In mid-March, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across large portions of the world, cities, states and countries began to shut down. As the virus spread, many businesses closed and hundreds of thousands suddenly found themselves without work or income. Texas Baptists leaders began to hear of pastors across the state, particularly bi-vocational pastors, in need of immediate assistance.
Pastors continued to care for their congregations, regardless of the presence of a paycheck. Texas Baptist leaders desired to care for those who were caring for others in the midst of great need, whether they were in Texas or another country.
By March 30, the Pastor Relief Fund was created to provide grants to pastors facing difficulties due to loss of employment or income. Within three months, more than 334 grants were provided to Texas Baptist pastors across a diverse ethnic and cultural network. However, Texas Baptists’ desire to meet the needs of pastors was not limited to the state of Texas. International mission partners also reached out to the Texas Baptist Missions Team to share stories of pastors in need of basic necessities like groceries. By joining with international partners, Texas Baptists have assisted more than 556 pastors and their families in Mexico, Sierra Leone, Peru, Uganda and Tanzania.
The Pastor Relief Fund sought to meet the needs of Texas Baptist churches by providing short-term financial support to bi-vocational and small church pastors who have experienced economic difficulties through the loss of employment or church salary as a result of COVID-19. In addition to the grants, all Texas Baptist pastors who applied were offered free access to Teladoc services for six months.
“Covid-19 has created a financial crisis for many of our Texas Baptist pastors,” said Dowell Loftis, director of the Connections Team. “We are grateful that we were able to award grants and offer Teladoc services to Texas Baptists pastors who applied.”
Grants were provided through endowments funds, as well as the Pastor Relief Fund, coordinated through the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation.
When Missions Director Josue Valerio heard prayer concerns from River Ministry missionaries about Mexican pastors facing economic hardships, he sought to find a way to help the ministers in need through a partnership with local Baptist associations and conventions.
After reaching out to international partners about their needs, Texas Baptists joined resources with associational and convention partners to assist 293 pastors in Mexico, 81 pastors in Peru, 30 in Sierra Leone, 100 pastors in Tanzania and Uganda and 52 pastors in Venezuela. The Texas Baptists gifts to pastoral families were made possible through gifts to BGCT Worldwide and individual donations.
“It made me realize, some of the practices that we have right now because of the crisis, are going to shape the way that we minister,” Valerio said. “We are focusing on our core values—making disciples, planting churches and caring for those in need. Those in need right now are pastors and their families, and this is a way we can help.”
Valerio challenged ministry partners in Mexico, Peru, Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone to match the donations given by the BGCT or to contribute a portion of the funds to each pastoral family in need. Most of the funds were used to purchase immediate essentials like food. In Peru, additional funds were provided for ministry to Venezuelan refugees who fled persecution in their home country.
“I can say that all of them [ministry partners] have responded very positively to the point of matching what we are giving or going above and beyond what we are giving,” Valerio said.
Texas Baptists received several notes from pastors and convention leaders who expressed gratitude for the gifts provided during a difficult time.
“The help you all provided to pastoral families in Monterrey is a confirmation that our Lord cares for his children. Thank you for your generous heart that has made this possible and has exhibited God’s love,” said Martin Suarez, president of Convencion Regional Bautista Santiago Hickey in Monterrey, Mexico.
“This is a time when we have a great opportunity to be present and to be a comfort to others in the name of Jesus,” Valerio said.