Just a few miles from ITEC, 157,000 people live in an age restricted community with 48 golf courses where 2,546,611 rounds of golf were played in just one recent year. In this fast growing community of retirees, recreation and leisure are king.
Contrast that with the senior member of the ITEC staff in the words of a much younger, newer member of Team ITEC, Daniel.
Forsaking Everything Else [Until The Very End]
Every financial advisor will ask what kind of lifestyle you hope to have in retirement. How much do you need to save today to meet this goal? They’re asking this question because most financial counsel is given with the ‘golden season’ of life in mind. My wife and I are young and initially were told we needed $1 million, and later $2 million, in the bank to survive through retirement and leave an inheritance for our children. That seemed a bit over the top, but soon enough we were working toward that goal without thinking about the plans God might have for us in retirement.
Gene Walrath is an ITEC team member. You’ll usually find him in the machine shop. In fact, Gene joined ITEC when it was just a radical idea and only consisted of Steve, Ginny, and Jesse Saint. A hardworking duck farmer, World War II veteran, and master craftsman, Gene had been retired for about twenty years when he heard Steve speak about a new/old strategy for missions: ‘Training and equipping frontier Christ Followers instead of just going and doing for them.’ Gene was excited to make his years count for more than a low handicap on the golf course.
April at ITEC
Every April is very special at ITEC, and it’s not just because of the beautiful springtime weather or the wildflowers that line the highways in central Florida. This month is special because it’s Gene’s birthday month. Today, Gene turns 92. Yes, you read that correctly, 92 years old and working almost every day at ITEC.
Gene shows us a true example of a servant’s heart and provides an example to follow in retirement. He could be golfing every morning, watching TV all day, buying things he’s always wanted, and doing any number of other things in retirement. Instead, he wants to serve the Lord until the very end at ITEC.
We celebrate Gene’s birthday with great fanfare because of the example he models for us all, young and old. He demonstrates what financial advisors will never be able to secure for our futures: living with purpose, meaning, and drive until the day we meet Christ. Gene represents an unsurpassed work ethic with urgency to work every moment as if it were his last.
At many different points in my life, I have forgotten to live like someone who has been set free in Christ. I’m sure you have found yourself in similar seasons. Our North American culture and societal norms are all about self-preservation and self-gratification.
As I contemplate Gene’s example in retirement, I think of what Psalm 92:14 (NLT) says about Godly people: “Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.”
“We celebrate Gene’s birthday with great fanfare because of the example he models for us all, young and old. He demonstrates what financial advisors will never be able to secure for our futures: living with purpose, meaning, and drive until the day we meet Christ.”
A Valuable Inheritance
Now, I realize that a valuable inheritance Jen and I can pass down to our children and children’s children is an example of a life lived with reckless abandon for Christ, forsaking everything else until the very end—a life like Gene Walrath’s, at 92, standing in his shop working with sheet metal to the glory of God.
My wife and I came to visit ITEC almost two years ago to see if God wanted us to move and work here full-time. Gene had recently turned 90, and we were impacted deeply by his story. God led us to full-time work at ITEC a year ago but we still struggle with consumerism, entitlement, and the other sinful emotions that are prevalent in our country.
Every day, though, the ITEC team has the privilege of seeing Gene walk in the door, put on his denim apron, and head into his shop. He has redefined my perspective on retirement and how God wants to use every one of us until the very end.
Thank you, Gene, for encouraging me with your example to work towards God’s purpose for my life. My focus is no longer on having $2 million in the bank for retirement, but investing my life in the pursuit of His purpose for my life; focusing on building up treasure in heaven while being spent for His glory on this earth.
Meet Gene Walrath Through Two Short Films:
Watch this interview with Gene’s wife, Steve Saint, and ITEC staff for Gene’s 90th birthday.
See Gene, at 87, in his shop. Hear more on his perspective and drive in retirement.