Sewing for Missions

When KY-MSC Missionary Tim Bargo called asking for masks for the “See You at the Pole” event, Mrs. Gloria Perkins stepped up to the plate.  Knowing of Mrs. Gloria’s sewing projects for missions in the past, I gave her a call.  She had never made masks but did have a pattern and would see what she could get done. 

In about a week Gloria called saying she had 50 masks made and would continue working on them.  In a couple more weeks she called back saying she had made a total of 150. 

“God gave me a talent for sewing and I want to use it for him,” said Gloria, who is a member of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Pine Knot.  Gloria grew up at Bethel but, as a newly married couple, in 1957 she and her husband moved to the Cincinnati area to find work.  An interesting story is that while in Ohio they were members of New Bethel Baptist Church.  Upon her husband’s retirement from GE in 1995 they build a house on her family’s homeplace and moved “back to Bethel” where she has lived and been a member of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church ever since.    

Prior to COVID the Bethel Baptist WMU ladies met monthly to study missions, pray for missionaries and to do projects for local, state, national and international missions.  They promote the Eliza Broadus, Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings in their church and work with their hands to provide items for ministry. 

They made over 100 witnessing dolls and sent to an eastern Kentucky ministry.  Homemade bears, each with a tag that read “Jesus Loves You,” were put in Christmas Backpacks for Kentucky children, as well as sent to a missionary on the Louisiana coast.  Homemade dresses were put in their Samaritan Purse boxes for little girls in other countries.  The WMU also made and sold crafts, donating the money to their church to help with needed projects. 

Tim Bargo was so appreciative of the masks.  “As we are all in an uncharted time with the pandemic Mrs. Gloria Perkins showed the love of Christ by making masks for our First Priority network.” Tim said.  “I find it awesome that God told her to make masks and then weeks later He gave us the masks she made, without ever meeting or knowing each other.  Philippians 4:19 tells us, “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” He has done that thru Mrs. Gloria!”

WMU groups all around the state are helping our missionaries to serve people and share the love of Christ.  To learn of ways you can use your God-given talents contact the KBC Missions Mobilization Team at 502-489-3530 or email [email protected].  We would love to connect you.

By the way, in addition to being active in the WMU, Mrs. Gloria also serves as church organist.  Thank you, Mrs. Gloria and Bethel Baptist WMU, for allowing God to use you to promote and support missions.

Introducing Kentucky’s 2020 Missionary of the Year

Kentucky Mission Service Corps Missionary Nelle Thomas has been investing in the lives of children in her community since 2007 when she and a handful of volunteers directed Kid’s Café, a weekly Bible study and meals for children on Wednesday evenings at their local church.  As this outreach began to grow God laid on Nelle’s heart to expand the ministry, which in turn became Mission Hope for Kids.

Mission Hope for Kids, a 501c3 non-profit, now ministers to 200 pre-K to 12th grade at-risk students offering holistic support by meeting physical needs, after-school tutoring, college and career services, ministering to the spiritual needs of the children and families, and so much more. In addition to their main Elizabethtown campus, they have satellite campuses in Radcliff and Leitchfield.

Mission Hope for Kids is indeed changing lives and the future of an entire generation of children and youth in their community.  Since 2016 Nelle has reported that a total of 112 persons have prayed to receive Christ. 

On a visit to Mission Hope for Kids several months ago a couple of cardboard testimonies caught my eye.  The first one read, “Before Mission Hope for Kids…Depressed, Worthlessness, no Friends, Thoughts of Suicide!”  The second one, “After Mission Hope for Kids…Depression Gone, I am Worthy, Have Friends, I want to Live! Thank You Jesus.” 

These are just a few of the reasons why Nelle has been chosen as the 2020 Kentucky Missionary of the Year.  This award is given annually to the missionary that demonstrates:

  • Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
  • Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
  • Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
  • Tenure.
  • Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
  • Positive representation of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.

Nelle is one of 110 self-funded Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries called to various ministries in Kentucky, all involved in meeting physical and spiritual needs of those they serve.  In 2019 these missionaries collectively reported 2095 professions of faith as a result of their ministries. 

On behalf of these missionaries we say thanks for your prayers and for giving through the Eliza Broadus Offering for state missions.  Although self-funded, these missionaries benefit from EBO through grants, an annual missionary retreat, missionary orientation, and various trainings.  You are a part of their ministries as your pray and give through EBO. 

