By John Ambra
To receive a gift from a family member or close friend is wonderful. But to get a gift from someone you’ve never met is extra special. It’s like receiving a hug from the Savior and hearing a small voice say, “You’re loved and not forgotten, my son.”
In my 23 years of working with the Mission:Dignity ministry at GuideStone, I’ve received thousands of cards, notes, and letters from retired ministers, workers, and their widows who benefit from our grant assistance each month.
A recent letter from a retired pastor’s wife in Missouri told me how her husband was mowing lawns at age 74 so they could pay their bills. An 83-year-old widow told me she now was able to hear the birds singing outside thanks to new hearing aids. A few months ago, I got a note from a couple in Alabama saying they had only $3.27 left in the bank when their Mission:Dignity check arrived so they could buy groceries.
So many others tell of getting new eyeglasses, going to the dentist, paying an electric or water bill, or covering the cost of some other essential item that was previously unaffordable.
Most of the letters have been scanned and archived. Someone donated the production of two hardcover compilations we’ve been able to share with our donors.
But one note from an old pastor back in 1997 has been at my desk for more than two decades as a constant reminder about the real impact of Mission:Dignity.
“You are loved and not forgotten, my son.”
Today, Mission:Dignity helps 1,700 retired Southern Baptist servants. Two-thirds are widows, and one-in-four is a pastor’s widow over the age of 85. Most served small, rural churches with modest salaries and little or no benefits. They gladly went and trusted the Lord to provide. And He has!
Applicants must be age 65 or older, have at least 10 years of paid SBC service, and meet guidelines for income and assets. Qualifying individuals receive $225 a month in assistance, and couples are eligible for $300. The amounts double for the neediest persons with at least 25 years of ministerial service.
Mission:Dignity will distribute $7.5 million in monthly grants and one-time emergency assistance this year. Most of the funding comes from the direct gifts of individuals and churches.
One hundred percent of contributions go directly to recipients thanks to an endowed fund established many years ago that covers the operational costs of the program.
For Southern Baptists, “Mission:Dignity Sunday” is June 23 and it’s a great day for all of us to pause and remember some very deserving men and women who sacrificed much in years past.
It’s also a great day to give generously so these aged servants can live with some well-deserved comfort, security, and dignity in their later years.
GuideStone makes available free bulletin inserts, testimonial DVDs, and informative posters so churches and their members can learn more about this vital ministry. The materials are undated so they can be used anytime it works for your church calendar.
Visit our website at www.MDSunday.org and watch the first testimonial video on that page, “You are here…because they were there.” Then click the green “Request Free Materials” button to order a Mission:Dignity kit for your church.
You can also click this link: igfn.us/f/2a17/n or text MDORDER to 41444 from a mobile device to launch the convenient order form right now.
If you’re a Southern Baptist, thanks for joining thousands of others nationwide in being the arms of Christ extended to our brothers and sisters in Christ and reminding them they’re loved and not forgotten!
JOHN AMBRA (@JohnAmbra) is the director of development at GuideStone. Husband to Teresa, dad to Jared and Laura, Jordan and Candice, and “Poppy” to Eliana, Canaan, Delia, and Lochlan.