The year was 1964. Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama and Glenn Beck were born. It was the year Herbert Hoover died.
"Gilligan's Island" premiered on CBS television, a loaf of bread cost 21 cents and gasoline was 25 cents a gallon.
And in 1964, Brenda Hendrickson stepped from her mom's car to the streets of Atlanta for her first day at the Southern Baptist Convention's Home Mission Board, now the North American Mission Board.
"I had borrowed the money to go to school and my loan was due," Hendrickson said. "I really needed a job."
A man named B.M. Crane hired Hendrickson, then 18, right out of business college in Knoxville, Tenn., to serve on HMB's bookkeeping staff. She lived at the Church's Home for Business Girls, a boarding home near Piedmont Park, and she commuted every morning to 161 Spring St. and later to 1350 Spring St. as the staff outgrew its facilities.
Hendrickson reimbursed field personnel, sent money to state conventions and handled other duties -- using manual typewriters, 10-key adding machines, paper filing systems and an office calculator that required a wheel cart of its own to move from desk to desk.
"It's been constant change ever since I've been here," said Hendrickson, who experiences yet more change this December as one of more than 80 staff retiring from NAMB as part of a voluntary retirement offer extended to all staff members age 54 and older with at least five years' service.
During her tenure at NAMB, Hendrickson has watched the changes taking place in the North American mission field and met countless missionaries who have served over the past four decades.
Hendrickson and other longtime staff have been firsthand participants and witnesses to a world of change, transition and growth the ministry has undergone along the way: other NAMB staff retiring with more than three decades of service are Cheryl Williams, Candy Elliot, Marilyn Taylor and Kendale Moore.
Over the years, when missionaries made their way to HMB/NAMB, Hendrickson said she'd get to step from behind the desk and hear the stories of God's work across the continent.
"I felt like I've never been someone who's really good at going out and approaching people," Hendrickson said. "I just felt like because I was here doing what I was doing that maybe I was helping enable other people who were better at being out there ministering to people. Maybe I was helping them do what they did."
"Brenda is one of the most dedicated, loyal and committed employees I've ever worked with," said NAMB CFO Carlos Ferrer, who has worked with Hendrickson since 1992. "She pretty much took me by the ears when I got here and started teaching me. She's mentored and taught a lot of people on how we do our work in financial areas. She will be greatly missed."
With 46 years with HMB/NAMB, Hendrickson is the longest-serving staff member retiring this month.
"I'm glad I had the opportunity to work at the HMB and NAMB. I think I would have missed a lot if I hadn't had that opportunity," Hendrickson said.
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.
Copyright (c) 2010 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net