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Mission:Dignity Sunday reminds retired pastors, widows they're not alone

DALLAS — Virginia Pangle summed up what Mission:Dignity means to a pastor's widow like herself.

"I don't have to worry about being cold, hungry or going without my medicine," she said.

Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, ensures that Pangle, along with almost 2,000 other retired Southern Baptist pastors, their spouses or widows, are able to have a sense of financial dignity in retirement. The ministry, fully supported by gifts from individuals, Sunday school classes and churches, provides monthly grants to retired Southern Baptist workers in critical financial need. The neediest couples can receive up to $600 each month in assistance.

Mission:Dignity Sunday, held the fourth Sunday of every June on the Southern Baptist calendar, is set aside for churches to make a special offering for support of the ministry. Sixty percent of Mission:Dignity recipients are widows; one out of every four recipients is a pastor's widow age 85 or older.

Mission:Dignity receives no Cooperative Program funding.

"GuideStone was founded to serve those who gave sacrificially to spread the Word of God," said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. "The very DNA of GuideStone, part of the fabric that our founder, William Lunsford, laid for us, is to care for pastors and their widows in old age. We're privileged to carry on this ministry through Mission:Dignity."

To help churches mark Mission:Dignity Sunday, GuideStone has created videos, bulletin inserts, posters, a PowerPoint® slide and even sermons for use on June 28 or any Sunday. Materials are undated so churches can choose to use the materials at a time convenient to their schedule. Churches can order materials now through June 22 for delivery in time for Mission:Dignity Sunday. Fliers, inserts and PowerPoint slides can be downloaded or ordered at MDSunday.org. Additionally, churches can request information by calling 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).

John Ambra, Mission:Dignity director, said Mission:Dignity offers the opportunity for churches to live out James' admonition to care for widows in their distress.

"Some of our participants tell us that Mission:Dignity is the difference between having food, or not, having medication, or not, or having to choose between heat or eating," Ambra said. "To come alongside these dear soldiers of the cross and serve them and, in many cases, their surviving widows is a deep blessing.

"Additionally, we're encouraging pastors and members of Southern Baptist churches to refer retired pastors or their widows who are in critical financial need to Mission:Dignity. We ask pastors to think about their pastoral predecessor or for church members to remember the pastor who helped lead them to the Lord; Paul reminds us that those who work in preaching and teaching are worthy of double honor. It is our deep calling and blessing to ensure those workers live out their declining years in dignity and honor."

For more information on Mission:Dignity, visit MissionDignity.org.

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