Once – catching international drug runners. Now – using what God has put in his hands. Paul’s story.

I’d always assumed there would be ample time to plan for the moment my fulltime work ended. Instead, thanks to the austerity measures of the then Chancellor, I had only six weeks before my role in the Serious Organised Crime Agency came to an abrupt end.

My career – with its focus on covert intelligence – had been pressurised and, at times, stressful. Lots of long working days, time away from home, operational out-of-hours decisions, life-threatening risks and the rest.

I know many have similar working pressures of their own. And it’s only on leaving we realise there’s life outside the bubble we call work. Which, too often, defines us and is where we derive our self-esteem.

Early on in my career I adopted a favourite Bible verse of my Dad from Micah 6 v 8 – ‘What does God require of you, but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’, and this became my watchword. Of course, to be honest, I didn’t and couldn’t live up to it. But I strived to apply it in my work chasing the bad guys.

So, there I was at 57 – which I knew to be the new 47 – about to take an early bath. And knowing I needed ways to stimulate my grey matter if I was to retain my sanity, keep my marriage alive, and use the skills God has given me.

But first I did something I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone entering their after-work years. It was to take six months doing nothing.

In reality it was not actually ‘nothing’. Having always enjoyed whittling pieces of wood, I spent a stress-free and politics-free few months designing and building a bed from scratch. Be careful if your wife/husband asks you to make the bed.

It proved to be the perfect way to detox. Easing me away from the past pressures and free to contemplate the ‘what next’ issue – other than the plan to learn some proper woodworking skills over the years to come.

It was during that time Moses’ experience at the burning bush, recorded in Exodus chapter 4, came to mind. Here God asks Moses ‘what is that in your hand?’ referring to the staff or crook Moses used as a shepherd.

Moses’ staff was a fundamental tool in his work and helped to define him and identify him. The point for me – and perhaps for you – is God can use what each of has in our hands.  Our skills, knowledge, expertise, finance, influence, creativity, etc.

Over the coming months I was to discover how God would do that for me.

With the bed only just finished, I was asked to join an EU project bringing skills to countries along the maritime cocaine trafficking route. That’s Colombia to Europe via West Africa.

The aim was to help them understand how the bad guys operate and encourage them to share intelligence with ports along the route to. This was a perfect fit regarding what was already ‘in my hand’. And a challenging and satisfying – though at times frustrating – project.

In parallel, I had become coordinator of a £2m building project at my church. Though I lacked any experience of construction, this used my strengths at bridge-building and forging relationships.

And it was in this capacity I was later approached by a Canadian software company wanting to open doors in Europe – specifically in Spain. Having once spent four years working in Madrid, this put to use my fluency in Spanish. And earned some useful some pocket money along with the ‘hardship’ of many visits to Madrid!!

My passion for justice, forged during my years fighting drug crime, then led to me also becoming a trustee of East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service. Here I learn daily of the awfulness of the home-life some are forced to endure.

The same passion, together with my knowledge of intelligence-led investigation, took me to contribute to Stop the Traffik. This great organisation seeks to understand how modern slavery works – the routes, the hot-spots, the pinch-points, etc.

Then came my greatest surprise of all – the encouragement to accept the role of church warden at my Anglican church. ‘Not me’, was my first of several replies. But the God of Moses who asked those penetrating questions while the bush burned was also on my case.

And I finally realised my gifts and background had a part to play here as well. Like the reluctant Moses, I finally gave in.

That’s my story. What’s yours? How is God using what is in your hand? To put it another way, how are you going to use the rest of your life?

For inspiration on ways God can use what is in your hands see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.

How is God using what you have ‘in your hand’ in your days after fulltime work? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Paul is a former senior manager in what is now-badged the National Crime Agency. Married to Alison (Ali) with three married children and heading for seven grandchildren. He co-ordinates a men’s ministry entitled MoMENtum at his church St Paul’s Church in Dorking. For fun it’s driving, F1, carpentry and anything to do with Spain.


  1. very inspiring story, using your gifts wisely. Retirement is just the start of valuable, good use of your gained experience.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife