DALLAS (BP)–Sixty percent of Mission:Dignity recipients are widows. One of four recipients is a pastor’s widow age 85 or older.
Through its Mission:Dignity ministry, GuideStone Financial Resources assists retired Southern Baptist ministers and their wives who have significant financial needs.
Lenora Day is one of the women assisted by Mission:Dignity. Married for 54 years, her husband died in 2001. Her son and daughter also died soon after.
After 44 years in ministry with her husband, Day was trying to make it on $721 a month from Social Security.
“I guess I’m what they call a widow indeed because I don’t have a soul that can look after me,” Day said. After learning of the Mission:Dignity ministry, she applied and was quickly approved.
“Widows like Lenora Day are helped by the generous support of individuals, Sunday School classes and churches across the Southern Baptist Convention who make it possible to provide these faithful servants of God an extra $200 to $530 each month,” said John Ambra, Mission:Dignity’s director.
“Our goal is summed up in our name: We want to provide these men and women the dignity they deserve.”
Lenora Day and other widows, in particular, “served for decades alongside their husbands in small churches with modest incomes and little or no retirement contributions. Now, they struggle to pay for basic necessities like food, utilities, prescriptions or other medical care.”
Funding for Mission:Dignity comes primarily from the direct gifts of individuals, Sunday School classes and churches across the Southern Baptist Convention. Whether large or small, there is an opportunity for every church or group to do something.
John Morgan, pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston, challenged his members years ago to take up collections in Sunday School departments and among church groups. One department contributed more than $24,000 last year. Sagemont’s combined gifts have reached as high as $150,000 annually and in 2009 the church was recognized for surpassing the $1 million mark in total gifts.
The Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church has been giving for 20 years, and for the past several years has earmarked a gift of $25,000 out of its benevolence ministry.
River Hills Baptist Church in Robstown, Texas, near Corpus Christi, provides more than $20,000 a year to help God’s servants through Mission:Dignity.
Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Ky., while a smaller congregation, nevertheless has a large heart for ministry. With only 125 members, it has made a priority of giving to Mission:Dignity every month since October 1983. The church sends $150 monthly and was recognized last year as Mission:Dignity’s longest-giving church in the entire SBC.
Members of the Through the Bible Sunday school class at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, La., took on Mission:Dignity as a class project over a decade ago. Each person shares a few dollars through their regular class offering and, together, they collect more than $200 each month — enough to support one widow through Mission:Dignity.
“We want every church and class to have an opportunity to learn more about Mission:Dignity and to pray about what God would have them do,” Ambra said. “Throughout the Bible, we find God’s care for those in need — particularly for widows who have nowhere else to turn. And God shows His care for them through the gifts of His people”
Individuals, churches and Sunday School classes can join Southern Baptists across the country in helping to make life better for God’s retired servants in need. To order free bulletin inserts and Open Hearts Open Hands video to use in worship services, Sunday School departments or mission-oriented organizations, visit www.MissionDignitySBC.org or call 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433). June 27 is Mission:Dignity Sunday across the Southern Baptist Convention.
“GuideStone was founded on the idea of serving those who gave sacrificially to spread the Word of God,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “It’s easy to look at GuideStone and see a broad-based financial services organization, serving almost 200,000 people around the world.
“And while that is an important part of our ministry assignment, the DNA of GuideStone rests with dear soldiers of the cross — the very people this ministry was founded to assist more than 90 years ago.”
Curtis D. Sharp is executive officer for denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources.