ANSON—Doris Jackson’s hands moved quickly over the piano keys as she played the traditional version of Amazing Grace. As she wrapped up the song, she glanced over her shoulder with a mischievous grin to ask her visitors if they wanted to hear her version.
A quick nod of their heads meant they soon were listening to a jazzy variation of the classic hymn.
Born in the parsonage provided by the church her father led as pastor, Jackson said, “God has been a part of our lives, all of our lives.”
Growing up in West Texas, young Doris spent time in the cotton fields. She did well in school, and when she graduated, the school asked her to return and help with her younger classmates.
Thread of ministry woven through her life
Ministry was a common thread throughout her life—her father and grandfather both were ministers, as were several extended family members. So, it felt right to marry a man with his own long family heritage of ministry.
When William Jackson Jr. saw Doris, he knew he had to meet her. He paid a child 10 cents to deliver a note asking her for their first date. That was the beginning of a life-long love story. The couple married in 1961.
The call to become a pastor came 10 years later, and he preached his first sermon in 1972 in Anson.
Like many preachers in those days, Jackson’s pay was pretty small. To help make ends meet, he started his own auto body shop.
William Jackson made a difference
He was a hard-working man who believed in education and civic responsibility, and having two jobs didn’t keep him from civic activities in the community. Through the years, he served on the local school board and in various other civic organizations. He was one of the founding members of the local Meals on Wheels, for which they honored him in 2014. And he served as a volunteer fireman and policeman.
His ministry had the biggest impact on the community, though. He believed the youth who came through the church’s doors should not go away without being fed both physically and spiritually. For him, these were closely related in reaching their hearts for God.
He had a heartbeat for everyone in their community, his wife noted.
“He was a teaching pastor who couldn’t tell black or white. He loved all people,” she said.
A heart for young people
He also mentored and encouraged the local youth, spending time at baseball games and other recreational activities. He preached the gospel and encouraged hard work and education—believing those to be the keys to progress.
She recalled how her husband insisted their own five children all attend college. To demonstrate that education was important at any age, he returned to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in theology at age 59, then finished his master’s degree in theology two years later.
She also pursued education. Feeling a call to care for God’s people in their final years, she earned a degree in nursing and worked in the local nursing home for many years. She now volunteers there since her retirement in 2006. Many of the residents call her to walk alongside them through doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions.
Time of transition
After 42 years in the ministry, 35 years of which were spent at Greater Zion Baptist Church in Sweetwater, Jackson died following a battle with cancer.
His widow soldiered on after his death, but she found herself unable to keep up with the financial pressures and reduced income.
Explaining that her financial situation had her against the wall, she saw hope when the application from Mission:Dignity arrived from GuideStone Financial Resources.
“There have been times I would not have made it without you, but God’s loving heart and tender hands led you my way,” she told a GuideStone representative.
“Mission:Dignity means life. It has eased my pain and filled in spiritually, physically and financially.”
Honor retired ministers and their spouses
Many Baptist churches will observe Mission:Dignity Sunday June 25. It’s a day to remember and honor retired ministers, workers and their widows living on low retirement incomes, and it’s a time when many give to help nearly 1,800 individuals and couples assisted by the ministry.
About $7 million is distributed annually, with most of the funding coming from the direct gifts of individuals, Sunday school classes and churches. One hundred percent of gifts provide monthly grants, with nothing used for operating expenses.
GuideStone makes available free bulletin inserts, promotional posters and a DVD with several brief testimonies of people assisted by Mission:Dignity. To order, click here.
To donate online, click here.
As for the piano, Mrs. Jackson laughed and said her father traded two pigs for it when she was a child. All her siblings learned to play, and she kept on doing so at the churches where she and her husband served.
Today, she shares her musical talent at the nursing home where she volunteers. It’s one more thread tying her to a life of ministry.
Judy Bates is senior manager in the Mission:Dignity ministry of GuideStone.