Nelson Malwitz was having a midlife crisis. At 50, he was at the top of his game. As corporate director of chemical research for Sealed Air Corporation in Danbury, Connecticut, the company that invented Bubble Wrap, Malwitz achieved seven patents for plastic foam technology. He served as an adult Sunday-school teacher at Walnut Hill Community Church, a congregation he helped found. He had a wife, Marge, and two teenage sons, Jonathan and David, who loved him. But something was missing. Then he remembered Urbana.
The year was 1967. Raised in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, Malwitz was 21 when he attended the InterVarsity student missions conference in Urbana, Illinois. Reflecting the idealism of the time, Malwitz wanted to change the world, so he committed his life to missions. But family, career, and mortgage payments soon got in the way.
Now with a view from middle age, Malwitz decided to revisit his dream and pursue a second career in missions. But he quickly found missions agencies were unprepared for a skilled professional in his fifties. "It was so difficult to get in, and I had no idea where the point of entry was," Malwitz says.
Gene Shackelford, a friend from church, had a similar experience. At 59, he retired as a vice president of Union Carbide. He and his wife were active in Bible Study Fellowship and participated on his congregation's missions committee, but it took them three years to find a position in missions. "I thought, That's way too long," Malwitz says. "The task is way too difficult for people to get a significant second career if the missions infrastructure is not ready to take people." So Malwitz decided his contribution to missions would be to encourage others from his generation ...1