A Missionary Doctor's Autobiography
At last, in April 1994, we were able to settle in our own fully paid up house. Using our long-service allowance, we were able to pay off the balance on the mortgage. It was a wonderful feeling to have our own place and no debts.
At first, there were lots of jobs to do about the house and then there was plenty to do in the garden. We used to go on long walks in the Suffolk countryside and explored many surrounding villages and towns.
However, retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be. For me, there was a feeling of loss of identity that came with the classification of "pensioner" or "retiree". The initial feeling of freedom was followed by a sense of rootlessness. Instead of one’s day being mapped out, there was the decision What shall I do today?
One of the projects I had lined up for my retirement was to write my autobiography, as I have always loved words and I thought my experiences would be of interest. I also hoped to earn some money by my writing and so I enrolled in a course which promised "Guaranteed that you will recover, in earnings, the cost of this course or your money back." I dutifully studied and wrote and revised and submitted my work to various publishers. All that was printed was a letter in the SAGA magazine, which did not earn any payment. One of the requirements of the course was that I write the outline of a novel and submit the first chapter. All my inclination and training is toward the factual and scientific, so I gave up on the fiction – which (you guessed it!) invalidated the money-back guarantee.
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that nothing we learn is ever really wasted – we never know when something will come in useful. So I worked on writing my "book" and after completing a few chapters, I submitted a chapter to various publishing houses, to see if they were interested in the story of a missionary doctor’s life. There were no takers. I tried again, writing in the third person and approaching it from different angles but all my submissions were rejected. "We do not have any call for this type of book, these days." Discouraged, I abandoned my dream of being a published author, until 11 years later, when I am now working on it again, with encouragement from the librarian at Newbold College, and the curator of the heritage site at Loma Linda. Maybe these thoughts and experiences will help someone in their research and give a taste of what mission work is like.
In 1995, we took part in the local VE celebrations and I interviewed a few of the old-timers about their war-time experiences and my report was included in the booklet commemorating the event.
That was the year of the General Conference session in Utrecht. Lilian and I went by car and after the session we drove down to Switzerland and visited Jane, our daughter and Mark, her husband and the three grandchildren.
Some months previously, Lilian had noticed, in a Sunday paper, an advert for doctors to do part-time work. I had applied but been told they might contact me later. It came as a surprise that I was invited to go for an interview and was then offered training to become what is grandly called a Disability Analyst. This involves interviewing and examining, in their own homes, "clients" who are applying for disability benefits. This seems to be an ideal type of work for a retired doctor as he does not need an office and can do as many or as few cases as he wants. I still see a few clients – one or two a week, but will probably stop soon, as I approach 75.
Being retired, together with the extra income, means that we can usually visit our daughters in Switzerland and South Africa, once a year. We like to get away from the English winter by spending the Christmas holidays in the hot southern summer.
Attending the General Conference session in Toronto in 2000 was another interesting experience. Visiting a new country, meeting up with old friends and fellow-workers and just being part of a world-wide movement were all a great thrill. We also enjoyed the trips - to Niagra Falls, Ottawa and Battle Creek. In spite of the enjoyment, we were glad to get home and we decided that we are getting too old to attend any more GC sessions.
Lilian and I are both very involved in the church in Bury St Edmunds, having served, between us, as elder, clerk, Sabbath School leader, head deaconess and communication secretary. We are few in numbers but have good fellowship.
Our church group used to meet in the Guildhall and later in the St John Ambulance Hall. Then in October 2001, a church property came on the market. It was a 100-year old "Tin Tabernacle" in need of considerable restoration. We purchased it and got the keys in March 2002. Since then we have been negotiating regarding the renovations which need to be done. As of May 2005, the restoration is almost complete and we plan to have an official opening in October.
[I have designed a website for the church. Those interested in the history of the church group or of the church building and those who used to worship there, can visit our site at <www.burystedmunds.adventist.church.co.uk> There are several pictures and more will be added, when the renovations are completed.]
This seems to be the time of life for reflection and recording one’s observations, so I have two points to make. The first is that, in order to be successful in God’s work, and especially in a foreign mission appointment, the ability to adapt to the conditions is essential. Some years ago, a veteran was asked what three things were required to be a successful missionary. He replied, "Adaptability, adaptability and ADAPTABILITY!" As Paul says, "I have become all things to all men." (1 Cor. 9:22 - NIV) That is what is needed.
The second is that, although God has not promised us an easy journey through life, He has promised to be with us. (Isa. 43:) Lilian and I can testify that God has never let us down. He has always been there for us and we hope that the re-telling of some of the events of our lives will bring assurance and strength to others.