FRANKLIN — Mission:Dignity recipients in Tennessee received a special surprise in their mailboxes in October — an unexpected 13th chec
Mission:Dignity is a ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources which provides a monthly stipend to individuals 65 or over who (a) were employed by or otherwise served local Baptist churches in a paid ministry (such as a full-time evangelist) for at least 10 years and (b) whose monthly income falls at or below the current poverty level as established by the federal government.
As of Oct. 1, 148 individuals (32 couples, 84 singles/widows), representing 116 households in Tennessee, receive monthly checks through Mission:Dignity. Monthly disbursements range from $275 per month to $750 per month.
Given the rapid rise of inflation this year, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board explored the possibility of helping Mission:Dignity recipients earlier this summer, said Roger “Sing” Oldham, pastor engagement specialist for the TBMB.
Oldham noted that Kyle Scott, operations manager for Mission:Dignity for GuideStone, shared with TBMB staff that inflation is having “a profound impact” on Mission:Dignity recipients.
Scott noted, “We get a couple of letters every week that mention gas prices and food costs being so high. Our recipients aren’t the kind to ask for additional help, so I know they need it now collectively maybe more than ever.”
In researching what other state conventions are doing, Oldham said several state conventions have provided a “13th check” benefit to their recipients and/or have organized a “door drop” visitation ministry to reach out to Mission:Dignity recipients with a personal visit.
The Administrative Committee of the TBMB approved the allocation for funds for a “13th check” and asked board members (and TBMB staff) to help deliver gift bags to the recipients which included a letter about the additional check.
“Providing the ‘13th check’ during this inflationary year will meet a real financial need in each recipient’s life,” Oldham said. “Making a personal visit for fellowship and prayer will potentially meet relational needs in their lives as well,” he added.
“In his first letter to Timothy, Paul said pastors that serve well and preach and teach the Word of God ‘are worthy of double honor,’ ” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“Because of the generosity of Tennessee Baptists and the careful stewardship of those gifts, we are in the position to be a blessing to those ‘old soldiers of the cross,’ as the first president of GuideStone, Tennessean William Lunsford described them.
“We want every recipient to be reminded through this 13th check that they are not alone nor forgotten. They are appreciated and loved.”
David Simmerman, pastor of Leoma Baptist Church, Leoma, delivered a packet to the widow of a retired pastor. He noted she had just received some unexpected expenses and she did not know how she was going to pay for them.
“Her response to the information about the 13th check was priceless. She simply looked up to the heavens and said, ‘Thank you Jesus!’ ”
Simmerman said he visited the widow for a while and thanked her for the many years of work that she and her late husband did for the kingdom.
“I am grateful that we live in a state where we recognize the need to care for saints such as this widow and others. Thank you Tennessee Baptists for making this happen,” he said.
Pastor James Griffith of South Harriman Baptist Church, Harriman, acknowledged that delivering the bags “was a blessing to me” and the recipients. “They were overjoyed to hear about the extra help they are receiving. Both men had been long-time pastors. I enjoyed hearing about their experiences in the ministry and gaining wisdom from them. The visits were special times,” he said.
TBMB director Beverly Warner, a member of Dixie Hills Baptist Church, Bolivar, delivered a gift bag to a widow in Whiteville. “She was so appreciative of the extra check and the gifts. I think the time we spent together was a blessing to both of us,” Warner said.
Susan Newman, a director and member of First Baptist Church, Tellico Plains, visited a widow in Sweetwater. “She was very appreciative for the gifts and for the financial help, but she was absolutely thrilled with the visit,” Newman shared.
“She enjoyed the visit, and it made my day. I will definitely be going back. Thank you so much for allowing me to share in this ministry.”
Charlene Trexler, a member of Faith Baptist Church, Bartlett, received the 13th check on the day she was contacted by the Baptist and Reflector.
Normally, the check is deposited into her account, but she was excited to receive a paper check. “I can look at it awhile and thank the good Lord for it. I can guarantee it will be put to good use,” she said.
Trexler, whose late husband, Fred was a longtime pastor in Mississippi and Tennessee, is grateful for the assistance. “It makes me feel good to know Tennessee Baptists have not forgotten me. I could not have continued to live in our home without the help of Southern Baptists (through Mission:Dignity) and others,” she affirmed. B&R