By Aaron Meraz
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
2020 has had what feels to be more than its share of trouble. Through Christ, though, we are able to view suffering and affliction as opportunities for increased gospel advancement and grace giving.
Here at GuideStone’s Mission:Dignity® ministry, we have the opportunity to serve 1,700 households of retired Southern Baptist pastors, and in most cases their widows, whose retirement savings is inadequate to meet their financial needs. Each of these heroes of the faith is living near or below the poverty level, having served most of their lives in churches that could not put back enough for their retirement. They now find themselves in need of help to pay for basics like food, utilities and prescriptions.
Each year across the Southern Baptist Convention, thousands of churches celebrate Mission:Dignity Sunday. This year’s Mission:Dignity Sunday will be different. For starters, this year only, it was moved from the fourth Sunday in June to August 30. Additionally, the challenges these dear retired pastors and their widows are facing are not just financial.
In addition to the financial hardships that seem to have increased, their isolation and loneliness is overwhelming, as many fear leaving their homes. At the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown, GuideStone’s employees called these soldiers of the cross to reassure them their monthly assistance would continue. They listened to their concerns, prayed with them and recorded ways to help further.
One of these calls was to Bob and Frederica Stoudt, who reported a great illustration of gospel advancement through affliction, bolstered by grace giving.
The Stoudts served for decades, pastoring and preaching the gospel in Upstate New York before retiring. “Our hearts wanted to keep going, but our bodies just couldn’t keep up,” Frederica said.
But the call to preach and teach could not be diminished in their lives. As the pandemic spread, Bob’s leukemia placed him in the hospital for 47 days. Seeing his suffering and affliction as an opportunity, he preached the gospel to one of his nurses, leading her to the Lord.
Bob wrote about the opportunity, “The Holy Spirit had her heart ripe and ready. Her name is Brittney. Pray for her spiritual growth!”
In addition to their regular Mission:Dignity assistance, Frederica is receiving extra assistance for hearing aids through Mission:Dignity’s emergency grant fund. “It’ll be so good to hear those around me!” Frederica said.
With Mission:Dignity Sunday coming up on August 30, would you, your church and/or your small group join us in grace giving to the Stoudts and 1,700 other households in need?
Participating in Mission:Dignity Sunday is easy. Here are four ways you can join us in making a difference during these uncertain days:
- Download free promotional resources — including bulletin inserts, promotional posters and several brief testimonies — by visiting MDSunday.org or texting MDORDER to 41444 from a mobile device. The materials are undated and can be used anytime.
- Use the power of crowdfunding to set goals, make donations and encourage your friends to donate. More information about how you, your church or your small group can participate is available online.
- Join us for a premier video release on August 30 at 4 p.m. CT on the Mission:Dignity Facebook and Instagram accounts! Request early access to this special content — including messages from recipients, donors and GuideStone® President O.S. Hawkins — to use in Sunday services or small groups or join us on August 30!
- Make a donation by texting MDSUNDAY to 41444. 100% of every gift to Mission:Dignity helps someone like Bob and Frederica.
Bob and Frederica know the gospel must be advanced so that some will have peace in the midst of this pandemic. “That sweet nurse now has that peace,” Frederica said. “Bob has leukemia and my heart has been weakening, but we have peace. We couldn’t do anything without Mission:Dignity supporting us, even in our sickness.”
Friend, life feels overwhelming to us all right now. Think of how good it feels when you have even just a moment of peace in this chaos — and consider offering that same gift of peace to our faithful servants in need.
Dr. Aaron Meraz is the director of Mission:Dignity at GuideStone. Dr. Meraz served Southern Baptists for 30 years as a pastor, church planter, associate director of a large Baptist association and professor at Criswell College before joining GuideStone. He holds a Ph.D. and a D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an M.Div. in biblical languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.