keep the effects of Parkinson's at bay. But with all this illness and the time downtime, it's kind of worked on my Parkinson's and made the symptoms worse. So right now the reason my background is blurred. I'm in a nursing home after it became clear that I wasn't going to bounce back real quickly and I'm still struggling with a great deal of tiredness and fatigue that it was time to retire. So I retired after 30 plus years of service in April of this year.
Laurie Lind [00:04:56]: It seems like God had to, I don't know if I would say it was God, but, He had to throw a whole lot of illnesses at you to convince you to retire. Almost.
Liz Loeffler [00:05:07]: I've often wondered if this is what it means by making me lie down in green pastures. We're not exactly the green pastures I was anticipating. And I did say to him when I was feeling more and more tired, I said, oh, Lord, I just wish I could go someplace and rest and have everything done for me. Well, I kind of got the answer to my prayer, but it wasn't exactly the way I was thinking about it. But like Barbara, I could almost echo what she said. I'm just taking one day at a time, and it's hard for me because I've been a planner from when I worked for Procter Gamble. You planned your work, your work, your plan. And I was planning to keep on facilitating online. I really enjoyed the online facilitation since my travel was kind of limited because of the Parkinson's. Really was enjoying online facilitation, but because of the fatigue and tiredness, I just have the time and focus and just trying to get time by myself. I've been interrupted three times on this podcast. The door has opened, even though I have a sign on the door, I'm on a podcast, please don't come in. I mean, they're coming in for meds and everything, so my time is not my own. So I'm hoping at some point, if the Lord's willing, I can get back into ministry doing online facilitation. But for now, my focus has to be on getting my body back in shape.
Laurie Lind [00:06:29]: I find it so amazing you're doing this interview from a nursing home, and I've seen you on some various meetings of Entrust lately, and here you are. You are amazingly still right in there with everything that's going on.
Liz Loeffler [00:06:47]: Well, not as much as I'd like to be, but I've tried to stay involved with some of the important things that have been going on within the ministry and give my input because of the 30 years of experience that I've had with them.
Laurie Lind [00:07:00]: When we talk about retirement, there's a, kind of a financial or a legal side of it, like when you officially say, I'm retiring, I'm going to start taking my Social Security funding or whatever. But beside that, retiring in the sense of your corporate jobs, you could say, I retired. I'm not going to the office anymore. But retiring when your life is ministry, it's not quite as cut and dried as going in and out of an office every day, nine to five job. So what does retirement look like? I realize you're both kind of taking it a day at a time, as you've mentioned, but how does it feel and what does it look like to be retired as a person involved in serving the Lord?
Liz Loeffler [00:07:49]: Well, I think because of my fatigue issues, I'm grateful that I don't have the responsibility I had for preparing lesson plans and following up with people. I could not take that pressure. But the Lord has kind of given me a ministry of encouragement among some of the residents here and some of the staff. I've prayed with them. We have a staff member. One of my aides is from Ethiopia, another one is from Cuba. So the whole world is coming to my doorstep now, and I'm just as the Lord gives me opportunity, sharing and praying with Him when the opportunity arises for that, I'm just doing whatever ministry he puts in front of me. But it's nothing like what I was used to doing.
Barb Allen [00:08:38]: I'm kind of enjoying sleeping in on some days, frankly. It's nice not to have that alarm clock going off. But I think retirement still means I'm involved with people. Ministry doesn't stop just because you change organizations or you are working more out of your home or whatever. I don't think it won't stop until we breathe our last breaths. And so I'm really, once again, living out of taking one day at a time. People have always been my focus, and they'll continue to be. Like, we have a neighborhood full of really needy people, and so both of us are consistently talking with people and inviting them over or praying with them, like Liz was talking about and all that on a regular basis because we walk out of our condo door and there they are. So I will continue also to work within trust trainings and mentoring when needed. Like I said, I'm planning to go back over to Europe next April. 1 of the things I always wanted to do in retirement was to relearn the guitar. It was a really fun outlet for me. When I was 30, this was before I even had kids. But once the kids started coming, I just didn't have the time to invest in it anymore. And of course, we're with our grands, our grandkids pretty often, and that's great too, because yesterday I was challenged from our pastor to think through a family vision, so that was challenging to me. So we'll see what God comes up with for us. I above all want to draw closer, spend more time with the Lord. And one of the scriptures that has really been meaningful to me when Jeff is in this time of difficulty with physical issues is 1 Peter 4:19, when it says, therefore, those who experience trials and suffering entrust yourselves to a creator God and continue to do good things. So that's kind of what I'm trying to do, is entrust and engage in my faithful God and let him tell me what next good thing he wants me to do.
