DALLAS (BP) -- Floyd Woodard was 25 years old when he felt God calling him into a life of ministry nearly six decades ago. Married just five years, Woodard was teaching a Sunday School class when he was approached about becoming a preacher.
"I knew the Lord was dealing with me and so finally I came to the place that I decided I would answer the call, that God called me to preach," Floyd said. "I started pastoring back in 1955 in a church that had us preach two Sundays a month. They paid us $15 a Sunday. We drove about 55 miles one way to get there."
When a church in Forsyth, Mont., offered $150 a month in the mid-'60s, Woodard readily accepted the call. He fondly remembered talking to a church member about receiving a weekly check. "When I talked to him and asked him about giving me a check every week, he said, 'Well, there are five Sundays in some months,' and I said, 'We have to eat that Sunday, too!'"
At times, it was difficult for Woodard and his wife Ivey to make ends meet on the small salary he received, but God was always faithful.
"There were several times," Ivey recalled, "when I would go to the grocery store and I'd spend my last dollar for milk, and I didn't know where the next dollar was coming from, but it always came."
Over the years, the Woodards were not afraid of hard work and often took additional jobs to make ends meet. "We did some work for different people," Floyd said, "like in the sugar beet fields and helping cut corn in the silage and stuff like that occasionally.
"I did a little carpenter work to help supplement our income. Roofed a few houses," he said, chuckling at the memory.
As with many small churches, food from members' gardens or farms also was part of the "pay" received by most preachers. For the Woodards, the meat served at the dinner table could be of an unusual variety. "When we first moved to Eureka (Mont.), a man from Great Falls had killed a deer," Ivey recounted. "He didn't need it, so he gave us that deer.
"It was so big it looked like a cow to us, but that was our meat for the winter," Ivey said as Floyd chimed in, "Even gave us a little elk and a little moose -- we got to try out. Only thing I never tried was the bear meat."
Retirement -- after 52 years in the ministry -- made getting the necessities of life even more difficult. When a fellow pastor died, his widow applied and began receiving help from Mission:Dignity. That prompted the Woodards to seek assistance as well.
Through Mission:Dignity, GuideStone Financial Resources assists about 2,000 retired Southern Baptist ministers and their wives who have critical financial needs. Most of these pastors served small congregations in decades past with little, if any, contributions toward a retirement plan. Sixty percent of Mission:Dignity recipients are widows. One of every four recipients is a pastor's widow age 85 or older. Qualified recipients are eligible for grants of $200 to $530 each month.
The ministry, which receives no Cooperative Program funds from the Southern Baptist Convention, is funded by individuals, Sunday School classes and churches. Gifts of any size are welcome, and contributions are paid out in grants, with nothing taken out for administrative expenses.
"I am just thankful that somebody thought of this -- that sometimes retired pastors might need extra help," Ivey quietly shared. "It's a real blessing to a lot of people besides us."
Floyd voiced a special word of gratitude to donors "for their sacrificial giving because it has enabled us to come to the end of the month meeting our bills without getting so far behind."
Through it all, Floyd and Ivey trusted in God's provision and kept smiles on their faces.
"We talked about the hard times," Ivey said, "and all the lean times we went through in earlier years with the salary being low and not knowing where the next dollar was coming from all the time, but it's always been a happy time.
"We felt we were doing what the Lord wanted us to do, and we knew He would provide. And He always did provide."
John Ambra is director of development at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Individuals who want to join in providing dignity to these retired ministers and their widows can learn more by visiting www.MissionDignitySBC.org or by calling 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net