I’m John Koch, and this is how I’m living deeply.
God is always up to something new! Little did I know that retirement would bring me a new type of satisfying ‘work’ life, broaden my vision, and create new friendships. I volunteer every week at the Mission of Hope, a ministry that reaches out to rural Appalachia. One day, after making a delivery to an elementary school, the principal said something I’ll never forget: ‘You know, a number of our students still don’t have electricity in their homes.’ No electricity? No computer, no power to charge up a mobile phone, no television. I thought of all the ways I use electricity in daily life now, and have really ever since growing up on a farm in the Midwest. I first became involved with the Mission of Hope about seven years ago. It was about the same time that my wife and I started attending CSPC. Pastor John Wood challenged and inspired us a great deal. One message, or theme, in particular seemed to resonate: ‘Keep moving forward, keep doing the right thing, there is more to be done.’ What that looked like for me, as it turned out, was serving at various ministries, especially the Mission of Hope. I volunteer at the warehouse every Tuesday and other days as needs arise. I’m part of a team that picks up and delivers canned goods, hygiene, school supplies, toys, clothes, furniture, and other needs from homes and businesses to rural Appalachia. If you travel north on I-75, then go 30 miles east or west into the mountains, it’s a different world. Good people in financially distressed areas touch your heart. The Mission of Hope stays in touch with ministries in these areas to learn about specific needs. Then crews load up a truck and I or other volunteers will deliver the requested items. From there, the local ministry will distribute these items to individuals and families in their community. The heads of these ministries are very grateful and happy to share what they’re doing with the supplies we deliver.
Some of the yearly highlights for me are Mission of Hope’s back-to-school program, Christmas program, and food giveaways. Just two weeks ago, a number of us with the Mission of Hope helped several other ministries give food to 525 families! Over 80 volunteers were involved. Knoxville would be considered an affluent city compared to some of these remote small towns, which is why Mission of Hope is here to help. I volunteer with the same crew every Tuesday, so a joyful camaraderie develops naturally. The volunteers come from all professions and walks of life, which creates an accepting, welcoming atmosphere as we sort, package, and deliver goods. Many Christians can quote Ephesians 2:8-9, but verse 10 reminds us that we are to do good – that God has preordained us to do good. I remind myself of that verse often. My opportunity to do good is open right now. This year I’m also involved with the ELL (English Language Learners) program through CSPC and, in the past, BBQ Under the Bridge and Habitat for Humanity. These are all enjoyable, ‘hands-on’ ministries that help other people. I’m sure there are others in my situation; retired and wanting to make a difference, but not sure where to start. My advice? Make a phone call. Contact CSPC and ask where you might fit best. This part of retirement can really be rewarding. That’s why I go back to Ephesians 2:10. Through Mission of Hope and other volunteer services, I feel like I’m doing a good work; something that’s helping people. And that’s what God put us here to do.