God Loves a Cheerful Giver
On June 21, 2015, at the age of 96, heaven welcomed home a faithful servant and dear friend to Mission:Dignity, Truett Hawley. Our love and prayers are with the Hawley family. "Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matthew 25:21)
Truett and Opal Hawley have given to Mission:Dignity since 1992 but their love for pastors and their widows actually began nearly a century ago
"My dad was already a pastor when I was born in 1919," Truett noted, "and was serving four churches at a time back then. That's the way it was in the country. The preacher would go to one church each Sunday of the month. On those other Sundays, the people would just attend Sunday school and then go home. When there was a fifth Sunday, he'd contact a church that didn't have a preacher. If they liked him, they'd call him back.
"Growing up, we were very poor," Truett continued. "Normally, our breakfast was biscuits and gravy and the evening meal was cornbread and beans. We never had roast beef, and because we raised chickens, we'd be able to eat one now and then. We had plenty of eggs."
Truett's father, the Rev. A.M. Hawley, pastored in the western Kentucky town of Hazel for several years. He recalled one of the homes they rented.
"It was the smallest house in town. One room for the whole family except that it had a loft area in the ceiling where my brothers and I could sleep. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer; the only heat for the house was in the fireplace."
Later the family moved out to the country. A neighbor gave them a Jersey cow. They would skim the cream from the milk and sell it for cash or trade for coffee, sugar, flour and other food. During that time, someone stole their 30 chickens and the local paper ran a story about it.
"Everyone in the county started bringing us chickens. We had every breed and model of chicken that you ever heard of."
While that story brings a chuckle now, it also brings tears to Truett's eyes.
"Those were some hard times. Dad was only serving one church at the time. And more than once, we were completely out of food."
Truett later joined the Navy and had an opportunity to do something special for his parents. He recalled walking past a small cottage with his mother when he was 14 years old. She had told him, "I guess I'll never own my own home." He had put his arm around her shoulder and said, "I'd buy you a home."
He was able to live on just five dollars out of the $107 in pay each month from the Navy. While on leave, two of his sisters had come home and the family were all sitting on the back covered porch. Truett tells the rest of the story.
"The question arose about my 'best' giving and Daddy said, 'Truett, you said that you were going to buy Mama a home, and now that you are in the Navy, I guess you can't do that.' Well, I make a quick decision., and I was 21 or 22 and this was the summer of '41, and a few months before Pearl Harbor, and I have a new suit and luggage, and I take out my wallet and march over to my dad and count out $1,000. He’s never seen that much money in his life. But that was the best gift, I gave him $1,000 in '41. After that I go to the paymaster and tell them that I want to allot $100 a month to my parents and my pay was $107. Then I started making my base pay of over $107 plus flight pay and international pay. The Lord turns right around and blesses you all the time.";
His parents were able to buy a small home for $2,700 and his dad said they could pay $100 a month. It didn't have running water or a bathroom, but later they dug a new well and brought water into the house via an electric pump. They lived there the rest of their lives but the house never had a bathroom.
Truett moved to Texas where he took a job in the oil industry and married Opal. On May 29, they will have been married for 70 years. They are still active at North Orange Baptist Church where they have been long-time members.
One of Truett's keepsakes is an old ledger book his dad maintained. He leafed through the book and pointed to a particular page of entries.
"None of the churches my dad preached in contributed to an account for him at (what was then) the Annuity Board. Dad never had a church where they had a parsonage, and all the years he served he had to pay rent someplace until we bought that house," Truett said.
"I found out first hand from my mother and father, when he was 75, that dad had applied for help from the Annuity Board and started drawing $29.62 a month. That was nearly a dollar a day in 1950 and it was the difference between going hungry or not. Only two of us eight children were able to help support them at the time and it was a lifesaver to us as well as to them. They were able to make it with that $29.62, a little savings and a roadside stand they sold food from. And once in a while, someone would ask my dad to preach.
"He drew that help for about five years until he died right before turning 80. Mama lived to be 82."
The Hawleys continue to remember their parents and many others like them who have served small churches for modest pay and little or no benefits. For the past 23 years, Mission:Dignity has been close to their hearts.
"We gave and it just became a habit," Truett noted. "Several years ago, we doubled our giving and it has been such a blessing."
Opal added, "We never missed the money. The Bible tells us to give and it will be given to you."
One of Truett's favorite verses is Proverbs 19:17. "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again."
But the Hawleys don't give to receive money back. They simply enjoy the privilege of helping God's servants.
"It's a joy and a blessing to give to Mission:Dignity," Truett said with a tear in his eye. "Every month when I get that thank-you letter, I see my mom and dad."