guest post by Larry Dinkins
How can you make the most of your retirement? I recently read an article by Evan Tarver listing “7 Reasons Why Americans Retire in Thailand" and it got me thinking. Tarver started his article about the benefits of retiring in Thailand by saying, "If retiring Americans are looking to maximize their retirement, it's a good strategy to retire to Southeast Asia ..." The maximization of retirement from Tarver's viewpoint related primarily to economic, dietary, exotic location, transportation, language and visas factors. His 7 reasons included, 1) Low Cost of Living, 2) Delicious Food, 3) Tropical Climate and Exotic Setting, 4) Central Travel Location, 5) Availability of Retirement Visas, 6) High Number of Expats and Foreigners, and 7) Low Language Barrier. You can read full article here. My official retirement year is on the horizon, so I began to think of how I could entice others (particularly Christians) of retirement age to "maximize their retirement" here in Siam.
1. Need of Seasoned Coaches
My co-worker is 83 years old and is fully involved in both the Thai church and seminary he founded. Dr. Henry Breidenthal is an invaluable source of wisdom for ministry to Thai Buddhists as well as a coach to the hundreds he mentored over his 51 years in this country. There are precious few experienced coaches/mentors for the large numbers of new workers who arrive on Thailand's shore every year. Retirees with ministry or business experience can make a significant contribution to both expats and Thai alike.
2. English Teaching
Evan Tarver gives the impression that you can communicate easily in English throughout Thailand, which is a misnomer. The Thai are taught basic English in school but are sadly lacking in conversational skills. With entry into the Asean community, there has been a major stress on acquiring English skills, which means that retirees can begin to input into these very eager Thai from the first day they arrive.
3. Volunteer Ministries
There are many opportunities to plug into orphanages, prisons, HIV/AIDs ministries, human trafficking, home school tutor, teach handicrafts, business consultant, IT consultant, worship/music, prayer, mission home host, and other ministries. A retired friend I meet with weekly has a very effective ministry of driving patients to the hospital and filling in at a retirement/care facility. Once I brought in a team to build a Habitat for Humanity house for a poor Thai family. The most diligent workers on the project were a couple well into their 70s!
4. International Churches
The international church I attend is one of 10 in the greater Chiang Mai area. There are around 300 that attend my church, coming from a large assortment of countries and some 30 denominations. Such churches have long lists of opportunities and ministries to be involved with, both within the church and to the Thai/tribal community.
5. Central Location for Ministry to East Asia
Evan Tarver stressed the location of Thailand as beneficial to tourist travel. Thailand is certainly a key hub for the airlines, but as an open country in the midst of many creative access countries, it also serves as a springboard into most all of East Asia. In a recent two year period I was able to travel quite cheaply to 9 different Asian countries to do ministry. A retiree on a vacation to one of these countries could easily gain exposure to ministry opportunties as well.
6. Influence on Family
With four grandchildren, I know the pull that family ties can make on grandparents. Today, however, it is easy to keep regular communication and connections with family members. The added benefit of living here is the chance to have family members visit in order to gain a first-hand exposure to the mission field. Such an exposure can leave a lasting impression on young people and may be the catalyst for some of them to actually consider overseas ministry themselves.
7. Witness to other Expats from Around the World
The over 20 million foreign visitors who travel to Thailand each year are a fertile harvest field for evangelism. A number of them are seekers who have not found what they desired in their own country and believe that exotic Thailand may hold the answer. Many are longing for good connections with other expats, which paves the way for profitable friendships that open the door to deeper spiritual discussions.