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Unique ministry assists pastors’ widows

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–Thomas “Mutt” Seamans was known for his sense of humor. He got his nickname from the old Mutt and Jeff comic strip that was popular when he was a boy back in the 1920s.

He and his dad would act out the comics and, even though young Thomas was the shorter of the two and should have played Jeff, he somehow picked up the name Mutt.

Although he liked to tease his family and friends, Mutt was serious about the Gospel. He had felt the call to ministry not long after he and Sybil were married in 1944.

“I told him that if he wanted to preach, I was OK with that,” Sybil said. “I was a nurse, and I would work to help with the expenses. He needed to go out and visit and do funerals and weddings. If I hadn’t worked, we wouldn’t have made it.”

For the next 51 years, the Seamans served together in small, East Texas congregations. Most did what they could to provide a parsonage and a small amount of salary each week. Few, however, contributed to Mutt’s retirement.

“One of our country churches treated us just like family,” Sybil said. “There weren’t a lot of money people, but they were good people. One was a teacher and most were farmers.

“The church planned to do something special for us one week, but there was a woman in town who just couldn’t keep it a secret. She saw me and said, ‘They’re going to give you a pounding but don’t want you to know.’ We did our best to look surprised when they brought all the food.”

It wasn’t a surprise when Mutt passed away in 2003. He’d been ill for quite some time. But Sybil was left with a monthly widow’s benefit of just $220 plus a Social Security check.

The members at Enon Baptist Church in Chester, Texas, stepped in to help. Sybil’s pastor contacted the associational director of missions who suggested she apply for assistance from GuideStone’s Mission:Dignity ministry. Through the generosity of churches like First Baptist Church in Groesbeck, the additional $200 each month really makes a difference for her now.

“It helps me with home repair, my glasses and the dentist. And, of course, with groceries,” Sybil said.

Formerly known as Adopt An Annuitant, the name was changed to Mission:Dignity last year to better reflect the mission of bringing dignity to God’s retired servants in need. The program assists nearly 2,500 aged pastors, workers and their widows nationwide living on inadequate retirement incomes — some close to poverty. About two-thirds of the recipients are widows.

Qualifying individuals can receive $200 each month to assist with food, utilities, prescriptions or medical care. Couples are eligible for $265. The neediest persons with at least 30 years of ministerial service may now receive as much as $530.

Funding for Mission:Dignity comes from the direct gifts of individuals, Sunday School classes, groups and churches, and every dollar assists someone in need with nothing taken out for administrative expenses.

First Baptist Groesbeck includes Mission:Dignity in its mission budget and sends $200 each month to GuideStone to support a widow or widower.

“Our desire is to honor these people who honored God with their lives,” pastor Clayton Griggs said. “There was a time when many lived on small salaries and opted out of Social Security. As a church, we have a responsibility to take care of those who have taken care of us.”

Griggs recently shared a brief video and updated information about Mission:Dignity with his congregation so the people could see where their money was being used.

“The response from our members has been very positive as we see the difference we are making in their lives,” Griggs said. “And we realize we can never out give God.”

Griggs encourages other pastors to get their churches involved with Mission:Dignity.

“I recently read about Sagemont Church in Houston reaching $1 million in gifts for Mission:Dignity,” he said. “Not everybody can do that but, regardless of the size of the church, all of us can do something. Shared ministry is the heart of who we are as Southern Baptists.”

GuideStone offers free bulletin inserts and a DVD for use in sharing the ministry with local churches. To request materials, visit MissionDignitySBC.org or call 888-984-8433.
John Ambra writes for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For information about Mission:Dignity, visit www.missiondignitysbc.org.

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  • John Ambra