To learn more about Mission Hope for Kids click on www.missionhopeforkids.org.  Click on www.kybaptist.org/interseed to pray for Kentucky missionaries and church planters on their birthdays, or go to www.kybaptist.org/missionaries to pray for all of the missionaries on a regular basis.  To “adopt” a Kentucky missionary go to www.kybaptist.org/adoptmissionary or email [email protected] to get connected. 

What has your mission year looked like?

In a year that has been anything but normal, what has your church done in the area of missions?  Dates had been set, plans had been made, funds had been set aside for that summer mission trip, then COVID hit.  Everything practically shut down and, more than likely, your mission trip was cancelled.  This left you somewhat disappointed but think about those you were going to serve. 

COVID-19 has also left many of the missionaries disappointed and, in some instances, even discouraged.  They were looking forward to the fellowship with volunteers and mission teams.  They had projects to be completed.  They were depending on resources and funds from those scheduled to come.  They could no longer do ministry as usual and had to adjust their methods of service.  They grew tired of constantly ministering and giving with no one to minister and pour into their own lives. 

I pray that you did not forget these missionaries with whom you had planned to serve, but that you continued to stay in touch and encourage as much as you could.  And it is not too late.  Consider these ways you can continue to be involved in missions during the remainder of 2020.

  1. Pray for the missionaries and ministries.  Ask them for specific prayer requests.
  2. Call or email the missionaries just to see how they are doing, encourage them and find out about specific needs.
  3. Send a card to let the missionaries know you are thinking of them.
  4. Send a care package or gift card to thank them for their service.
  5. Provide resources that you know the ministry may need.
  6. Donate to the ministry.  One of the Kentucky missionaries shared that, even though mission teams had to cancel, a couple of them sent funds that they had set aside to use for their trip.  The missionaries depend on these funds for ministry and these donations are a big help to continue ministering.
  7. Pack a Christmas backpack for the missionaries to share with needy children. Since many Vacation Bible Schools were cancelled this year one church has suggested redirecting funds budgeted for VBS to fill Christmas backpacks. 

Ask God to show you innovative ways to support the work of missionaries in Kentucky and abroad.  Last year in our state many needy children and families were fed and clothed, homeless and hurting were ministered to, ladies with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies were encouraged to choose life instead of abortion, widows, internationals and refugees were served, those in prison or recovery were ministered to and, most of all, the Gospel of Christ was shared.  Our Kentucky missionaries reported 2095 professions of faith in Christ last year as a result of their ministries and you were a part of this as your prayed, encouraged, gave and served with them.  Thank you for adapting and not “cancelling” your 2020 mission experience!! 

Are you missing your blessing?

For this week’s blog post I would like to share an inspirational story written on June 26th by KY-MSC Missionary Laura Roberts, Executive Director of Starfish Orphan Ministry in Paducah.  So thankful for missionaries and ministries such as this that show and share the love of Christ daily to families across Kentucky.

Yesterday at Starfish Orphan Ministry a young woman came in with her mother. She explained her story about how she had found herself homeless and pregnant with 2 children. She had to give up her children temporarily while she got her life back together.

The good news is, she worked hard and got them back, and was moving into an apartment yesterday. The problem was, she had nothing. (Like no beds for her or her children to sleep in, no towels to dry with, no chairs to sit in, no pots and pans to cook in…). We explained to her that we had almost everything she needed, even pictures to hang on the walls, she and her mother both cried. They were humble and thankful. We explained that it was God blessing her and her children. God had led people to donate much of this, and allowed us to be a tiny part in the process of blessing her with it.

My friend and I prayed with her and her mom, as they both wept. This girl had all the required paperwork to back up what she had told us. When we were done with that part of it, we had explained that we did not have anyone to deliver to her right then. She said she had someone that could pick it up.

When the elderly man arrived in a small pickup truck to get the apartment full of furniture , he explained that he had just gotten out of the hospital, and could not lift anything heavy, and would not be able to make multiple trips. He had just felt sorry for her and offered to drive.

It was almost end of the day, there were no men there, some of the volunteers had already gone home, but there were myself and four other women left. We came from different backgrounds, but it didn’t matter. We had different skin colors, but it didn’t matter. We had different reasons for volunteering that day. One of us was ordered by a judge to be there, but it didn’t matter because she said “I’ll call my mom, she will help too. So, 6 women loaded the big box truck and headed out at the time that “volunteer time” was over. We worked together to deliver this gift to this mom and her children.

We all left feeling blessed to have gotten to see the difference made. A very pregnant mom and her children would have had to sleep on the floor, but instead their family was together for the first night in a long time, and they each had their own bed! Praise God!

