3 Practical Ways You Can Serve Widows This Holiday Season

For Southern Baptists, the words in James 1:27 to care for the orphan and the widow are not simply a suggestion we can overlook but rather a command we are honored to follow. 

In fact, November 3 was Orphans and Widows Sunday, and churches across America participated in this special emphasis by holding special offerings and sharing ways to get involved in various service opportunities.

At GuideStone®, this day is especially important to us because of our Mission:Dignity® ministry, which serves more than 1,700 retired SBC ministers, workers and their widows struggling to pay bills, buy food and purchase medications. 

Over the past few days, the story of Edna Harrell, in particular, has been front of mind. 

As the holidays approach and we give thanks for all we have been given, we want to share her story with you to give you a realistic picture of the plight facing so many SBC pastors’ widows — and how you can help. 

Serving a True Servant’s Heart and Home

Edna and William Harrell were married for 44 years, and together they served the Lord for more than 30 years, pastoring in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia while raising two wonderful sons. 

“My husband always had small country churches,” says Edna. “The most he ever got paid was around $400 a month.” The Harrells made ends meet, but putting aside anything for savings wasn’t possible.

So when William passed away in 2008, Edna was left to manage on her own — and it wasn’t much.

During her first eight years as a widow, Edna lived without heat and adequate lighting and went without much-needed dental work, all while lingering bills mounted from her late husband’s nursing home stay. 

But then came Mission:Dignity.

“If it wasn’t for this assistance, I couldn’t pay my basic bills — my Social Security was not enough. With Mission:Dignity, I have enough to pay my bills. I don’t even have cable or internet, but I don’t care. I don’t know how to express my appreciation. It has really been a Godsend!”

Since Edna’s initial application for monthly assistance in 2017, Mission:Dignity has also sent additional emergency grant funds to help with hospital bills, surgery, dental work and critical home upkeep.

“Thanks to Mission:Dignity, my house is warm and I have plenty of food. It feels wonderful to dress with a light on and to be able to see to take my medicine. Mission:Dignity has made a big difference in my life. I can be warm now, really!”

Today, Edna lives in Johnson City, Tennessee, and spends her time visiting and serving elderly friends and family within her sphere of influence. “I’m a giver and would give anyone the shirt off my back; literally,” says Edna. “One day I was at church and this lady kept eyeing my sweater. She said, ‘Edna, I need that sweater; I love it!’ I wore it home, washed it and took it back to her the next Sunday.”

Edna even gives back some of the extra Christmas check sent to all Mission:Dignity recipients each December. “I bought Christmas gifts for nine extra children, even though I could’ve used it,” she says. “Children come first. Mission:Dignity has made my life a lot better since receiving help. You bless me so that I can bless others.”

Now, it’s our turn.

Friends, what a blessing it is for us to serve such a servant’s heart! During this month of gratitude and thanksgiving, we are grateful to be a part of a ministry like Mission:Dignity that serves faithful servants like Edna. 

If you, too, are so inspired to help seek the good of retired SBC ministers, workers and their widows in financial need, here are three things you can do:

  • Participate in #GivingTuesday on December 3. Gifts up to $250,000 will be matched on December 3 only thanks to a few gracious donors. 100% of all gifts will go directly to those in need, and your donation of:
    • $50 supplies five days of groceries.
    • $300 covers a month of utilities or medications.
    • $900 provides three months of housing expenses.
    • $3,600 fully underwrites a year of assistance.
  • Give to our special Christmas check fund. Our goal is to be able to send an extra $250 to each of our qualifying Mission:Dignity recipients in December, so make a donation now to help make that possible. 
  • Join the Mission:Dignity community on social media. Like and follow this powerful ministry on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for daily updates and more recipient stories like Edna’s.

“Edna models the servant’s heart of these retired soldiers of the cross that we are honored to serve — selfless, loving, caring and sharing,” shares Aaron Meraz, director of Mission:Dignity. “Thanks to an endowment established years ago that covers administrative costs, every dollar given by every donor through Mission:Dignity enables every recipientto serve others and share the love of Christ with the dignity each deserves.”

What an honor to be a part of this ministry. Will you join us in giving to those who gave so much?

Mission:Dignity is a ministry of GuideStone — a leading provider of employee benefits for SBC churches, ministries, organizations and institutions. Visit GuideStone.org to learn more about how they can help you with retirement, insurance, investments and more.

Greg Love joined GuideStone in 2012 and serves as Director for Retirement Solutions, specializing in church retirement plan design and employee education. He holds degrees from both the University of West Alabama and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration from Dallas Baptist University. Greg holds the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠ professional designation, as well as Series 6 and 63 securities licenses. 

Greg is passionate about helping local churches thrive, make disciples and impact the globe for Christ. He and his wife, Jaime, have been married since 2001 and enjoy raising their two children — John Parker and Georgia Grace.