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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Closing the Generation Gap —Why Younger & Older Adults Need One Another

[Urgent: If you are between the ages of 18-40, please scroll to the end for a way you could save a life. Perhaps even that of my friend Helen.

And for everyone – do you recall the need I mentioned last fall for benches for a church-school in south Sudan where the children had nothing to sit on but packed dirt? You responded – a photo and video follow!]


Rachel, Knut Petter, Katy, Markus, Eirik, Ana, Crister, me

Each week here in southwestern Norway, my husband and I meet for Bible study with different sets of men and women as well as a co-ed group of young adults.  


Those of us in pastoral ministry aren’t supposed to have favorites, but if you were to ask us what age group we’re most drawn to, it would be working with younger adults.

 

The good news? Now that Mike and I are 70+, every member of our study groups is younger than we are!

 

We’re conditioned to classify ourselves by age from our earliest years, aren’t we?

 

We’re enrolled in kindergarten with other five-year-olds, progressing through our school years in lockstep with children sharing our birth year. In college or early in our careers, we gravitate towards our peers – those discovering the challenges of “adulting” at the same pace we are.

 

Our faith communities value affinity and commonality, providing opportunities for singles, young marrieds, or senior adults to experience life together. It makes sense to create shared history with those who entered the world around the same time we did. We speak a similar cultural language, form family connections in similar seasons.

 

Peer friendships are comforting and familiar, like a recipe we’ve made so many times we know it by heart.


With our dear friends the Omekeh family. Dumebi heads up our women's ministry team at North Sea Baptist. Mom Patricia was visiting from Nigeria.

What happens, though, when you throw some extra spice into the stew by intentionally spending time with people outside your own family who are in a totally different life season than you are?

 

Is it possible they have needs that only someone like you can meet? Is it even more likely that intergenerational friendship will enrich your life in ways you cannot imagine?

 

Sprinkled throughout this letter are photos of those we’ve shared meals with this past month. On Easter Sunday, our church held an international potluck following our celebration of the Resurrection in which the entire church family ate together. When younger and older break bread together, simple fare becomes a sumptuous feast. 


Enjoying "vafles" with good friends Jeff and Marielle and their daughters

Those of us in the third trimester of life have so much to offer those behind us on the journey.

 

We are travel guides, pointing the way to life experiences others haven’t reached yet. We can offer tips to make the trip easier, give cold water to those in need of refreshment, maybe even provide a roof when young travelers are in need of shelter.

 

We are embodied experience, simultaneously holding within our core all the ages we’ve ever been.  Just as rings within a tree bear witness to seasons lived, we hold within our minds and bodies the memories and lessons of childhood, young adulthood, the muddled middle years.  We can lend strength to younger saplings because our roots go deep. We’re oaks in a new growth forest, and the sap is still running.

 

We are survivors, acquainted with challenge and loss. The soil of every season is fertile ground.  We can take not only the sweetness, but frankly also what has stunk about our lives and use it as compost for enriching the lives of others.

 

And as older adults, we should have attained enough wisdom to realize that we do NOT know it all.  We need what the young have to give.


Bertha, Vitória, Mercy, Lilia, Aleksei, Mike, Crister, Ana

We need the life-force of their energy, vitality, and strength. Their sense of future possibility.

 

We need their native skills – their proficiency with technology, the digital language they’ve learned to speak from birth.

 

And we need to learn to value their cultural immersion—their familiarity with the music, films, and art of this new millennium. Younger adults can help their elders interpret a world that might at times appear opaque to those born in the middle of the last century.


Kurt and wife Maria are active in leadership at NSBC

As Communion was served on Easter Sunday, our pastor invited Mike and me to pray a blessing over each worshiper who came forward to receive the elements. Some approached the altar alone, others accompanied by a friend, still others in family groups. Whatever size our prayer-circle needed to be, we extended our arms in embrace.

 

Men and women, younger and older, longtime members and first-time attenders.

 

The beauty of the intergenerational body of Christ.  

 

-       Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2024

 


And now that urgent message for the young among us. My friend Helen needs a blood stem cell donor. Could you potentially be her match? Here is her Caring Bridge site:

  If you are between the ages of 18-40 and have not yet registered with the National Donor Marrow Program (NMDP), it’s simple to join the blood stem cell donor registry. Swab your cheeks and you can help someone suffering with a life-threatening blood cancer or disease. The link is HERE.

 

THANK YOU to those who sent funds to World Venture for the special need shared by my brother-in-law Dr. George Renner, longtime missionary to Africa. George transferred your gifts directly to his contacts in Torit, South Sudan, who used them to build these benches for the children's school! The video shows the children having breakfast thanks to a monthly feeding program provided by missionaries from Brazil.


You helped provide these benches - thank you!


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