This past weekend I was once again reminded of the story of a mission team that came to serve in eastern Kentucky. They had a great week with the children and youth and, when saying their sad goodbyes, a person on the team said, “don’t worry, we will be back,” to which one of the local children replied, “that is what they all say, but they never do.” That statement gripped the heart of the team member and caused them to change their plans and come back the next year. It was during that visit that the mother of the child who said “they all say that” accepted Christ as her personal Savior. This team developed a partnership in eastern Kentucky and came back many times.
Partnerships are important, because it is through partnerships that relationships are built. In partnerships missions, teams “adopt” a specific location and go multiple times to the same place, perhaps even several times in one year. They may bring a VBS team on one trip, a construction team on another. The local residents get to know the team members, develop a bond and look forward to them coming each year.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting and presenting a certificate of appreciation to Spartanburg, SC First Baptist Church who has been partnering with Bell, Knox and surrounding counties for 50 years.
Bell County Associational Mission Strategist Bruce Walzer says he has personally worked with this team for 30 years as they come and do Vacation Bibles Schools, basketball and cheerleading camps, a feeding program and construction. Bro. Bruce said they do whatever he needs them to do in his association.
Many lives have been touched in those 50 years. One local lady shared that her children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren came to know Christ through the VBSs of the Spartanburg team and thanked God for their faithfulness to come year after year. Another man, now in his 50s, shared that he had accepted Christ at one of the VBSs when he was 9-years old. On a video, child after child confessed, “I gave my heart to Jesus.”
The families of Kentucky are not the only ones impacted by the Spartanburg FBC team. Leaders of the group say this is where many of their youth shared Jesus for the first time and/or led someone to Christ for the first time. And, many are in ministry today because they heard the call of God on their lives during Kentucky mission week.
Linda Gilden, who was on that first mission trip 50 years ago shared about a 5th grade boy that was misbehaving. She sat down with him and asked what was going on, to which he replied, “nobody cares what I do.” Linda was able to share with him that she cared, and that God cared.
This team loves the children and families of eastern Kentucky and come with one purpose, to share the Gospel of Jesus. Many stories are told of their 50-years of service in Kentucky. Go to https://www.facebook.com/firstbaptistspartanburg/videos/1120596114794727/ to view their 2019 video and hear many of these stories.
Thank you, Spartanburg FBC, for your faithfulness. We will never know, this side of eternity, the huge impact you have made in eastern Kentucky. May this partnership continue for many years to come.
For information on how to develop a partnership in Kentucky contact [email protected] or 502-489-3530.