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Seeds of compassion produce a harvest of gratitude

Sandra McGill never dreamed she’d be a pastor’s wife. When she and Joe married in 1954, he hadn’t told her about his call to preach while operating a plow on his family’s farm. His revelation several years later would be the beginning of more than three decades cultivating fields of a different kind.

Joe and Sandra’s journey took them from their native South Carolina to New Orleans, where Joe enrolled in seminary. While there, he pastored a small church on the west bank of the Mississippi River. It was a very poor section of town and primarily Roman Catholic. The local people called him Father Joe or The Baptist Priest.

A family who lived across the street from the McGills had a little boy named Pat. He was a couple of years younger than their sons, but he liked to come over and play. Eventually, Pat was saved at the church’s Vacation Bible School and would go to church with the McGills. However, his family never had an interest in the gospel. When the McGills were about to move away, little Pat asked Sandra to take him with them.

Years later, the SBC Annual Meeting was in New Orleans, and that church held a dinner for all the pastors who had served there. Joe and Sandra met Pat’s older brother, who had since been saved and was serving in the church. He told them Pat was now married, had two children of his own and was a deacon in the church across the river.

“Everywhere we’ve been, there have been people that said they would never go to church,” Sandra recalled, “but they got saved. We were real thrilled over that.”

That is just one of many great memories Sandra cherishes since Joe died in March 2005. She has been helped by GuideStone’s Mission:Dignity ministry after his passing.

“We had an interesting life together,” Sandra continued. “We pastored quite a few churches, in four different states, and all but a couple were little country churches that were barely scraping by.

“At one particular church, we made $200 a week and paid $200 a month for house rent. We had one child still at home. One Sunday night during a business meeting, this man got up and said, ‘I think we need to cut the pastor’s salary.’ Of course it didn’t go. We had barely enough to live on, much less to put something into any kind of savings or annuity.

“We just depended on the Lord.”

Even today, with just a small widow’s benefit from GuideStone and a modest Social Security, Sandra continues to depend on the Lord for everyday needs and has experienced the generosity and kindness of her Southern Baptist family through Mission:Dignity.

“After Joe died, I got a letter saying Mission:Dignity would supply me with $200 a month if I needed it,” Sandra said. “There were several times that I would have this bill and wouldn’t know how to pay it. The Lord just blessed. He multiplies things. If it hadn’t been for that extra money, I would not have been able to have dental work done. There are times that I had to use it for car repair. Sometimes an extra, unexpected emergency would come up.”

Mission:Dignity Sunday is June 26. It’s a day to remember and honor retired ministers, workers and their widows living on low retirement incomes. It’s also a time to give generously to help the nearly 1,800 individuals and couples assisted by the program. About $7 million is distributed annually, with most of the funding coming from the direct gifts of individuals, Sunday school classes and churches. One hundred percent of gifts provides well-deserved monthly grants with nothing used for operating expenses.

GuideStone has free bulletin inserts, promotional posters and a DVD with several brief testimonies of people assisted by Mission:Dignity. The materials are undated and can be used anytime. Order online and find additional resources at MDSunday.org.

Sandra McGill’s story is featured on the DVD.

“The Lord has just provided for me so much,” she noted. “I just ask Him to bless the people that make Mission:Dignity possible, that He will give them special blessings and continue to bless them as they bless me.”

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