Fred & Margaret Achenbach Pure Gold for the Kingdom
Americas seniors are more numerous, active and powerful, but their clout comes at a cost, said a recent Time magazine article. The general conclusion of the article was that seniors are enjoying a big retirement party at the expense of their children. Not a very complimentary picture!
Christianity Today asks what seniors are going to do with their later years . . . and challenges the church to find suitable work to fill their time.
Never in recent history has the worlds attention been so riveted on the issue of seniors use of resourcesand few can give such a powerful response as Fred and Margaret Achenbach.
When my husband and I came to the U.S. Center for World Mission this fall, we noticed a small, elderly man who walked with some difficulty and used a long stick as a cane. He seemed to be constantly at work on his knees at various lawn sprinkler outlets all over the campus. When he wasn't fixing sprinklers, he was weeding the gardens or helping get the trash out early in the morning or doing some other helpful, necessary task. In his slow, steady way he labored without ceasingand without glory.
Then we noticed that every time there was a crisis, a big mailing to get out, some rooms to be vacuumed or windows that needed washing, Margaret Achenbach was there before anyone else, and, without being asked, she went about the business of getting the job done and doing it well.
It wasnt too long before we finally realized Margaret and Fred Achenbach belonged together. Before they left a couple weeks ago to return to their home in Iowa, they provided a shining example of the special kind of service senior volunteers can render at agencies like the U.S. Center for World Mission.
Fred and Margaret shunned the limelight. They didn't think what they were doing was spectacular. But those who observed them in action are convinced they saw pure gold.
Fred and Margaret were born just 10 miles apart. It took them almost half a century to find each other.
Fred faithfully cared for his parents until the day they died. Partially because of that service, he was still a bachelor when he and he set out for Africa at 48. He was under no mission board, so he helped Conservative Baptists, Bible Presbyterians, and Africa Inland Mission. He did whatever was needed, helping to build houses, lay water systems, butcher meat, raise a garden, get the mail, hang curtain frames, dip the cattle . . . .
In 1961, during a rebel uprising in the Congo, the mission station where he was serving was attacked. Fred diverted the attackers, allowing the missionaries to escape, but he himself was severely beaten and left for dead. He regained most of his abilities, but still dizzy and weak from the attack a year later, he was forced to return to the U.S.
Enter Margaret. Margaret was a schoolteacher in Spencer, Iowa. She wrote a column for the Spencer Sunday Times called Diary of a Teacher. When Fred read it, he fell in love with the spirit of the writer.
He got to meet her in the library of their Baptist church. Fred was 59, Margaret, 44. Sixteen months later they were married.
As soon as they settled in a house, they took in a 15-year old Mexican girl, Margarita. Later her brother came, too. Then Piedad joined them. And Jerry. Victor. Angela. Benji. Every color of the rainbow. Red, yellow, black . . . . They include Mexicans, Laotians, Indians, Haitians.
Fred and Margaret would like soon to add to their family some Iranians, Filipinos, Lebanese, Chinese and Japanese.
Over the years since their marriage Fred and Margaret have served para-church agencies. Seven years at the Narramore Christian Foundation in Southern California. Seven years in Tennessee helping a black group establish a church. Two years with Helps International Ministries in Georgia. And in the five years since they retired in 1983, mission agencies in Mexico, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and California.
When asked what they had gained by being at the Center, they were quick to reply: "A host of new Christian friends...New confidence in the future f America because we've seen healthy-minded young people living their lives out for Christ...The thrill of being led to the Throne in prayer by retired missionaries and strong Christians. ...The enriching experience of observing Ralph and Roberta Winter in operation.:
But the Center community has gained much more from them. Far more than the hours of loving labor they contributed, Fred and Margaret have been a shining example of Christian marriage for our newlyweds, an inspiration to those of us who would like to gracefully grow older, and a testimony to the power of Christ living in and through the lives of two individuals who love Him.
Maybe you, like the Achenbachs, can use the good health and strength God has given you to demonstrate what God's plan is for the aging process. You can give a positive response to the anxious commentary so much in the news today.
Mission Agencies are often paralyzed by jobs undone, jobs that senior volunteers can handle. Can you help at the Center? Call the Volunteer Office: (818) 797-1111.