Just as a farmer sows seeds and leaves it to God to grow them into bountiful crops, every day God gives us a story to share with those close to us. It’s his story.
This is a message close to the heart of one Adelaide octogenarian for whom witnessing has been a passion for the past 30 years.
‘If you are available, it is amazing how God provides opportunities’, says Adelaide retiree Irwin Traeger. ‘God says “My word will not return to me empty”’, the 82-year-old affirms.
‘We probably will never know what kind of footprints we leave behind as we touch people’s lives with the spoken gospel and with acts of Christian love and service.’
Irwin is a life-long encourager who, with a career spanning from teaching to sales, marketing and mission promotion, has always been in the people business.
He has taken his past couple of decades of retirement as an extra opportunity to expand his options on how to encourage others as God’s witnesses.
‘I don’t believe retirement is a time to do nothing. The benefit is that you have choices’, he says. ‘When you retire, you have time on your hands to choose
what you do.’
To Irwin, the key is all about being available to share personal stories, person-to-person. ‘As St Paul said, “I believe, therefore I speak”’, says Irwin. However, it doesn’t always mean preaching, it may just mean meeting a need, or just being with people.
His passion for cheering on others has manifested itself in a range of volunteer roles he undertakes in his local community in suburban Glynde, the wider church and beyond.
It’s speaking stories of God’s love which Irwin urges others to do. Six years ago he developed a training course for Christian witnessing, called ‘Scripture & Stories’. These are witness workshops to help church members be more faithful witnesses for Christ. He has presented these free three-hour programs in congregations in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria.
As well as this work, he supports the outreach of his own St Andrews Lutheran congregation at Glynde in Adelaide’s east, where he is the congregation’s Lutheran Tract Mission coordinator and a Bible study leader. He also volunteers at the local Glynde Lutheran Homes Inc Residential Care facility.
‘There was a need … and I was able and available’, he says. Irwin helps high-care residents to attend Sunday services and regular bus outings and supports chaplains with devotions. He also has started a new job as “trishaw pilot” – driving a motor-assisted three-wheeled bicycle, which provides outdoor experiences through local parks and suburbs for the home’s residents.
Even posing as Santa Claus for the home’s 120 high-care residents over the past two years has provided opportunities to witness and inspire others in their faith.
Irwin has been emboldened in his passion for encouraging people in the faith by the role modelling of his father, Pastor Fred Traeger, and his father-in-law, Pastor Arnold Zoerner.
‘Witnesses are never on holidays’, Irwin says, and he is true to his word. Travel has been a big part of his life and his witness.
He and Margaret, his wife of 59 years, have been blessed to be able to live and travel extensively and have called Adelaide, Wollongong, Sydney, England, Germany and the USA their home over the years. Another blessing has been their three children ‘and four of the best grandchildren in the world’.
Over the past 32 years, they have led 24 Lutheran tour groups to Europe, USA, Canada and China, as well as to Central Australia for Lutheran supporters of Finke River Mission, with another scheduled for September 2019.
These tours have provided opportunities to share daily devotions and Sunday worship services. Even on personal cruise holidays, Irwin has led interdenominational services on the ships.
‘It’s always a privilege to serve the Lord in this way, even preaching the good news of Christ to a congregation of 700 on a cruise ship at a Christmas Eve midnight service, followed by 500 next day’, Irwin recalls.
Irwin and Margaret, who met through a Luther League camp in Victor Harbor, South Australia, will even celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in October with a cruise to the South Sea Islands.
‘The amazing thing in my life is that my wife still loves me after all these years, but the most wonderful thing is that Jesus loves me’, Irwin says. ‘Every Christian has a role to play. As soon as you have faith, you have a story to tell. And the best story is what Jesus means to you. Sometimes it might be that you are the only Christian someone will ever see or know.’
And you never know when you’ll get the opportunity to share … Irwin always asks for that pesky middle seat on an airplane on purpose, as it provides the opportunity to talk with not only one but two people – one on each side!
LCA’s gospel-sharing mission
The LCA’s New & Renewing Churches Department aims to mobilise the whole church to participate in the work of seeing new believers come to Christ. It provides missional training resources and conferences, and a supportive network to assist and facilitate evangelism, church planting and renewal. These include SENT Seeking the Orphans of God, bring Jesus, and Lighthouses: Christian Coaching in a Post-Christian World.
Visit the New & Renewing Churches page for more information.