Back-to-school season can be a challenge for many Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students who have young children. With prices of goods steadily rising due to the increasing price of oil, tightly budgeted seminarians not only have to buy their own textbooks and writing materials, they have to pray that they can buy pencils, paper, notebooks and backpacks for their school-aged children, too.

A group of employees from Dallas-based GuideStone Financial Resources were the conduits through which these prayers were answered last week.

The group came to the seminary campus and presented 37 children with packages containing all the school supplies listed on the children’s school supply lists. Each child was also given a $50 Wal-Mart gift card to buy other necessities such as backpacks, lunch boxes or school clothes.

After the supplies and gift cards were distributed, the GuideStone employees treated everyone to a pizza party. This is the second year GuideStone employees have provided school supplies to Southwestern Seminary families.

Azer Lilite from Haiti is at Southwestern Seminary studying for his master’s degree in music. He and his wife, Johane, have four children of their own, and two nieces living with them. The six children range in age from 15- to four-years-old. The GuideStone employees provided all six children the school supplies they needed.

“This was such a great relief,” Lilite said. “When school starts, we have to save up about $100 per child, times six, for supplies. Usually we just pick and choose off the school supply list. So, when we receive such a great gift, we don’t have any headaches of going to the store and finding what we need.”

Guidestone President O.S. Hawkins has consistently encouraged the organization’s employees to invest in the lives of the preachers, seminary students and church ministers who invest in the retirement funds, health insurance plans and other services provided by GuideStone.

This school supply giveaway is “who we are: Serving Those Who Serve the Lord,” said Tamara Quintana, Guidestone’s employee programs coordinator. Quintana took the lead in this year’s school supply giveaway.

“Getting ready for the ministry and getting started in the ministry are two of the leanest times in a pastor or missionary's life,” Quintana said. “We believe it is our responsibility to help get them to the field of service God has called them as quickly as possible and help support them financially as God blesses us.”

Quintana was assisted by Guidestone employees Beth Kaemmerling, Julie McPhail and Glenna Abraham. These women were on-hand in Southwestern Seminary’s Naylor Student Center to hand out the school supplies and put on the pizza party.

“GuideStone employees decided that they would rather give to seminary families than to just get family names from a charitable organization,” Kaemmerling said, adding later, “It is our joy and privilege to have a small part in the lives of seminary families that need a helping hand.”

The school supply giveaway organizers coordinated with Kent Sanders, the seminary’s director of student life. Sanders’ office helped invite seminary families based on need, and asked the families to provide organizers with their children’s school supply lists ahead of time.

For the Lilites, another blessing of sending their children to school with all their supplies was knowing that they had helped make sure teachers and school administrators could get on with teaching without worrying about whether the children were prepared to learn.

“Now I have a better opportunity to play my part as a parent by fulfilling my responsibility to provide all my children’s supplies, on time,” Lilite said.

Kaemmerling explained that in addition to the school supply giveaway each August, GuideStone employees also “adopt” several seminary student families during the Christmas season and provide Christmas gifts for each family member. She has helped coordinate the Christmas gift ministry for two years.

Kaemmerling hopes that other churches and businesses will become aware of the opportunity to help seminary families, and act to equip seminary students through efforts such as the school supply or Christmas gift giveaways.

“This does not come out of GuideStone’s budget – it is the employees that make this happen,” Kaemmerling said. “Many people here have a heart for seminary students … Maybe one day some of the other SBC agencies will adopt seminary kids from seminaries close to them – I would love to see that happen. It is our joy and privilege to have a small part in the lives of seminary families that need a helping hand.”

“Most seminary families live on a tight budget, and out-of-the-ordinary expenses, such as amounts spent for school supplies, can drain money from the monthly budget that would normally go toward a fixed expense,” Sanders said.

Sanders said that the school supply giveaway is just one of the assistance ministries on campus. His office puts students and their families in touch with other ministries designed to alleviate the financial burden of seminary, including:

- The Helping Hands House, which provides clothes and some furniture to seminary families at no cost. This ministry is particularly helpful to international families, Sanders said.

- The Dress for Success Project, sponsored by members of the Southwestern Advisory Council and the seminary Student Life and Financial Aid departments, to help minister’s wives with the church search committee interview process by buying her a new outfit.

- Food giveaways are held year-round through the efforts of churches such as the North Fort Worth Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Haslet, Texas, the First Baptist Church of Colleyville, Texas, and the student-led Manna Ministries.

 “Guidestone always goes the extra mile in their generosity to Southwestern students and their families, and we are indebted to them for demonstrating their Christian faith in a tangible way,” Sanders said. “Our hope is that the blessing that these families have received will give these families a vision to reciprocate down the road as God provides a little surplus in their financial situation. This is the beauty of God’s economy.”