Editor’s Note: This is the next installment in our “Married and…” series where we will interview couples from all walks of life. It is our hope that you are encouraged by the stories of people who have similar journeys as you, who share the same dreams you have, who face the same obstacles you do, and who can remind you that your marriage isn’t the first one to experience the things you’re dealing with.
When Janet and Tommy Cannon retired, they decided to choose mission work over playing mahjong. We asked them to share with us about how they prioritize regular mission trips together now that they’ve retired. Here’s what they had to say…
When did you and your spouse decide to go on mission trips together and how did that come about?
Janet: Tommy and I always talked about how we wanted to do some type of mission work when we retired. We see our retirement as a time when we are free to go minister to others. We worked hard for 30 years, raised our family, and now this is our opportunity to serve together as a couple. We have few obligations that keep us at home; we are free to go now!
We casually explored different avenues. I always wanted to go to the Appalachian region to do some type of missions, but we weren’t sure how to go about that. Soon after Tommy retired, we were with a couple that worked with the North American Mission Board. They asked what we had planned for retirement, and we discussed how we would like to do some type of mission work. We told them where our interest was, and we got an email from the missionary over the Appalachian Regional Ministry within a week.
Then, after a short interview, we were put in contact with a couple who pastors a church in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. They work primarily with impoverished children in their community. We felt this would be a good fit because we are both retired educators. The rest is history… we have gone six times and plan on returning in the fall.
What has been one of the greatest joys you and your spouse have experienced since you’ve started going on mission together?
Tommy: One of the greatest joys from serving has been loving, helping, and teaching the children whom we’ve met living in poverty. We serve in one of the poorest regions of Appalachia where there are many needs. There are friends from our home church who send monetary contributions and other supplies for these children in need. We tutor the kids in the after-school program and teach them at church on Sunday.
The full-time missionaries we serve with are Jim and Grace. We have also been able to encourage them in their ministry. We have developed a strong friendship with this couple. They are retired, and they pastor their church. Jim and Grace lead this ministry with no monetary compensation. They are wonderful examples of serving as Christ has called us to.
I also especially enjoy delivering food boxes to people’s homes. Each of these things is a tangible way to share the love of Jesus with the people we meet.
What verses minister to you as you prepare for your next trip together?
Tommy: One scripture that ministers to us is Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (NIV).
How important is your communication with your spouse when you go on mission trips?
Tommy and Janet: Communication is vital when we are going on mission trips. We both have to make sure we are on the same page with everything—the traveling, serving, giving. We have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to prepare and to minister once we get there.
Also, we have to be willing to use our finances in this endeavor. If we haven’t talked about it and aren’t in agreement with one another in any area, it could hinder the work that God would have for us to do.
What words of encouragement would you give to other couples who are thinking about going on mission trips together?
Janet: I would encourage you to be FLEXIBLE! Be prepared do whatever is needed. For example, cleaning, small paint jobs, having a listening ear, etc. Some of the simple tasks are those that are needed most.
Remember it is not your job to try and change things if you are going short term. You go to serve. And when you go with an open heart and mind, you will be the one who receives the greatest blessing.