When I climbed into my bed last night I thanked God for their beds and my bed. I thanked God for the people who donated the items, and for the people who folded and sorted the items, for all the people and groups who have raised money for us to buy the material to build the beds and those who have donated to them, for the friend who oversees the bed building, for the mattress company who donates crazy amounts of mattresses for children in need. I thanked God for the foundation that supports Starfish with operating expenses so that we can stay open and all other donations can go to help the families like this one and for little children who raise money with lemonade stands or recitals in Grandma’s yard. I thanked Him for the churches that support Starfish monthly and the individuals who stick a random check in the mail or donate online. I wished that all those people could have been there and seen that Mamma cry!

Then I thought about the blessing. …. who was blessed today? The woman and her children obviously, but I guarantee you that each woman that helped today would tell you that we were blessed as much as the woman was!

Starfish is getting more requests each day. Our overfilled warehouse is looking vastly different! We are very low on some types of furniture. We have missed out on lots of furniture lately because of no one to pick it up.

For those who deliver and pick up, we provide masks (if you want to wear them), we provide hand sanitizer, we have a spray that kills germs on surfaces, we have gloves available. We can have the items waiting outside.

We desperately need people on call to go pick up and deliver. We have a church group (who I am SO thankful for) who comes the second Saturday of each month to do pickups and deliveries, but we really need at least one more to do another Saturday. We need drivers and lifters. It could be that your family would want to make up a pickup/delivery team!

If people could understand the blessing, if they could have been with us yesterday, there would be people fighting to do it!

If you want the blessing of helping, please call 270-519-7340.

Freeda Harris Mission Mall

In July 2019 Richard & Amy Greene, along with their son Alex were introduced as the new directors of the Freeda Harris Baptist Center in Pike County, a gospel-focused ministry partnership of the Kentucky Baptist Convention & the Pike Association of Southern Baptists.  This ministry provides individuals and teams the opportunity to experience missions through service ministries such as construction projects, evangelistic events, VBS, community development and mobile ministry outreach to the local and surrounding areas. 

“We hit the ground running,” Richard says.  In the next six months the Freeda Harris Baptist Center hosted 9 mission teams, had a Labor Day cookout for the community, a Back-to-School giveaway, a Fall Festival, and a Holiday Dinner for the community in December.  Christmas gifts, including the Christmas backpacks, were given to over 1000 children and the Gospel was presented.  They also had clothing and food giveaways and Richard even went on an international mission trip to Belfast, North Ireland. 

As things slowed down a bit in January and February, the Greene’s did work on the Center, adding fresh paint, bunk rooms and preparing more space for mission teams that would come to serve.  “Then March happened,” Richard says.  “We found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic and everything in the ministry seemed to come to a screeching halt.  We had to rethink some things.”

The Greenes came to the Freeda Harris Baptist Center from Magoffin County, where Richard pastored a KBC church and directed a center similar to Freeda Harris.  At the Magoffin County Center they had operated a thrift store that had been very successful, not just in the ability to bring in income for the ministry, but also in outreach to families in the community.  “It gave us the opportunity to meet and reach more people,” Richard says. 

The Greenes began to pray about the possibility of opening a thrift store at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.  They began to see donations come in that would be good items for a thrift store and contacted their donors to see if they would be agreeable to their donated items being sold to benefit the ministry.  With permission granted, Richard & Amy began plans to open the store.  But, when COVID-19 hit with all its restrictions, that was not possible at the time.  This led the Greenes to think about launching an “online” thrift store.  Thus, the Freeda Harris Mission Mall was begun on Memorial Day, May 25.  Plans are to sell household goods, home décor, tools, and other such items at a reasonable price so that they can generate an income stream to help support the ministry.  The Center is also blessed to be supported by several individuals, local churches, the Pike County Baptist Association, and the Kentucky Baptist Convention but this will give them extra funds to serve more people.

Please take time to shop the Freeda Harris Mission Mall.  Go to their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FHBCMissionMall/) and browse,  Each item has a short description, an item number and the price.  To purchase, you will need to private message Richard & Amy with the number of the item you are interested in.  They will get back with you to schedule a time for pickup and payment. 

Those interested in donating items for the mission mall can contact the Greenes as well.  Please note that they are not accepting clothing at this time.  However, if you have clothing to donate, they can direct you to a clothing ministry in the area.

