Issue 6 Stories

Retiree Interview

Many missionaries who served for years on the field now graciously volunteer their time at SIM’s national office. 

As we celebrate SIM’s 125th anniversary, it is a joy to honour our missionaries who have served so faithfully for so many years.  We wanted you to meet a few of these individuals. Let me introduce you to Pat Irwin, Doris Nesbitt and Lily Majak.

When did you first join SIM? How old were you?

Pat: I felt called to missions when I was about 12 years old.  The Lord led me to apply to SIM Canada during Missions Week at Wheaton College. I sent in my application, was accepted June 30, 1960, sailed for French study in December that year.

Doris: I joined in 1966 – I turned 25 about 10 days after I arrived in Africa.

Lily: I joined in 1969 and went to Benin in March 1970. I was 32 years old when I left.

Tell me about where you went and what you did?

Pat: My first assignment was as principal of Tchaourou Primary School in Benin (Dahomey) and teacher of grades 3 & 4. I loved the community life with staff and students.

I returned home in 1975. Three years later I was asked to go to Niamey, Niger, to do administrative work. When the administration chose to divide the ministries into departments, I was asked to be coordinator of Education in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. This entailed a lot of travel by SIMAIR or by car. It was a joy to visit so many francophone missionaries.

Doris: I did accounting in Nigeria, Niger, Benin, and Liberia.

Lily: I worked in Benin at the hospital. I was an operating nurse in the ER. I also helped in Galmi Hospital in Niger for about 5 months in the OR ward. I returned to Canada in 2003.

What memory will always stay with you of your time overseas?

Pat: One of my fondest memories was as principal the first year of Sahel Academy.

I especially enjoyed eating lunch outdoors under the “paillotte” (straw hut), getting to know staff and students.

Doris: When I first went to Nigeria it was the beginning of the civil war. I can remember how afraid I was. I remember sitting in a prayer meeting and prayed “God I am more afraid than the people here. Unless you can take away the fear, I am going to go home on the next plane.” Instantly my fear was gone and I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be.

Lily: The fondest memory I have is a cobra coming up out of the toilet from the septic tank! But in all seriousness, I loved getting to know the people of Benin and the staff at the hospital and their families. It was a joy to get to know their culture and way of life.

What was the hardest part of adjusting back to Canadian culture after being overseas?

Pat: It was hard to find a ministry that would be a challenge. When the Lord opened the door to again help in SIM Canada headquarters I knew that my prayer had been answered -  I was able to serve as assistant to 2 Directors.

Doris: Thankfully, I did not find it very hard to adjust back into Canadian culture!

Lily: I found coming back to Canada for Home Assignment was easy because I was busy visiting supporters across the country.  Where I had purpose and goals to accomplish each day in Benin, when I came back to Canada to retire, it was challenging to adjust. Everything seemed different.

How long have you been volunteering in the SIM office and how old are you now?

Pat: After serving as assistant to 2 Directors, I now volunteer in the Retiree Department. I have volunteered since 2004. I’m 84.

Doris: I have volunteered in the finance department for almost 7 years and I’m 77.

Lily: When I first came back, I was asked to help in the finance department in 2004 and now I also help out other departments. I am 80.