Dr. O. S. Hawkins will conclude his service as president of Guidestone this week. O. S. and his wife, Susie, are a gift from God to Southern Baptists. Their impact through pastoral ministry, denominational service, and entity leadership has shaped and blessed a generation of leaders and their legacy will reverberate through succeeding generations.
Much could be written about Dr. Hawkins’ organizational and visionary leadership skills. But perhaps his most striking quality is his compassion for underserved ministers. When he arrived at Guidestone, the organization was only able to provide minimal support to ministers who lacked sufficient retirement income. Hawkins found that unacceptable, so Mission Dignity became his overriding passion. He has raised millions to endow this ministers’ relief fund – both through personal fundraising and by donating the royalties of many of his books.
According to the Guidestone website, they now distribute about $9 million annually through Mission Dignity. Individuals can qualify for $225 each month; married couples $300. For the neediest persons, these limits can be doubled. More than 2,400 individuals receive assistance each year. Approximately 60% of recipients are widows and one out of four is a widow over age 85.
Those are amazing numbers, but for me, there is more to the story. Several years ago, while I was executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, we had a widow who made a mistake when she signed up for medical insurance after retirement. It was only discovered when she had surgery and coverage was denied, leaving her with a sizable medical bill. I called our insurance representative with Guidestone. There was little he could do. Insurance coverage, even though she had made an innocent mistake, could not be retroactive. He promised to look for solutions and get back to me.
A few days later, he called with amazing news. In his words, “This situation went all the way to Dr. Hawkins’ desk” and a solution was found. This widow would receive a grant to help with her medical bills and her insurance coverage would be changed so she would be protected going forward. Guidestone was not at fault in this situation, but they stepped forward to help a widow in a time of real need. And, although this was not their goal, they made a friend for life out of me!
Dr. O. S. and Susie Hawkins deserve every honor they will receive this week. You may want to add your voice to the chorus. If so, one good way you can do this is by making a contribution to Mission Dignity.
Thank you O. S. and Susie for your leadership excellence, personal integrity, and compassionate service. We honor you and thank God for you!
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