Jo’s story

TORRINGTON – Years ago, my husband, Toby, and I went to an auction of my friend Jo Butler and her husband. I bought a field organ the army used to use in the field when they were on maneuvers. It’s a pump organ, so it doesn’t need any electricity to operate. I wondered why Jo would sell such a fantastic item, but as the auction went on, I had a chance to visit with her and discovered she had retired from her job. She and her husband were selling their home and all their things to live in their new RV and travel the country. I thought it was fascinating, but I couldn’t imagine selling all her extraordinary things and leaving all the family and friends in the community.

I didn’t hear anything about Jo and her husband after that, but recently she showed up back in Torrington, and we began getting together. Her husband had passed away; she was living at Evergreen Court and coming to our church. What a great surprise that was, and as she began telling me about her life over those years they were gone, I was amazed. 

They began traveling and enjoying their travels, but one day her husband said, “Jo, we need to talk about this. I can’t go on just doing nothing; I really need to work.”

She understood, and they began praying about it. While on a trip in the southeast to see the turning trees that autumn, they ended up in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, late one afternoon and looked up an RV park to stay in for the night. They noticed several people working in the area, repairing, painting and fixing up whatever needed to be done. When they asked the park owner what they were doing, she said it was a ministry group that had come to help with repairs they couldn’t do. She said they were doing a church service for them in the RV park the next morning and they could attend, which they did, and Jo said those were the happiest people she had ever met, and it was a great church service. 

While visiting with the group, she discovered they were a group of retired seniors living in their RVs and were with a ministry called SOWERS, Servants on Wheels Ever Ready to Serve, and they traveled to a project needing done and did the work needed. They never got paid, they didn’t need fed, they were all self-supporting, and just did the work and then went on to the next job. They were a non-denominational ministry and there were groups sent all over. 

Jo and Roy decided that was really intriguing, looked into it further and decided to apply to join them. They had to have an FBI check and be checked out fully before being accepted into the ministry. Everything worked out for them, and they started right away. Jo said her husband Roy could fix anything, and do about anything, and if he couldn’t find a part for something, he could make it. She had computer skills, along with painting and household knowledge, so they fit right in. That started a journey that lasted 13 years. 

Jo said those were wonderful years, they met people all over the country and worked with some of the greatest people you could imagine. They worked together and laughed and visited and got more work done than you could imagine on the projects with everyone working together. She said the project would usually last three weeks, and they worked four days a week, working two hours at a time and then a break, fixing all their own meals and staying in their RV. She said they traveled the “red roads” on the map and went places and met people you would never ordinarily meet traveling the major highways, and it was wonderful.

One of the first places they worked was on the Hopi reservation, and while the men were working on their projects, she and some of the women were baking cookies for the children that were coming to camp. The women had a great time baking, and the kids loved the cookies! Those smiles were a great return for their work! They also worked on the Navajo reservation with building and doing repairs and different jobs. They were sent to different places after each project was completed and different groups were assembled for different jobs. 

Jo told me about one job they were sent to that was an old motel in just horrid condition. They were to fix it up completely, and it was to be a safe house for women and children. They started cleaning out the old rooms and stripping the walls and when they started painting, they divided the wall into three parts: the top part, the middle part, and the bottom part. She said it worked great, each of the three women did one part, and they were amazed they finished the room in one day and had a great time doing it.

It isn’t hard to see why Jo enjoyed those years so much because she really enjoys people and has a great positive attitude. And her husband really enjoyed working on all the different projects they encountered. The best part was they were doing something for people who had a need, and God had prepared them to fill that need to fulfill His purpose. Helping other people is not only a gift for others; it is a gift to ourselves. It may just be between you and God, or it may be a part of a group or an organization, but it’s a wonderful feeling to help someone in need.

It’s interesting to think about retirement, when you realize how many different gifts and skills and how much knowledge is not being used anymore. There are many ways for people to use those skills for others if we look around and go about our day. It’s especially easy to see what we could be doing if we pray and ask God what He has in mind for us to do and for ways to use our knowledge and skills for a good purpose. Each of us is already prepared and ready for use; all we have to do is say, “Okay, Lord.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 16:14 – “Let all that you do be done in love.”


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