By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
While there are many “pros” to the Baptist and Reflector’s print schedule of every other week, one “con” is that some denominational events or programs do not get the recognition they should in the print issue.
One of those that fell by the wayside was Mission:Dignity Sunday, sponsored by GuideStone Financial Resources. I’m hopeful many of our Tennessee Baptist churches mentioned Mission:Dignity to their members this past Sunday (June 25).
Mission:Dignity is 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 ministry. About $7 million is distributed annually, with most of the funding coming from direct gifts of individuals, Sunday School classes and churches. Every dollar given provides well-deserved monthly grants with nothing used for operating expenses.
Many of our retired ministers across the Southern Baptist Convention, including Tennessee, faithfully served small churches that did all they could just to provide a salary and a place to live. “Extras” such as retirement benefits often are just “pipe dreams” for these churches and ministers.
So many ministers, especially in our rural churches, struggled just to make ends meet. Many lived in church-provided homes, so a good number retire with no home of their own.
In retirement, they must survive only on a meager income, assuming they also worked a job where they paid in social security over the years.
Robert Baker is a 91-year-old pastor in Virginia who was the focus of a GuideStone feature on Mission:Dignity this year. He noted that when you retire, “you don’t stop living. … you still have the same needs.”
A stipend from Mission:Dignity has helped him cover medical expenses and those unexpected expenses that crop up from time to time.
Though the day for promotion Mission:Dignity has come and gone, the need to assist our ministers and widows is year-round. It’s a worthy missions project for any church or even Sunday School class or missions organization.
Still, people often fall through the cracks.
Clarksville pastor Kim Allen recently made me aware of the plight of Gail Tapp, widow of former Tennessee Baptist pastor Thom Tapp who died last year. Many of our readers remember Thom for his cartoon “Church of the Covered Dish” which was a regular feature over the years in the B&R. See cartoon on this page.
After Thom’s death, there were several thousand dollars of unpaid medical bills after insurance, house repairs, mortgage payments, and back taxes. One of Thom’s fears was that Gail would lose the house if something happened to him. His goal was to pay it off before his death, but God called him home sooner than later.
Kim Allen and his congregation, Little Fork Baptist Church in Clarksville, have taken on the task of trying to help raise $40,000 to help Gail keep her house. They have established an account with a local bank so people can make direct donations to assist Gail Tapp. The money is electronically transferred by the bank to the mortgage company. For more information on how to help her, contact Kim Allen at Little West Fork Baptist Church at 931-647-3814.
I’m sure Gail Tapp would be appreciative of any help that is given just as are recipients of Mission:Dignity.
Robert Baker, the Mission:Dignity recipient, summed it up well.
“It’s a ministry that is often ignored. The help is more than a dollar. It’s knowing that somebody cares.”