Hard work was nothing new for bivocational pastor L.C. Jones. After decades of laboring in sewing factories, he was accustomed to sweating it out for the sake of his family.
"I've worked all summer—mowing yards, trying to save enough money to fix my wife's teeth," he said. "I plan to work next summer to finish paying for her teeth."
The blazing Texas heat wasn't going to hold him back from earning enough so that Jerry could get her teeth, even though the retired pastor was then 86 years old. That was in 2012.
L.C. and his wife, Jerry, were married in March 1947. Four years later, they would come to faith in Christ and then answer a call to ministry in 1952. Prairie Grove was their first church, and it had only 30 members. Greenwood, with an average attendance of 75, was probably the largest in their 43 years of service.
"Most of my pastorates were bivocational," L.C. recalled. "Some churches could hardly pay a small amount and none of them could contribute to a retirement plan. I never pastored any church -- never considered any church -- based on what money they paid. I just took what they offered and that satisfied me.
"Moving from one place to another, I had to take whatever work I could find to support my family," he said. "That was just a fact. Most of the time, I worked in sewing factories as a maintenance man. In those days, no matter what town you went to, there was a sewing factory."
But by 2012, there were no more pastorates for the Joneses. No more sewing factories. And no extra money available for dental work—except for what L.C. earned that summer mowing yards. That's what prompted him to share his story with Mission:Dignity, GuideStone Financial Resources' ministry to supplement the incomes of retired pastors and their widows.
Mission:Dignity responded with an emergency grant that helped provide for her dental work and other medical bills. It was in addition to the regular monthly assistance they had been receiving since 1999. L.C. remembered how their grant started.
"My wife saw an article in our state Baptist paper years ago about help for pastors like me. We applied and started receiving help," he said. "That made a lot of difference in our lives. We could stop at Dairy Queen and get a hamburger occasionally."
The extra resources still make a difference for L.C. since Jerry's death two years ago.
"I get a $913 Social Security check, and it's hard to live on that," he said. "Sometimes you have different occasions come up when you'd like to go out and eat or something, but you can't do that on $913 a month."
Mission:Dignity assists more than 1,800 retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers or their widows in need. Individuals who meet guidelines for income, assets and years of paid Southern Baptist service are eligible for $225 per month; couples receive $300. The amounts are $450 and $600 for the neediest persons, like the Joneses, with at least 25 years of SBC ministry.
For some, Mission:Dignity means being able to get much-needed medical care they might not otherwise obtain. For others, it covers the cost of groceries, utilities or other necessities—even a hamburger once in a while. The ministry is an expression of the care and compassion of their Southern Baptist family whom recipients served in decades past.
"I'm more thankful for the opportunity to pastor than I am for the help I receive," L.C. said. "It was a privilege to be the pastor for these people. I may not remember all of them, but I haven't forgotten pastoring them."
For more information, go to MissionDignity.org.
John Ambra is director of development for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.