Ann Davis lifted her aching body from a straw mat and touched the shoulder of a new believer in Christ. The woman turned and their meeting eyes initiated laughter, tears of joy, and an embrace of gratitude. Then Davis repeated the process three more times as each of the aging Acholi (uh-CHO-lee) women came to faith in Jesus.
Davis, 73, and her husband, Don, 75, were part of a LifeWay evangelism missions team that spent two weeks in northern Uganda sharing the gospel among some of the 1.5 million Acholi. The trip wasn't always physically easy for either of them, but it's not in Ann's nature to let a little thing like osteoporosis get in the way of fulfilling God's calling.
"We planned everything so that we could retire at 55 to do volunteer missions," said Don, a LifeWay retiree. "We thought God wanted us to go as full-time missionaries but He showed us quickly that was not to be the case. Instead He was calling us to serve through short-term missions."
Serve they have. The Davises have been on more than 70 mission trips encompassing dozens of countries. The motivation behind every trip is the same. "I am fully convinced that every person should have the opportunity to hear the gospel," Don said. "In order to do that, someone has to tell. We are simply trying to be obedient to what the Lord has called us to do."
Even the simple act of opening his mouth and speaking the gospel is evidence of God's grace at work in Don's life. At age 33 he suffered a stroke and lost his voice for three years, not knowing if he'd ever be able to speak again. After surgery and years of speech therapy he learned to speak again even though the left side of his speech mechanism is still paralyzed.
At first one might think the Davises' physical challenges would make them a burden to a short-term mission team, and that was the initial thought of one Ugandan national working with the team during their June 28-July 12, 2008 outreach in the African country. Using the terms "Mussa" (moo-zay) for Don and "Mama" for Ann---both cultural expressions of honor and respect---he recanted his first impressions.
"I confess that when I first saw Mussa and the Mama I did not think they were going to make it well," said Chris Bwami of Nsogu Ministries. "But they did and they were a testimony to the people. One older man said he could not come to hear the gospel preached and then he saw the Mama walking from hut to hut sharing the gospel and he got up and went. One day we all stopped for lunch but the Mussa never came back to eat, he just kept sharing the gospel. This is a great example to us."
Legacy is something the Davises consciously think about, and people they've led to Christ around the world are part of that legacy. But legacy begins at home as far as they are concerned. Katelin, the Davises' 19-year-old granddaughter, traveled with them as part of the team. It was her first mission trim with her grandparents. "They are such a great example," Katelin said. "It has been awesome to share this experience with them. They have such a love for the Lord and I've learned a lot just being with them."
The Davises plan to continue their involvement in volunteer missions and encourage others---not just retirees---to invest in missions. "Don't retire," Don said. "Just move on to what God has called you to do next. If you are still living and breathing, you are a missionary. You don't have to go overseas to be a missionary, but if you do, God will provide the resources. And if He calls, go. Don't hesitate, go do it.
From a (BP) article by Chris Turner, media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources.
Navigate to our volunteer page and see if there are opportunities God might have for you.
Also, you don't have to go overseas to be a missionary...you can serve right where you are today. Pray, and look around you for those God-given opportunities that surround all of us.