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Widow’s $100,000 estate reflects church’s heart for missions

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (BP)–Monies from the estate of a missions-minded member of Applewood Baptist Church allowed the church to double its previous year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

The congregation presented a $180,885 check to the International Mission Board during a recent World Missions Conference. The previous year’s offering totaled $91,339.43.

For this Colorado church, missions is its mindset -– even if it isn’t located in the Bible Belt.

“If you go to the South, church is part of the culture,” pastor Calvin Wittman said. “Here, it’s not. People who come to church at Applewood usually do so because they are hungry for the Word, they desire being involved with Kingdom activity. We really emphasize that every member is a minister, and we try to put members in ministry.”

The jump in the church’s Lottie Moon offering was helped by the late Verla Williams, a longtime Applewood member. She donated her estate, equaling $100,000, to the offering, as well as several thousand dollars to the Luther Mann Fund, which supports missions efforts at Applewood.

“She fell in love with Lottie Moon and left her whole estate,” Pauline Edwards, an Applewood member, said.

Williams, who died at age 95, was a widow with no children. Although homebound before she died, Williams previously was active in the church.

“She always gave to missions,” another member, Helen Munger, said. “She’d always tell us, ‘I want my estate and everything to go to the Lottie Moon offering.’ She was so frugal. She denied herself everything so she could give to the world.”

Billy Hoffman, IMB director of development, said he wished more people planned to give to missions through their estates.

“The sad thing is, faithful Southern Baptists who give throughout their lifetime to support missions often fail to include giving to missions in their estate plans,” Hoffman said. “The last will and testament is your last statement about what’s important to you. So if missions is important, it should be a part of your last statement.”

Hoffman said several methods are in place for Baptists to make this happen. Every state Baptist foundation can help Baptists plan their will, and a link can be accessed at the IMB’s website, imb.org/giving, to allow individuals to learn about deferred giving. Gifts can be made through the church, like Williams’ gift to Applewood, or directly to the IMB.

“It’s just wonderful that this church is so giving,” said Jeannie Elliff, who served at Applewood where her husband, Tom, was pastor. He is now the IMB’s senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations. “They’re not selfish,” she said. A “heart to give” has “permeated the church.”

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  • Michelle Pierce