The Mission Mall is just one way you can assist the ministry of Freeda Harris.  They welcome mission teams of all skills to come serve with them and the area churches.  To schedule, please contact them for details and a date. 

And please pray for Richard, Amy & Alex as they serve through the Freeda Harris Baptist Center to reach the community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.    

Thanks for your support.  You can email Richard at [email protected]

Pray for Kentucky Missionaries as They Serve During COVID-19

Only a few short months ago we entered a new year, a new decade, into 2020.  Little did we know what was just ahead and that we would be entering into a time that like none of us had ever experienced before.  Who would have thought about schools, colleges, restaurants, sporting events and especially churches being closed for social gatherings.  But we have found ourselves here for a little over a month now and I am amazed at how the Message and ministry have continued.  In fact, in many ways, the Gospel is getting out and folks are being ministered to like never before.  Doors are open with almost every conversation to share the love of God and the Message is being proclaimed all over social media.

Kentucky missionaries have continued to serve, and I am amazed at the innovative ways they are doing ministry.  KY-MSC Missionary Dianna Anderson, a pregnancy care center director, shared how they receive calls, do intake by phone, share the love of Christ and pray with the young mothers, collect their  baby items, then sets on the ministry porch for the family to pick up.  Missionaries Bessie & Lester McPeek have done something similar in working with the local health department to provide diapers for young mothers.  With each bag of diapers distributed, a Gospel message is included.  Missionary Amanda Westerfield, who also directs a pregnancy care center, shared that even though they were closed, they will do individual meetings as needed with abortion-minded clients.  She was rejoicing that one young lady had chosen life and asked that we join her in praying for two other ladies she would be meeting with soon.

Missionaries Grant & Gina Hasty, Stacey Burton, Norma Rush and others are providing hot meals, with families driving by to pick up their to-go boxes.  Many ministries are filling food boxes and putting them in the trunks of cars as families drive through.  John Morris and his staff at God’s Appalachian Partnership (GAP) in McDowell have a new computer system that allows the families to choose the food items they want.  The order is then sent inside the ministry building to be filled and brought out to the cars as they drive by.  Missionaries Philip Ritchey is working alongside the local schools to help get food to children, while Keith Decker and staff at Cedaridge Ministries are resourcing local churches with food for distribution.

Each year GAP does a huge community Easter egg hunt which, of course, had to be cancelled.  This year’s theme was “Hunting for the Truth” and was to be a unique way to hunt eggs and a carnival-type atmosphere.  Each activity would lead the children to the “truth pavilion” where they heard about Christ and the true meaning of Easter.  In its place GAP provided Easter bags for the children that were distributed when they came to pick up their food box.  Each bag included candy, egg dye and specially designed packets with activity cards, the Gospel story and Easter message, and an invitation to join the online Easter services at a local church.  Missionaries Daniel & Alice Tarnagda, Amy Wilhelmus and Stacey Burton also did similar Easter outreach events by providing packets with a craft item, sidewalk chalk, food, and the Gospel message to children in their regions.  Immanuel Baptist Church in Somerset provided Mrs. Amy with 71 Easter baskets to distribute to the children. 

As you can see, ministry had continued in a great way.  As I have talked with the missionaries, they all had interesting stories to share.  But many of them seemed tired.  In the midst of COVID-19 some had also experienced powerful windstorms and power outages in their areas.  Many are in need of food, water and could just use some encouragement.  May I ask you to pray for our Kentucky missionaries as they continue to serve thousands of people with material resources and with the love of Christ.  Go to www.kybaptist.org/missionaries to learn about each ministry and know how to better pray.  Contact me at [email protected] for information on how you can get involved with ministries in Kentucky during this most challenging time.

Stay safe and healthy everyone and keep sharing the hope of Christ.  Thank you for your support of the work of these and other ministries through the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus offering for state missions.

Meet Our New 2020 Kentucky Missionaries

PLEASE NOTE: This event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Go to www.kybaptist.org/missionaries to learn about these and all of our Kentucky missionaries. Pray for them (and maybe even send a note of encouragement) as they are having to find new ways to do ministry during these challenging times.

Join us on Friday, April 17th, during the evening session of the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union Annual Meeting & Celebration at Richmond First Baptist Church, and meet our new 2020 Kentucky missionaries.  Eight men and women have sensed God’s call to serve in ministries across our state and will be commissioned during a very inspirational service on that evening.

