Celebrate 2019! Focuses on Living With Purpose
By Dara Halydier, Published by Christian Leader
Over 220 boomers, builders and empty nesters from 13 states met in Omaha, Nebraska, Sept. 27-29, 2019, to discover how to live purposefully in the last third of life. Sponsored by MB Foundation, the conference was held at Embassy Suites by Hilton Old Market. Attendees heard from Ray Pritchard, president of Keep Believing Ministries, and Amy Hanson, author of Baby Boomers and Beyond. Conference attendees also enjoyed times of worship, personal testimonies, the magic of David Garrard and the musical gifts of the Foto Sisters.
Celebrate is held every two years with this being the third such gathering. Forty percent of the attendees were first time participants while many were returning for the third time. Old relationships were renewed, and new friendships began to blossom as people visited over dinner, talked between sessions or walked together through Omaha’s Old Market district during their free time.
When asked what his goals were for this conference, Jon C. Wiebe, President and CEO of MB Foundation, said, “We want people to feel appreciated and have space to worship, learn, and grow.” He says the hope is that conference attendees would see an opportunity to be productive servants—to live a life with purpose.
The theme of Celebrate 2019! Living with Purpose was carried throughout the event. Three couples shared personal testimonies of ministry after retirement. Gordon and Karen Wiebe, Reedley, California, shared about serving through mission trips and camps. Larry and Elaine Nikkel, Wichita, Kansas, volunteer at Tabor College and have collected and distributed computers and textbooks to a college in Tanzania. They shared about the opportunity to build relationships while they serve as travel tour guides or workout at the YMCA. Bob and Lynette Ewert, Mountain Lake, Minnesota, minister by opening their home to men and women to detox and young mothers that have experienced spousal abuse. They challenged attendees to “get off the shelf” and “open your curtains."
Using the life of Caleb, Pritchard encouraged the audience to think about “not when we will end, but how will we end.” Wholeheartedly following the Lord, Caleb never let go of God’s promises, said Pritchard. Caleb ended his life well by taking the hill promised to him 40 years earlier. Pritchard reminded his listeners that fear is contagious but so is faith.
Caleb’s philosophy was, “if you’re not dead; you’re not done,” said Pritchard. This goes against the culture of retirement, but often being a Christian means swimming upstream. Pritchard encouraged the audience to “play through the whistle” and “run through the tape.”
In his third message, Pritchard reminded his listeners to live in this present age but not let the world live in us. Using Romans 12:2, he encouraged attendees to “be a rebel” by not conforming to this world order. Pritchard eloquently told the story of Mary pouring out her expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus, instructing the audience to live extravagantly for God.
Hanson spoke practically, creatively and courageously. She spoke of the unique needs and responsibilities of boomers and builders. Hanson encouraged the audience to use their areas of interests to remain involved and serve others. They were challenged with the formula “discretionary time, plus experience, plus resources, equals significant kingdom impact.”
A Saturday luncheon with Hanson provided church and denominational leaders the opportunity for a roundtable discussion about characteristics of the boomer and builder generations and how to minister to, and engage these individuals in their settings.
Celebrate 2019 featured times of worship, singing hymns in four-part harmony as well as other worship songs. The heart of the repeated theme song, “All I Have is Christ,” became stronger throughout the weekend. Worship was led by David Martens, of Tabor College, along with Larry Albright, San Jose, California; Randy Janzen, Reedley, California; Bruce Porter, Fresno, California; and Diane Schmidt, Hillsboro, Kansas.
Musical entertainment was provided by the Foto Sisters, a trio of classically trained sisters. Their professional, state of the art performance highlighted piano, violin, cello and singing. The sisters have been performing together for 15 years since they won a competition at ages 7, 9 and 11. Within the trio Addy is the creator, writer/composer and oldest sister; Katy, two years younger, is the techie, graphic artist and self-proclaimed leader of the group; and the youngest, Gaylynn, is 22 and the overall musician of musicians. The performance was a highlight.
Attendees were astonished at the magic of David Garrard, with several invited on stage to participate. Garrard’s act concluded with him placing his assistant, handcuffed and bagged, into a locked box and then in a matter of seconds, trading places with her. Garrard served for 42 years in children’s ministry and now shares his faith while traveling the country performing magic.
When asked what they took away from the conference, many replied that the opportunity to connect with others was very important.
Eighty-seven-year-old Jake Rathbun, of Enid, Oklahoma, mentioned the camaraderie, worship of God, event organization and the knowledge gained as highlights.
Other comments focused on what inspired them. Janna Morris, Edmond, Oklahoma said, “I loved the messages brought. It all connected and inspired me to look at my world and see what I can do to reach others. It can be little efforts. We should do what we are passionate about.”
Virgil Kroeker, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, will remember that we should “do something extravagant and not expected.”
Ray Peters, Fresno, California, said, “It was excellent. I’m motivated to step out and do something, to stretch. I’m not at the end yet.”
Celebrate 2021 will be in California with the dates and location to be determined.