It is by no mistake that Dave and Nelda Thompson have made it to their “happy place,” or rather, happy places, in retirement. In 2018, the couple sold their homestead, bought a 5th wheel and took off on a new journey. This new journey has included service, faith, friendships and many, many miles.
Growing up, Dave says his home environment was harsh and demanding. He would find peace as a child by working hard on the family farm and enjoying the quietness of the outdoors. Nelda was raised by two hard-working parents that she says felt inadequate due to their lack of education. Although they may have felt this way, she admired them because they were extremely resourceful, chose to be productive citizens, raised a good family, and made church attendance a priority.
As young adults, the couple both recall times they were touched by the generosity and hospitality of others. Nelda’s college roommate would invite her to spend weekends with her family. “This family was so loving and accepting of me. I was so impressed with that, I knew I wanted the same for my family. At their house, I felt like anyone could walk through the door and feel loved and accepted,” Nelda recalled. Dave spent years in high school working for farmers in exchange for room and board. One particular man that Dave stayed with made a significant impression on him. He shares that this man was “everything my father was not. He was kind, compassionate, and had a gentle spirit.”
Dave and Nelda were introduced to each other by mutual friends at Tennessee Temple College. Dave was impressed with Nelda’s cooking, a skill that he laughingly said was high on his priority list! Nelda found Dave to be a good listener and she knew right away he was a man of character. The two were married and spent five years in Tennessee before moving to Smithville, Missouri. Neither had much in the way of finances to bring the the marriage. Dave said, “when we got married, we put both of our checking accounts together and we came out with zilch!” Dave shared that there were times when they struggled to make ends meet and live within their means, raising 3 girls in a simple house. “We had to be steadfast and diligent always,” Nelda added. In the same breath, Nelda was quick to compliment Dave and his commitment to work and provide for his family, even if it meant taking jobs that weren’t ideal.
Through the struggle and humble beginning, Dave and Nelda never forgot the kindness they received as young adults in college. Inspired by that love, hospitality and generosity, the Thompsons were intentional about raising a family centered around these very ideals. They wanted to create the same atmosphere of love in their own home that they had received when they were younger. “We had an open-door policy. I wanted everyone to feel welcomed and loved when they were in our home,” Nelda said. Dave and Nelda opened their home hosting their friends, their children’s friends and even being a host home for many international students. They explained how guests would often comment on the peaceful feeling they had in their home. This is something they had dreamed about, and was certainly one of the best compliments they could have received.
When they retired, Dave and Nelda decided to take their hospitality and generosity on the road, joining a non-profit RV work ministry that provides volunteer help to Christian camps around the country. By being involved with the “Sowers” ministry, Dave and Nelda have the opportunity to serve generously and show love to people all across the U.S.. They sold their home and most of their belongings and live full time in their 5th wheel. “We decided we didn’t want to live any other way. As long as we are able, we want to be in this ministry full time,” Nelda passionately explained.
Dave and Nelda both credit the financial steadfastness and diligence they practiced throughout their lives to their ability to pursue this opportunity in retirement. Nelda explained how they lived a frugal life by keeping their family’s focus on needs rather than wants. Further, they paid close attention to financial advice they were given to pay off the home before their children went to college. Nelda explained how she believes God has blessed them to be able to retire early, debt -free and pursue their desire to serve on a full-time basis. When asked for any advice on how to enjoy your retirement, Nelda shared, “If you aren’t enjoying your retirement, try volunteering! Volunteers live longer and have a more fulfilled life. When you volunteer, you are active physically, mentally and socially.” She went on to encourage volunteering at any stage of life, stating, “there is no end to volunteering. It doesn’t matter your circumstances, there’s always an opportunity to volunteer.”