These new missionaries are:

  • Mollie Bentley, Director of the Rockhouse Baptist Church Mission Center in Hyden.
  • Sheila Hourigan, Executive Director of House of Hope Pregnancy & Family Resource Center in Springfield.
  • Christian & Katie McKenzie, Directors of Hillcrest Baptist Camp in Cave-in-Rock, IL.
  • Joyce Morris, Missions & Ministry Associate at God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell.
  • Tanya Parker, Missions & Ministry Associate at God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell.
  • Norma Rush, serving with House of Blessings in Monticello.
  • Brenda Sparks, serving with Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg.

Prior to the commissioning these missionaries will spend the day in orientation where they will learn about the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program, Eliza Broadus State Missions and will be given many resources that will be beneficial to them as they serve.  The time of networking with each other will also be most valuable. 

You can partner with these and/or one of our current 107 Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries by:

For more information please contact the KBC Missions Mobilization office at [email protected]

We hope to see you at Richmond First Baptist Church on April 17th.  Go to www.kywmu.org and register at “All In – Pursuing God’s Mission Together.”  

Meet Miss Helen, Miss Patti and the McPeeks

Lester & Bessie McPeek
MSC Missionaries

In 2001 Lester & Bessie McPeek from Jenkins, KY began “God’s Love from a Diaper Bag,” a ministry to young mothers struggling to provide diapers for their babies.  Now, nineteen years later, this ministry is still going strong and has grown beyond anything they could have thought or imagined. 

Along with diapers, this ministry provides now baby clothes, baby food, wipes, car seats and pretty much anything a parent might need for their baby.  They host baby showers for expectant mothers and teach lessons on how to care for the babies.  They partner with local health departments, hospitals, sheriff departments and even jails, to minister to families.

Early in their ministry Mrs. Bessie began to address the “Shaken Baby Syndrome” issue, using eggs and baby food jars to demonstrate.  She would put an egg in each of three baby food jars.  The white of the egg represented the membrane, the yoke represented the brain and the baby food jar the skull.  As she shook the first jar the yoke of the egg would separate into the membrane.  The egg in the second jar, when shaken a little harder, would separate a little more.  The egg in the third jar, when shaken violently, would look like scrambled eggs.  This allowed the parents to actually “see” the seriousness of shaking their babies.

Miss Helen
“Shaken Baby” Doll

Now, with the addition of two fairly new members to the “God’s Love from a Diaper Bag” team, Mrs. Bessie can demonstrate this problem even more realistically.  Miss Helen Arabella Grace, a “Shaken Baby” doll, is the size and weight of an actual baby, but with a clear head that allows the parents to look inside the brain.  When the doll is shaken, the head lights up in the part of the brain that is affected, allowing the parents see what happens when they shake their baby.  She shares with them how, when they get to the point of frustration, to deal with it in other, non-violent, ways even to the point of calling someone to help when they got to that point.  One lady with three young children said to her, “but Mrs. Bessie, I don’t have anyone to call” to which Mrs. Bessie replied, “then call me.” 

One night at 8:00 the lady called.  The children were crying, there was no milk or diapers, the boyfriend had been put in jail due to drugs and the lady was so distraught.  Mrs. Bessie went to the house, took milk and diapers, rocked the children, put them to bed and just sat with the lady until she calmed down.  The love of Jesus demonstrated. 

Miss Patti
“Drug” Doll

The other new “member” is Miss Patti, a “Drug” doll, representing a baby that is addicted to drugs.  The doll’s face grimaces as if in pain, her hands and feet are clutched, and her stomach is sunken in.  The doll tremors like she is going into DTs and she cries constantly.  This doll helps the families to see how using drugs will affect their babies.    

These two dolls are great tools is teaching families to care for their children, which is so important, but the McPeeks do not stop there.  Mrs. Bessie shares that “the plan of salvation is given to every person who attend any of our mission events or that we deal with on a daily basis.”  Over the past four years they have witnessed 81 persons praying to receive Christ as a result of their ministry and/or personal witnessing. 

Please pray for the McPeeks as they minister in their hometown of Jenkins and surrounding areas.  Pray for the babies and families they serve.  Pray for mission teams to work alongside them and pray for many more to come to Christ as a result of this ministry.

Contact the KBC Missions Mobilization office ([email protected]) to learn of ways to serve with this ministry.

A Soft Place to Land in a Hard, Hard World

Lee, Erica & Cheri

For the past 20 years women inmates across Kentucky have been shown the love of Jesus Christ through worship services and the Christ-centered teachings of Freedom Forever Ministries.  KY-MSC Missionary Lee Rust says they minister inside, behind the bars.  In addition to the worship services Lee and her volunteer team provides a 10-week Good Grief program and are reaching women who are often forgotten, with the Word of God.

