Retired for the Kingdom
Most people picture retirement as getting to do exactly what one wants, not as the time to accept a new position. But in the case of 94-year-old Fonda Kavanaugh, taking a job allowed her to do exactly what she wanted — to minister to others.
In 1997, at the age of 78, Kavanaugh retired from a 33-year career as an X-ray technician and radiology instructor. Soon after, her pastor, Ron Traub of Sioux Falls First in South Dakota, asked her to join the church staff as prayer and visitation pastor. Kavanaugh far exceeded the expected 20 hours a week on the job. According to Traub, she ministered to the shut-ins and hospitalized, and would spend entire days waiting and praying with the families of those undergoing surgery.
“She was the best hire I ever made,” Traub says.
In addition to her rounds at nursing homes and hospitals, Kavanaugh also began teaching a class on Wednesday afternoons for seniors in the congregation. In general, she fulfilled Titus 2:3-5, working to teach and to set an example for younger women in the church.
“I like to help people and love praying with people,” Kavanaugh says. “It’s very fulfilling.”
About a year into the position, Traub asked Kavanaugh to become a credentialed Assemblies of God minister, which she happily did. She continued in the prayer and visitation pastor role for nearly 13 years, retiring when Traub did in 2010. However, she’s continued to lead Bible studies and direct the senior choir at Sioux Falls First.
“I will continue to pray with people when they ask, and they quite often do,” she says.
Kavanaugh converted to Christ in 1937 at an evangelistic meeting in Sioux City, Iowa — the first time she ever went to church. She felt a call to teach in her early 20s, and has tried to earnestly live out her faith in front of those she’s taught, whether radiology students or other churchgoers.
“My former X-ray students have told me I never preached at them, but they knew exactly where I stood — actions always speak louder than words,” Kavanaugh says.
Today, Kavanaugh, who was widowed after being married for 45 years, spends time with her two sons, four grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. She spends a lot of time praying for family, church friends, and others.
“She always brought a sense of experience to the staff, and is truly a saint of the church,” says Traub. “She is a wonderful servant of the Lord.”