Liz Loeffler [00:11:08]: One of the things that the Lord has directed me was reading through the book of Job because I was feeling a little Jobish because I had to give up my cottage, know I'm here in this nursing home. I don't know what the next step is going to be and everything that I held near and dear has kind of gotten scattered to the four winds. But he has been just so good in, first of all, assuring me that he's taken care of me for 75 years and he's not going to stop now. Secondly, and this is the thing that has been a real anchor for me, that I truly believe in the sovereignty of God and this path that he has me on is not an Oops, it's not a plan B. It's the path that he had ordained for me for this phase of my life. And my responsibility is to be faithful to Him and glorify Him as best I can. And that's my prayer that I can continue to do that.
Laurie Lind [00:12:05]: Both of you, I was going to ask you, I don't know, what do you miss about your overseas times and then what are you just passionate about now? Passionate about now?
Liz Loeffler [00:12:19]: I just miss, I guess in one sense, the exoticness of being in different cultures and being part of it, not as a tourist, but being there with real purpose and meeting the women and seeing how the common bond in Christ pulls us together. That I miss. I also missed in part in coming back to the States, the total dependency that I felt as a single woman on my own in these foreign countries. Most of the time I lived by myself. I did have roommates off and on, but you just trust the Lord for some interesting situations you find yourself in. But now I found myself in another kind of interesting situation and I feel like I'm depending on the Lord more now than I even have when I was overseas, because the future is so unknown right now. So I just miss the international flavor of working with women from around the world. On the training that we did online. We used to have a lot of nationals and getting up at 07:00 in the morning or earlier so that you could fit within their time zones. I mean, it was thrilling to see and hear and then pour out their hearts. And the course that Barbara spoke about, DDH discovery, Developing a Discerning Heart, was so instrumental in so many women's lives to have an understanding of the way they were created in the image of God and how that was tarnished. And particularly when they storyboard their lives and found the lies that they believed, seeing them come alive in realizing what lies they had believed and transferring that to the truth of Scripture. And the AHA moments, that's what I missed the most.
Laurie Lind [00:14:25]: What do you mean by AHA moments?
Liz Loeffler [00:14:28]: Well, just when all of a sudden they would share stuff, particularly in that course developing a Discerning Heart that they never shared publicly before and the freedom that gave them. And when they understood the truth of God's Word and said, oh my goodness, I remember one woman said, nobody ever listened to me before. I never thought I had anything worth saying. It's those AHA moments that often came with tears from the depths of their hearts. That's what I miss.
Barb Allen [00:15:00]: I have to second that because I enjoy being with women as much as I do. To see them go so much deeper with the Lord in their personal lives, in their ability to lead Bible studies, in their understanding of God's Word and their understanding of Him who he is. I've come to the point where I see that is one of our biggest challenges is helping people understand who God is. And when they do, their faith just takes off. It's just amazing. So I saw that up close and personal in Africa because those women over there, they get nothing. And I was there in November for this developing a discerning heart course. And those women, I think of one woman in particular who was able to apply the whole aspect of forgiveness in a way that she had told people about before but never applied to her own life, marriage and life with her family. Her life was totally radically changed. She went from kind of a little bit mousy with a drawn woman to just sharing with everybody what God had done in her life during that week. So it was just a thrill to see that. And I look forward to having opportunities to see her and others. And it will be, of course, online because I'm not planning to go back to Africa. But still we pick up where we left off with many of these women and we see how God is still changing their lives, still working. I miss probably more face to face with my European disciples more than anything but thankful for things like Zoom and WhatsApp to keep in touch. Yeah.
Laurie Lind [00:16:58]: Are there fresh other things? What are you passionate about these days in 2023?
Barb Allen [00:17:07]: Well, I've been doing a pretty in depth Bible study with some neighbors. And one of the neighbors who I thought, she just is so scattered, she needs God's word to keep her more together in her life. And it was interesting because just well, right around Easter time, she said when she went to church, god was telling me I need to do Bible study. And so I was trying to figure out who am I going to do Bible study with? And then you called me. I called her the day after Easter, kind of in fear and trembling, thinking she's probably not going to want to do this, but God, you're in charge and I'll let you be God. She just said yes, I'll do it. And so now we're starting to do this Bible, in depth Bible study together. And she can't wait. She's just really excited about it starts on Wednesday.
Liz Loeffler [00:18:03]: Well, like I said, my main focus right now, what I'm excited about is trying to get better so that I can have full health and strength. And I have been invigorated by things like this podcast and the few things that I can jump in on. And I think I was telling you before we started, I got an email from the woman that's in charge of Russia. She has a pastor in Uganda that is desperate for our training. So I sent a note to her folks that are involved in Africa. And, you know, can anybody reach out to this pastor? He wants his women trained. He wants his training now. And I thought, the Lord's still using me to spread this a little bit. So this little highlights and I'd love to get back into it full time once I get my strength back.
