DALLAS (BP)–GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (Annuity Board) has been providing a way for Southern Baptists to help widows in need for more than 20 years and, in return, many of these widows are giving back in intangible ways.
Scripture’s instructions to take care of widows is reflected, for example, in James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (NKJV).
GuideStone’s Adopt An Annuitant ministry serves as a channel through which Southern Baptists can fulfill this Scripture by helping to provide financial support for retired ministers and widows in need.
“About two-thirds of the people who are helped through the Adopt An Annuitant ministry are widows,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins noted. “Many of these widows worked alongside their husbands for decades, teaching Sunday School and supporting their husbands’ ministries. Now they face the future with uncertainty because of financial concerns.
“We regularly receive letters from Adopt An Annuitant recipients telling us how they are blessed by this ministry and how the monthly support allows them to continue to do God’s work.”
Merle Butler of Cayce, S.C., recently wrote such a letter. “God works through willing vessels such as those dear people who are willing to share [through the Adopt An Annuitant ministry],” she wrote. “It takes a special person to give away that which he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose. Only one touched by the hand of the almighty God can do that.
“Because of God using His people to help provide for me, I have been able to stay in my home and reach out to others,” Butler continued. “I know I have a responsibility to help those less fortunate than me. I try to devote my life to helping others. It’s the only life for me.”
While Southern Baptists are helping these widows, many of the women are giving back through prayer. “Most of the widows in our Adopt An Annuitant ministry also participate in GuideStone’s Widows’ Might prayer ministry,” Hawkins said. “The objective of the ministry is to provide prayer support for the mission of Southern Baptists around the world.”
Widows who participate in the Widows’ Might prayer ministry are asked to set aside time daily to pray for specific needs related to Southern Baptists. Each quarter, the widows receive a list of requests from Southern Baptist organizations. They pray for the specific needs of missionaries, theological education ministries, Christian ethics and religious liberty ministries and facilitating ministries including GuideStone and the SBC Executive Committee. Church enrichment ministries also are a focus of the prayer effort, including LifeWay Christian Resources, Woman’s Missionary Union, denominational workers, ministers and retired ministers.
“The widow who gave her two mites was chosen by Jesus as a model of impacting the world for good,” Hawkins said. “This prayer ministry has the potential of impacting today’s world in ways beyond our comprehension.”
“We often hear from widows who share how blessed they feel to be a part of the Widows’ Might prayer ministry,” said Susie Hawkins, who volunteers her time to head up the ministry. “It is a wonderful way for these women to still feel connected to the work of God in the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of them feel isolated, having been active in their church and/or husband’s ministry. Despite age, illness, loneliness or economic struggles, the women of the Widows’ Might are eager to pray for God’s power to be present in the work of our Southern Baptist Convention.”
Mae Berry of Thomasville, Ga., shared, “Until May 7, 1995, [my husband] Bill and I enjoyed a wonderful ministry serving small churches. Now I enjoy serving where God has placed me and I have a great relationship with Jesus. I do volunteer work at First Baptist Church, [I am] a member of the Widows’ Might prayer ministry and a member of the Young at Heart Choir singing in nursing homes three times a month. I still enjoy serving and pray God will use me to make a difference in someone’s life.”
There are a number of ways churches can fulfill God’s command to care for widows. A church can act as a channel to match the needs of widows in its midst and in the community with those who can meet the needs. That might mean driving a widow to church or doctor’s appointments, organizing volunteers for upkeep and minor repairs on a widow’s home or car, or running errands like grocery shopping. Or it might just be as simple as companionship. The holidays often are a lonely time for widows. A friendly visit or an invitation to a holiday dinner can mean the world to a widow with no family nearby.
Churches also can extend a hand to widows in need by making a gift to the Adopt An Annuitant ministry. “We depend greatly on the churches, Sunday School classes and individuals who give unselfishly to the ministry,” Hawkins said. “Without the generosity of Southern Baptists, many of these widows would be unable to meet the expenses of daily living.”
The names of any widow of a Southern Baptist minister or denominational employee who may meet the guidelines of the Adopt An Annuitant program can be referred to the ministry. The guidelines and a referral form can be found on GuideStone’s website at www.GuideStone.org. “Many of the individuals who receive financial support from the Adopt An Annuitant ministry would never have learned of the assistance available if it hadn’t been for a caring pastor, deacon, church member or friend who stepped in to help,” Hawkins said.
More information can be obtained by visiting www.GuideStone.org; by e-mail at [email protected]; or by telephone, 1-800-262-0511. If you are a widow or know of a widow who would like to be a part of the Widows’ Might prayer ministry, call 1-800-262-0511.
Wendy Ashley is a project team leader in the communications department for GuideStone Financial Resources.