In partnership with American Baptist Churches USA, MMBB Financial Services is honored to present the 2020 Widow’s Mite Award to two outstanding churches for their extraordinary efforts; Parkchester Baptist Church, Bronx, New York and First Baptist Church, Mattoon, Illinois. These congregations were chosen for their tireless effort and steadfast commitment to their communities and to the Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering (RMMO). Although far in proximity, these churches have many things in common including outstanding leadership, perseverance to serve and their spirit of generosity.
Pastored by Rev. Dr. Felecia Smith, Parkchester Baptist Church located in Bronx, New York, always strives to connect with those in the community forced to navigate the realities of housing insecurity, economic inequities, and health disparities. Whether through their food pantry, which remained open as New York City shut down because of COVID-19, clothing drives, raising awareness about HIV and AIDS, grants and partnerships with the city and charities, the church remained connected. Parkchester Baptist Church has worked tirelessly in their community, pre-pandemic and during to serve as the hands and feet of Christ. At a critical time during the pandemic, when it was very difficult to secure appointments for vaccinations, the church worked to secure vaccinations for members of the church and community and subsequently received approval to serve as a pop-up vaccination site. Most recently, Rev. Smith led the congregation to extend their outreach beyond their community by supporting relief efforts in Haiti. The church remains a constant resource in their community. Whether working to meet family, individual or community needs, Rev. Smith shared how blessed she is to serve a church that is committed to meet the needs of God’s people through the ministry of generosity. “We remain motivated and honored, in such a time as this, to continue to support the ongoing and tireless work of our region, ABC Metro New York and the American Baptist Churches USA family as it works to support retired ministers and missionaries and to facilitate relief efforts throughout the world.”
Another mission centered congregation, First Baptist Church Mattoon led by Senior Pastor, Rev. Dennis Strawn offers and supports community outreach programs that range from providing kids with backpack lunches (even on the weekends), funding for mission trips, donations to Costa Rica, an annual carnival day at an amusement park for children from low-income families that includes a school supply giveaway and, clothing drives, One Stop Community Christmas and Operation Christmas Child. Rev. Dennis Strawn provided a glimpse into the congregation’s various ministries but specifically during Christmas they support One Stop Community Christmas which allows low-income families to “shop” (totally free) for their children’s Christmas gifts. Rev. Strawn explained, “Our congregation made quilts and purchased board games to donate.” Another organization supported by First Baptist Church is Operation Christmas Child. Through the Samaritan’s Purse, the organization donates shoeboxes filled with gifts and items to children in need around the world. “Both children and adults take part in the assembly of 180 shoeboxes for donation. Our congregation reflects and understands that God has been so good to us and the importance of coming together to give back. Whether through RMMO that serves as an annual reminder of the late Pastor Clyde Masten who was a celebrated retiree and pastor, we all need one another. We remain faithful in our stewardship as God has been faithful to us.”
The Widow’s Mite Award commemorates the anonymous gift in 1981 of a Vietnamese woman worshipping with the First Chinese Baptist Church of Fresno, CA during the RMMO offering. Having no prior knowledge of the meaning of the offering, she slipped off her wristwatch, her only possession of value, and placed it in the envelope. This act of gratitude reflects the spirit of thankfulness and generosity Jesus speaks about in Luke 21: 1–4.
We are grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge Parkchester Baptist Church and First Baptist Church Mattoon for their steadfast support of RMMO, the ABCUSA family and their communities. It is important to remember those who have given their lives in service to do God’s work and the faithful givers whose generosity contributes to the success of this offering.
To learn more about RMMO, visit https://abc-usa.org/rmmo.