>> by John Ambra Director of development for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention

DALLAS (BP)—Sandra McGill never dreamed she’d be a pastor’s wife. When she and Joe married in 1954, he hadn’t told her about his call to preach while operating a plow on his family’s farm. His revelation several years later would be the beginning of more than three decades cultivating fields of a different kind.

Sandra McGill served “quite a few churches in four different states” with her husband Joe, a Baptist pastor, “and all but a couple were little country churches that were barely scraping by.” When Joe died in 2005, Mission:Dignity began helping Sandra make ends meet.

Joe and Sandra’s journey took them from their native South Carolina to New Orleans where Joe enrolled in seminary. While there, he pastored a small church on the west bank of the Mississippi River. It was a very poor section of town and primarily Roman Catholic. The local people called him “Father Joe” or “The Baptist Priest.”

A family who lived across the street from the McGills had a little boy named Pat who was a couple of years younger than their sons, but liked coming over to play. Eventually, Pat was saved at the church’s Vacation Bible School and would go to church with the McGills. However, his family never had an interest in the Gospel. When the McGills were about to move away, little Pat asked Sandra to take him with them.

Years later, when the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting was held in New Orleans, the church hosted a dinner for all the pastors who had served there. Joe and Sandra met Pat’s older brother, who had since been saved and was serving in the church. He told them Pat was now married, had two children and was a deacon in a church across the river.

“Everywhere we’ve been, there have been people that said they would never go to church,” Sandra recalled, “but they got saved. We were real thrilled over that.”

That is just one of many memories Sandra cherishes since Joe died in March 2005. After his passing, she has been helped by the Mission:Dignity ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We had an interesting life together,” Sandra said. “We pastored quite a few churches, in four different states, and all but a couple were little country churches that were barely scraping by.

“At one particular church, we made $200 a week and paid $200 a month for house rent. We had one child still at home. One Sunday night during a business meeting, this man got up and said, ‘I think we need to cut the pastor’s salary.’ Of course it didn’t go. We had barely enough to live on, much less to put something into any kind of savings or annuity.

“We just depended on the Lord.”

Even today, with just a small widow’s benefit from GuideStone and a modest Social Security check, Sandra continues to depend on the Lord for everyday needs and has experienced the generosity and kindness of her Southern Baptist family through Mission:Dignity.

“After Joe died, I got a letter saying Mission:Dignity would supply me with $200 a month if I needed it,” Sandra recounted. “There were several times that I would have this bill and wouldn’t know how to pay it. The Lord just blessed. He multiplies things. If it hadn’t been for that extra money, I would not have been able to have dental work done. There are times that I had to use it for car repair. Sometimes an extra unexpected emergency would come up.”

Mission:Dignity assists nearly 1,800 retired ministers, church workers or their widows, distributing about $7 million annually, with most of the funding coming from direct gifts of individuals, Sunday School classes and churches. One hundred percent of gifts are used for the well-deserved monthly grants, with operating expenses provided by GuideStone.

Undated resources to inform churches about Mission:Dignity—available at Mission:Dignity Sunday—include free bulletin inserts, promotional posters and a DVD with several brief testimonies of people assisted by the ministry, including Sandra McGill.

GuideStone estimates that a record-high 8,274 Southern Baptist congregations participated in this year’s Mission:Dignity Sunday, slated in June each year on the SBC calendar, though the resources can be used at any time.

“The Lord has just provided for me so much,” McGill said. “I just ask Him to bless the people that make Mission:Dignity possible, that He will give them special blessings and continue to bless them as they bless me.”