Retirees help Asian church leaders teach the Bible
It all started when players at a Baptist Student Union flag football game asked Kathy and her friends if they would get more water for the team.
"You can take my car," Michael Hudson*, the BSU president, offered.
"I was the only girl among those five or six of us who could drive stick," said Kathy, then a junior-year transfer to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, who drove the car and met her future husband during her first week on campus.
They served 10 years with IMB in the Philippines where, among other things, they managed a bookstore. Michael subsequently spent 21 years with LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville in human resources.
"We love to teach," Kathy said of their passion for leading Sunday School classes for adults and youth -- a passion, coupled with a lifelong commitment to missions, that has stirred these new retirees to lead training courses in South Asia.
Asia was "one of the last places I wanted to go," Michael said.
It wasn't high on Kathy's list either. "A lot of people have stereotypes about what it would be like to go to a foreign country. We had a stereotype about South Asia," she said.
"But it was not anything at all like we were expecting. We found out we loved these people very much," she said of local pastors and church leaders who lack access to seminary studies yet start hundreds of churches some years.
With new churches comes the need to disciple not only new believers, but also their leaders. Yet there aren't enough international Christian workers to train everyone, so that's where the 69-year-old Hudsons come in.
For the past several years since Michael retired from LifeWay, the Hudsons have volunteered two or three months each year in South Asia helping train church leaders who serve among large Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu populations.
"We are going to learn how to study the Bible for ourselves," Michael tells a group of pastors and leaders gathered earlier this year for three days of training. "As leaders, you have the responsibility both to train others and continue learning yourselves. Only if we teach others can we grow in the Kingdom."
Not a Bible scholar?
Just a year before retiring, Michael led his second volunteer trip with LifeWay to South Asia -- pushing the Hudsons from, "We never wanted to come here," to asking," How can we serve here when we retire?"
Michael, with a background in business, and Kathy certainly weren't expecting they'd be asked by to help train leaders.
"I've had a little Bible training," Michael told IMB personnel, "but I'm not a Bible scholar."
No problem, they said. "You may be a businessman," he was told, "but you've taught Sunday School all your life."
Turns out Michael and Kathy were just the people needed to help develop and teach a series of six three-day courses on foundations for teaching the Bible. They've also trained volunteer teams from U.S. churches who came to South Asia to teach.
During the months they're in South Asia they miss grandkids for sure, but serving after retirement does have benefits.
"You have more experience. You have a perspective on life you don't have when you're young," Michael said.
For the Hudsons, perspective also came when Kathy was diagnosed with cancer about 11 years ago. When God healed her, she saw life's brevity more clearly.
"You need to be bold sometimes in the things you want to do and the things God is leading you to do," Kathy said of their ventures to Asia.
"You see the value to teaching. It's something that will last beyond yourself."