Barb Allen [00:18:54]: Interestingly enough, too, when we were in Africa last November, there was a group of women who came for the very first time from Chad, and they were French speaking, but some of them could speak fairly good English. And so after the course, god just kind of gave me this idea, well, why wouldn't it work for our French staff to minister to them? And so they're trying to work out a time. It's hard right now because security is really bad in most of these African countries. Almost all of the African countries are going through coups or close to going through coups. But the French women are excited to minister to the Chadians, and the Chadians are excited to have them come so that they can get further along in their training in more of their mother tongue. So really fun things. You don't have to always be going overseas.
Laurie Lind [00:19:55]: I mean, both of you. God has put you with just the right people at the right time, in the right place, it seems. Just again, and again to bring Agi into this story from Hungary and Vera from Russia and connecting people from France with people in Chad and so forth. I mean, oh my. What would you like your legacy to be?
Liz Loeffler [00:20:21]: Just that I love God and served him faithfully.
Barb Allen [00:20:25]: I would say that's similar. The thing that came to me is, God, please be glorified in my life, whatever you want to do.
Laurie Lind [00:20:34]: And finally, any words of wisdom to someone who will be listening to this. Either considering if God wants them to begin to serve full time, like either they're young or they're retiring, but maybe God is calling them into ministry now or knowing when to retire. Any words of wisdom on starting into ministry or quote unquote, retiring from ministry?
Barb Allen [00:21:02]: I would say, don't limit God, let God have his way in your life. Because he can do just like Ephesians 320 says, exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could ask or imagine in Christ Jesus. And I'm just flabbergasted often with the fact that he has used us in so many ways, but it's only been because he made the plan and we just said, okay, and your Holy Spirit's power, we'll do it. Just show us how. So I would say whether you're young or old, the young ones don't be afraid to raise support. It's one of the most challenging but the most gratifying things. It's just so exciting to see supporters get on board with evangelism and discipleship and to see their lives changed as a result, too. It's not just about supporting us me, Liz, whatever. It's about God having the glory and then seeing growth in people. I've had a couple of supporters come to Christ because they realized they weren't Christians. So there have been a lot of fun, happy, lots of laughter, and lots of great opportunities. As far as retiring, I wish I knew more about it at this point, but I think retire, the word retire has a negative tone to it. It's like, I'm not going to be doing anything. Oh, you will be, you will be. You'll still have the focus on people, you'll still minister to people, you'll still see lives changed, and that is worth hanging around for, and he'll lead you into different things. That's just the way he is. But it's really about getting to know God better, too. Every phase is about getting to know God better.
Liz Loeffler [00:23:04]: Yes. Amen to that. Barbara and I'd just like to say, if you don't feel you're qualified, think again. If God is calling you, I'll just share this. I have done this training all over the world. I've worked with people with master's degrees up one arm and doctorates down the other. I don't even have a college degree. I went right from the business world, right from high school to the business world. I did go to Bible school and I got certificates from Philadelphia College of the Bible. And when I first joined Entrust, they wouldn't let you even touch the curriculum unless you had a seminary. I figured, you know, I'd just be doing my administrative duties like I had done all my life as the executive secretary. But God opened up Eastern Europe, and there was such a demand for women's ministries, they were willing to give me a try. They put me through a really rigorous test, including a seminar with Anne Graham Watts for expository Bible teaching preparation, and then sent me in with one of our educators to make sure that I got the salient points from each lesson if I could work through a translator. I jumped through a lot of hoops, and they finally decided I could work with a women's ministry. And I am just totally amazed at what the Lord has allowed me to do with my limited formal background. So please, if Lord calls you, don't say, well, I'm not prepared. I've got to do this, I got to do that. Just say yes. I didn't say yes at first. I fought him, I think, every tooth and nail, every step of the way, but he was such a gracious God and worked with me and gave me confidence to step out. And as far as retiring goes, let me just throw this in. As Barbara said, you never retire. You're just on a different mission field. And that's where I feel the Lord has placed me on a different mission field and the world's coming to me. But for those of you that are thinking about retirement, or I would just really encourage you to think about getting into a retirement community before you have to. I came to this retirement community five years ago, and I'm sure glad I was here when the pieces started falling apart so that I had a place to go. So don't wait until you have to go. You can establish the community. I'm with Calvary fellowship homes. A third of the residents here are either former missionaries or pastors. It's a little taste of heaven, and definitely some of them are still working. So you never really retire from the Lord's business. He just puts you in a different mission field.
Laurie Lind [00:26:01]: So what is God doing in your heart? Even as you've been listening to this interview with Barb and Liz, whatever it might be, I urge you to stop and pray, listen to the Lord, and then start exploring a little bit. One place you can look is our website. We need a lot of different kinds of people right now. Our site would be entrust4.org/Join-us. That's Entrust four. Entrust the number four slash Join dash us. When we come back next time we're traveling together to Spain.
Todd Randall [00:26:47]: You've been listening to Entrust Equipping Leaders. We'd really appreciate your giving us a review, subscribing to this podcast and sharing it with others. Thank you. See you next time.