The Harold and Judy Vick Mission:Dignity Church Award is named for longtime GuideStone trustee Harold Vick and his wife Judy, who have great personal affection for the local church and those who serve. Each year, as GuideStone looks back on the giving history of churches, the agency selects three congregations who exemplify the heart and hands of Christ through their commitment to walking alongside God’s faithful servants in their declining years. This year, First Baptist Church of Douglas is among those three national recipients.
DOUGLAS — “For a church our size, our people are incredibly generous when it comes to a ministry that helps others,” says B.J. Holliday at First Baptist Church.
“Our folks are great at giving and when they learned about the quality service that Mission:Dignity was providing they wanted to be a part of that blessing,” he says.
Holliday has been on the church staff as minister of music/worship and missions for the past decade, but its commitment to ministry support stretches back three times as many years to 1987. That’s when the South Georgia church first began providing financial assistance to retired pastors, their wives, or widows who were living on limited income.
The Mission:Dignity support increased slowly but steadily through the following years but took a considerable leap from 2012 to 2017. In 2012 the congregation voted to increase the amount to $166, then more than doubling it to $416 in 2016 and then doubling it again to $833 in 2017.
That is a generous amount for a congregation that averages 400 in attendance in Sunday morning worship and also generously supports the Mission Georgia State Missions Offering, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. What is more amazing is that lifetime giving to date to Mission:Dignity totals $56,383.63.
One of only three
On a recent Mission:Dignity Sunday the congregation collected $3,000 to the fund just by passing the collection plate.
That prayer and financial support of Mission:Dignity is why the church is among only three in the Southern Baptist Convention to receive the 2017 Vick Award from GuideStone Financial Services.
“When First Baptist members believe in something, they give generously. When they began to think of the sacrifices these older ministers made on behalf of the gospel, they wanted to express their appreciation for that sacrificial service,” he adds.
Holliday said it didn’t take much to paint the picture of the needs of those retired individuals. The possibility of funding their own retirement was simply not an option … many never bought a house to build up equity for their retirement years because they lived in a parsonage … some were paid in chickens and eggs when money was scarce, he explained.
Many times the husband had passed away, leaving his widow who never worked outside the home because of raising children and helping in his ministry which are two fulltime jobs in themselves. And then the widow, with no income, finds herself living on only her husband’s small Social Security check.
“Most end up in very difficult situations not of their own making. We want to step in and ease their financial worries with some assistance that they never received earlier in their ministry,” Holliday stated.
“First Douglas wants to be a part of honoring and taking care of those people.”
The church’s Opal Sunday School Class is one part of the church that believes in the ministry and wants to be a part.
“When the needs of these retired pastors and wives were brought to our attention we could not but help be a part. Their plight really touched our hearts and we wanted to be involved in this kind of ministry,” said Assistant Sunday School Teacher Betty Taylor.
Happy to make a difference
The soft-spoken Georgian said she was not sure how long the class has supported Mission:Dignity other than “several years. It’s been a while and we are happy to make a difference in the lives of those who have served our churches and now need some assistance.”
Carolyn Clough, who first made the suggestion for the class to support Mission:Dignity, is also a little unsure of the date but thinks “it was about four or five years ago.
“Our class was looking around for some ministries to support and I suggested Mission:Dignity. I served alongside my husband, John, in pastoral ministry for more than 40 years and we knew about the struggles some face. We were fortunate to have churches who provided for us, but we knew of many who were not so fortunate.
“Our class is proud to be able to support those pastors and their wives or widows,” she added.
GuideStone appreciates the commitment of churches – and Sunday School classes – like that at First Douglas.
“It’s our joy to say thanks to First Baptist for their ongoing care and compassion for the old preachers and widows we serve,” said John Ambra, director of development for Mission:Dignity.
“Like the Macedonian churches Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians 8, this congregation knows it’s a Christ-honoring privilege to take part in a collection for others in need, and they’ve also seen what a blessing that can be for donors and recipients alike.”