“We see God transform lives right before our eyes,” Lee says.  “We get to know the women, share their heart and pain, and see God work through them.  We are His voice.  We are rewarded by seeing what He does, by seeing changed lives.”  Lee says it is not unusual to have women come up to her years later, ask if she remembers them and tell her how well they are now doing thanks to Freedom Forever Ministries.

Cheri, a former inmate who was incarcerated at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex for three years, is more than happy to sing the praises of Freedom Forever Ministries.  She was very broken and really struggling while in prison, but said this ministry was “such a bright spot for the ladies in a really dark world we were living in.  They were such wonderful people, so loving and kind,” Cheri said.  “It encouraged my faith, kept me from lagging and from falling into the ways of prison life.  Once you came in, if you weren’t a believer I don’t know how you could go out and not be a believer, because you heard the Word in the message given by Lee each Wednesday, you heard the Word in the music and the seed was planted.  They were a soft place to land in a hard, hard world.  It was so nice to see a smiling face each week, to have somebody ask how you were doing, how your week was going.  They did their very best to take that extra minute here and there to be personal, interested and compassionate.  They were truly the hands and feet of Christ.”

Lee’s husband Eric and daughter Erica are also a part of the ministry.  Erica was not allowed to go into the prison until she turned 18.  Once she turned 18 however, Erica too joined in the ministry.  Cheri recalls Erica singing at the services, saying “she followed her parents’ servant hearts.”

Erica just recently married and, when choosing food for the wedding reception, reconnected with Cheri, who is now released from prison, has her life back together, and has her own business of making beer cheese.  Cheri said it was the first time she had seen this family since being released from prison and it was such an honor to meet on the “other side” and to “give back” to a family that had meant so much to her. 

Pray for Lee and Freedom Forever Ministries as they make a difference in the lives of many women when they are at their lowest.  To learn more about Freedom Forever Ministries go to https://freedomforeverministries.com/ or connect with them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/FreedomForeverMinistries/), where you will find a video of Cheri’s testimonial. 



Thank you, Bill…

‘Tis the season.  The Christmas season.  The season when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The season of giving. 

In our work it is also the season of filling and distributing Christmas backpacks for children, which began in 2001 when a group of GA’s (Girls in Action) in Georgia wanted to bless less-fortunate children in Appalachia who might not get a lot for Christmas.  The backpacks are filled with toys, clothes, hygiene items, food, a Bible, and a copy of “The Christmas Story.”  (In the early years gifts were placed in shoeboxes but transitioned to backpacks in 2012.) 

Bill Barker, then Appalachian Regional Ministry Director, started promoting this project and, eighteen years later, the Christmas Backpack Project is still going strong.  As a result of Bill’s efforts thousands of children have a better Christmas.  This year an estimated 75,000 backpacks will be filled by Southern Baptists, with a total estimated 390,000 shoeboxes and backpacks filled during the eighteen years. 

Bill Barker served as Director of Appalachian Regional Ministry (ARM) from the Spring of 2001 until December 2017 when he “retired” from that position.  In 2018 Georgia Baptist Convention launched Appalachian Mountain Ministry (AMM) with a similar purpose as ARM and covered the same geographical area.  So, the work continued. 

I was introduced to Bill on a July evening in 2001 during the Mountain Missions Conference at Oneida Baptist Institute and have worked closely with him since that time.  The Christmas Backpack Project is just one of many ways Bill has served in Appalachia. 

Well over a million mission volunteers have been mobilized through Bill’s efforts, partnerships between churches and associations have been developed, long-term missionaries have been called to the mission field, church buildings and homes have been built and repaired, resources of all kinds have been shared with ministries, tens of thousands of children have been fed and clothed, churches have been strengthened, and the list could go on and on.  But, the most important statistic, and the reason Bill spent the long hours doing what he loved, is that over 83,000 have prayed to receive Christ. 

As we come to the close of 2019 Bill will “retire” once again from AMM and is now back in the pastorate in Georgia.  The Lord has used him in mighty ways across Appalachia. 

Thank you, Bill, for your ministry.  Many men, women, boys and girls have been blessed because of it.  We will never know, this side of eternity, the huge impact you have made in eastern Kentucky and all of the Appalachian region. 

May the Lord continue to bless and use you and Arlene in His Kingdom work.  We love and appreciate you!!