At 85, Hilda Mount celebrates little things – still living on her own and being able to get around a bit.
While she can’t move as well or as fast as she once did, Mount expresses gratitude at how God has blessed her through her family and Mission:Dignity (M:D).
“I just want to thank everybody who contributes,” she said in a phone call with the Biblical Recorder. “Mission:Dignity has been a lifesaver for me. I am very, very grateful.”
Mount is one of 154 North Carolina recipients of M:D, a ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources to help retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers and their widows.
No Cooperative Program gifts are used for M:D. Churches, Sunday School classes and individuals donate the funds.
Administrative costs are covered by an established endowment, so all the money donated is given to recipients.
In 2017, more than $7 million was donated and distributed. Mission:Dignity Sunday is June 24 across the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mount prays more people hear about this ministry that has helped her since 2010, when her daughter applied for her.
Arnold L. Mount and Hilda were both from North Georgia and served in ministry 50 years in rural churches.
“He just loved country people,” she said. “And I did too. All of our ministry was with rural churches.”
Since they were raised in similar areas, the Mounts related well to people in farming communities.
M:D helps mainly those who served smaller churches. Those churches paid modest salaries, if any, and usually did not invest in retirement benefits for their spiritual leader.
After they retired, Arnold began developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. Hilda kept him at their North Georgia home as long as she could but it became too much after he had a stroke.
He was placed in an elder care facility. Hilda drove a few miles to and from the facility at least twice per day to help him get ready in the morning – feeding and shaving him – and to help him get ready for bed by brushing his teeth.
“I did everything except bathe him,” she said.
There were problems with how he and other residents were treated at the home, resulting in criminal charges and imprisonment for the owner. A couple of years after being admitted, he was discharged. Hilda took on the task of caring for him at home again. She received great assistance from her daughter who lived in the area, Hilda said.
“He realized he was at home” as soon as they got to the house, she said. “I asked him ‘Are you glad to be home?’” and he said, “Oh, yes!”
Those were his last words. He had become increasingly nonverbal as his Alzheimer’s advanced.
He spent his last five weeks at home with his bride. He died in 2006.
“I want to tell everybody how much I appreciate Mission:Dignity,” she said. “I couldn’t make it without it.”
Making a move
Mount stayed in Georgia five years after her husband died then moved to Huntersville, N.C., where she currently lives and goes to church (Neighborhood Church). One of her three children – her son – lives in Huntersville with his family. She has two daughters: one lives in Rome, Ga., and the other lives in Houston, Texas. She also has nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren with one on the way.
The Mount family with Arnold in the back on the left and Hilda front and center. The Mounts raised three children and have nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Hilda receives Mission:Dignity funds each month to help with her monthly bills.
She’s lived in an apartment on her own for more than nine years. The Mount’s rural ministry over the decades didn’t leave much for Hilda to live on each month. With the help she receives from M:D, her budget is still tight, but she is able to make it with other monies from retirement investments and help from her children, especially with health insurance.
“Most of the churches we pastored … they didn’t give anything,” she said.
The Mounts survived on his bivocational jobs.
“My husband was unusual … when he left a church, he never asked what the salary was before he took [another] church,” she said. “It was always by faith. That’s how we lived.”
In 2015, she wrote a letter to John Ambra, the director of development for Mission:Dignity, about a grant she received to help her pay for glasses.
“I was and am so overwhelmed with the knowledge that God could love me so much and so bless me through people who don’t even know me,” she wrote. “I pray that He will bless all those people who share their wealth with people like [me], who have very little tangible wealth.”
She continued later: “I’ll see more of His power and glory, love and mercy, and I pray that I will always have total and complete trust in Him, and accomplish His will as long as I live. What a God!
“I never thought I’d live to be this old,” said Mount, who shared some of her medical issues, including a recent diagnosis of macular degeneration.
On a personal note
Becky Buchanan, communications coordinator for Mission:Dignity, has a “heart connection” with Mount and a few other recipients of M:D funds.
“I always try to remember her birthday,” said Buchanan, who checks in with Mount every six weeks to two months.
Buchanan has sent postage stamps and gift cards. “What seems like a little expense to me … and convenience … is sometimes a struggle” for others, Buchanan noted. Buchanan and Mount exchange prayer requests for their families.
“She’s such a thoughtful person,” Mount said. Personal notes from Buchanan, along with other notes from contributors, encourage her that she is not forgotten.
Buchanan, who has worked with M:D for eight years and GuideStone for 31 years, enjoys Mount’s wry sense of humor and their easy banter.
The letters M:D receives express gratitude for the difference the money makes for the recipients. But, it’s not just financial help. Buchanan stresses the importance that “somebody sees them and sees their need.
“How does a church of 40 people support a pastor?” she asked.
Every two years, applications are renewed. Buchanan said many recipients tell M:D that if someone needs the money more, to please give it to them.
“It’s our way to honor their years of service,” she said. “What a blessing it is to us to be able to give to them.”
At M:D headquarters in Texas, employees gather each Monday for a time of prayer for one another, the donors and for the recipients of the ministry’s funds.
“They all know we’re praying for them on Monday,” she said, adding that they get specific notes thanking them for making Mondays the best days for recipients of M:D funds. “A lot of folks are just lonely.”
In North Carolina in the 12 months leading up to the end of April, $355,689 had been given to M:D. Of that, 274 individuals gave $125,128 and 139 organizations donated $230,561.
While Mission:Dignity helps nearly 1,800 individuals and couples nationwide, Ambra knows there are more who qualify.
Ambra, the director of development for Mission:Dignity, wants more Southern Baptists to know about this precious ministry.
Applicants must meet eligibility guidelines: age 65 or older and retired, minimum of 10 years paid service with a Southern Baptist church, entity or institution, or an individual who was married to someone in a ministerial position for 10 or more years during the time of their service. Income cannot exceed $1,962 a month for a single person or $2,656 a month for a couple, and they must have less than $30,000 in assets, excluding their home.
Individuals, like Mount, can receive $225 per month and couples can receive $300 per month. Grant amounts are doubled for the neediest applicants with at least 25 years of ministerial service.
More than half (60 percent) of recipients are pastors’ widows, and one in four is a widow age 85 or older. Seven of the M:D recipients are age 100 or older.
“I think not enough people know,” said Mount. “I think people would give more if they knew. We have to pray more.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Information from stories by Roy Hayhurst, director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources, was used for this report.)