Four Georgia Mission:Dignity recipients received an early Christmas gift on December 14 from Georgia Baptist Mission Board state missionaries.
During the annual Christmas chapel service, followed by the staff Christmas luncheon, two of the recipients were present to receive the unexpected gifts while two others received theirs at home later that afternoon.
Earlier this year nearly 60 state missionaries began a payroll deduction program to provide additional monthly stipends to the four retired ministers and their spouses or widows. The voluntary contribution allows them to have a steady revenue stream on which to budget their expenses, said State Missionary Keith Hamilton who oversees the special emphasis.
On a national level, Mission:Dignity helps almost 1,800 retired SBC ministers, workers or their widows by providing monthly income to qualified recipients and pays out more than $6.5 million annually in assistance.
The funds provide the individuals with extra money needed for items such as housing, food and medications, as well as ensuring a well-deserved dignity, independence, and often the ability to continue serving. The majority of the funding comes from the direct gifts of individuals, groups, and churches, a spokesman for the Dallas, TX-based Guidestone Financial Resources noted.
The amount being contributed by Georgia Baptist state missionaries provides additional funds to cover their ever-rising expenses. A total of 135 Mission:Dignity recipients live in Georgia.
Living on $700 a month before Mission:Dignity
In an email sent earlier this year to staff, Hamilton – who oversees the agency’s Guidestone Retirement and Insurance Services ministry – recounted how he had recently worked with “a long time Georgia pastor who is going to have to retire before age 70. His total income between Social Security and his Guidestone retirement would be around $700 a month.
“With tears in his eyes, I told him about an additional $300 monthly that would be available through Mission:Dignity. Can you imagine his response?
“He said now he could make it!”
Attending the special chapel service – unaware they would be receiving the gifts of cash and estate planning information from the Georgia Baptist Foundation – were Alice Pruitt and Rev. and Mrs. Man Hong.
Pruitt, a widow, served with husband Don in small churches in Georgia for 38 years. She is a new Mission:Dignity recipient as of August. She has two children.
After receiving notification of her grant in August she sent a note to the Mission Board stating, “Words are inadequate to express my thanks to you for your assistance given to me. From the bottom of my heart I thank all of you who have made this possible! My God is so good! And this is truly a blessing and help.”
Man Hong and his wife, Aie, served churches in Georgia, Kansas, and Missouri for 29 years. They have been Mission:Dignity recipients since 2008 and have five children, including a son is pastor of Grace Point Baptist Church in Atlanta.
The two other recipient couples were unable to attend due to health reasons.
Bethea and Sandra Fielding served churches in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas for 50 years. Fielding wore many hats during those years – pastor, church
administrator, minister of music, and minister of education. They live in Woodstock with their daughter, Miranda Fielding Stites. A second daughter, Monica Fielding Lawrence, lives near Ballground.
Woodstock Baptist Church and Johnson Ferry Baptist Church recently renovated the basement in their daughter’s home into a furnished apartment to provide more privacy and fewer steps.
The renovation will be featured in an upcoming story in The Index.
Kenneth and Marlene Moon of Toccoa also received the gift bag.
The couple served in 10 churches over 38 years, including pastorates in northeast Georgia and upstate South Carolina. As is common with many Mission:Dignity recipients, Moon was forced to retire in 1998 due to health issues.
The couple personify the common thread running through Mission:Dignity recipients – a life of service in small churches that were not able to sufficiently provide retirement funds for them. Maintaining their financial equilibrium since retirement has been an ongoing challenge, they acknowledged.
Individuals interested in participating in the ministry can provide an online gift at missiondignitysbc.org. Contributions can be made through a credit card, checking account, or monthly withdrawal using Electronic Funds Transfer from a checking or savings account.
Other long term options are also available, such as by funding a charitable gift annuity, through a will, or estate planning.
The neediest couples with at least 25 years of paid Southern Baptist ministerial service can receive $600 each month. Thanks to an endowment that pays for administrative costs, 100 percent of money given to Mission:Dignity benefits a retired pastor, worker or his widow in need. Contributions are tax-deductible to the maximum amount allow by law.