GuideStone program is ‘lifeline’ for retired preacher Earl Lane
Editor’s Note: Mission:Dignity Sunday is June 24 across the Southern Baptist Convention. Churches can order free materials from GuideStone for use on June 24 or another date. Visit MDSunday.org or call 1-877-888-9409 to order the materials.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
SEVIERVILLE — A check for $225 a month may not seem like much money for most people.
But for retired Southern Baptist pastors or their widows, that $225 may mean the difference of having to decide between buying medicine or purchasing food. Just ask Earl Lane, a Southern Baptist pastor for more than 60 years.
Now 91 years old, Lane receives a check each month from Mission:Dignity to supplement his small income. “It’s my lifeline,” he affirms.
Lane, a member of First Baptist Church, Sevierville, is one of hundreds of retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers, and their widows who have financial needs. They are helped by Mission:Dignity, a program of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. No Cooperative Program gifts are used to fund Mission:Dignity. Churches, Sunday School classes, and individuals provide all the financial support. One hundred percent of all gifts given to Mission:Dignity go to support a retired servant in need. Last year, more than $7 million was raised and distributed.
Individuals receive $225 a month while couples can receive $300. The neediest recipients with at least 25 years of paid Southern Baptist ministerial service can receive double the amounts.
Many recipients of Mission:Dignity funds served small country churches that could not afford to pay large salaries or help their ministers plan for retirement.
Lane, who served as pastor of eight churches, most of them in Tennessee, recalled one church he served which paid only $12.50 per week. Lane did carpentry work over the years to supplement his pastoral salary. “I could not have made ends meet without another job,” he recalled.
He knows one thing without a doubt. God provided for him and his wife Catherine, who died 15 years ago. Lane said he used to go to a lot of funerals, whether he was the minister in charge of the service or not. “I would leave the funeral and return home and put my hand in my pocket and find a $10 or $20 bill. To this day I don’t know who put the money in my pocket.
“God has met my needs through different people over the years. The Lord will take care of His own. He really will.”
He noted the Lord always provided him a place to minister. “I was never without a church until I stopped to take care of my wife who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years before her death.” Lane returned to serve Blowing Cave Baptist Church in Sevierville for four years before deciding “it was time to step aside” for a younger generation of pastors.
Lane learned about Mission:Dignity from Gene Williams, a former Tennessee Baptist Mission Board staff member, who met Lane while attending a service at Sims Chapel Baptist Church where Lane was a member at the time. Williams learned of Lane’s needs and told him about the GuideStone program.
“That was a God-ordained moment,” Williams told the Baptist and Reflector. Williams said his “joy in life” is connecting a need with a resource. He said the help given to Lane and others is “not me, but those people who put in a few dollars from their paychecks every month” to fund Mission:Dignity.
“Earl has repeatedly told me he could not survive without his Mission:Dignity check,” Williams added.
Yet, Lane almost didn’t get the help he needed. He received the paperwork, but “gave up on it” and tossed the papers in the trash. “I didn’t think no one cared about me anyway,” he said.
But Kim McCroskey, former pastor at Sims Chapel and now pastor of Roaring Fork Baptist Church in Gatlinburg and a longtime friend of Lane, found out what Lane did. McCroskey acquired more forms, came over to Lane’s house and helped him complete the forms. Then McCroskey mailed the forms to GuideStone, Lane said.
Shortly afterwards, Lane learned he had been approved to receive funds.
The Mission:Dignity check “helps me buy my groceries,” he acknowledged. “The Lord has been good to me.”
He is grateful for Mission:Dignity. “I can’t do anything but give the Lord credit for what Southern Baptists are doing for me.”
McCroskey is grateful for the help his friend has received from Southern Baptists. “There are a lot of Earl Lanes out there,” he observed. “Mission:Dignity is an excellent program.”
Tennessee Baptists who know a pastor or his widow who might benefit from Mission:Dignity are encouraged to contact GuideStone for more information.