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!!

What’s in Your Wallet?

Jesus commanded each of us as His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Our mandate as followers of Jesus Christ is to take the Gospel into all the world and to make the name of Christ known among all peoples. We are compelled to proclaim the Gospel, the only hope for billions who have not yet heard about the good news of Christ.

This mandate requires a sacrificial commitment. A sacrifice to go, and a sacrifice to send. Sacrificial giving by Southern Baptists enables us to place thousands of missionaries across the globe. The Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions remain the lifeline for countless missionary families, who have sacrificed to go to the farthest corners of our world.

As we enter this season that highlights the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, it should make each of as believers ask prayerfully, “What is in my wallet?”

Simply put, your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions enables missionaries to be sent to share the Gospel, disciple those who come to Christ, and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Southern Baptists realized when they began this special offering in 1888 that we can do more when we cooperate together for the sake of Christ than any of us can do alone.

When you give to Lottie Moon:

  • 100% of your gifts directly support missionaries serving the unreached.
  • You are making a way for the 2.8 billion people who have little access to the Gospel to hear of Jesus.
  • You are helping to transform lives around the world.
  • You are part of reaching the nations for Christ.
  • You are playing a role in the Bible being translated into every tongue and language.
  • You are providing hot meals, blankets, and clean water for refugee families.
  • You are enabling us to be God’s hands of compassion following disasters across the globe.
  • You are providing medical leaders in hospitals in broken places.
  • You are providing training for church leaders and pastors.
  • You are fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord.

Why give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering?

Maybe, it would be better to ask, how as a follower of Christ, could I not give to this offering that is making the name of Christ known in every corner of our globe?

As Lottie Moon, missionary in China in 1887, said, “Why should we not…do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of him who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?”

For I was hungry…

Tanya Parker is a new North American Mission Board Missionary serving as a Missions & Ministries Associate at God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell (Floyd County), KY.  However, she and her family are not new to GAP.  In 2001 Tanya and her husband Joe were living and working in Lexington, when they both lost their jobs within three months of each other.  Tanya was pregnant and did not go back to work.  The employment her husband was able to find was not the equivalent of what he previously had so they were struggling financially.  They moved back home to McDowell, KY and, during that time, turned to GAP for help.  “They helped us with food, clothing and encouragement in the name of Christ,” Tanya says.  “Every time I hear the scripture ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me…’ I think of GAP.”

Once back in McDowell Tanya and Joe both found employment and, with the help of family, friends, GAP and Dave Ramsey classes they took through their church, they gradually got “back on their feet.”  Tanya would volunteer at GAP every chance she got and prayed for God to guide and bless the ministry so they could continue to share Christ and meet the needs of the people. 

Around a year ago, when GAP was in need of staff, Tanya began praying for God to send missionaries to come alongside Directors John & Shaughanessy Morris and help carry out all that God had planned for the ministry.  In March 2019 she volunteered at the annual Easter Egg Hunt and says she remembers exactly where she was standing when she felt the Lord tell her, “this is it, this is where I want you.”  Tanya says she didn’t immediately obey, started second guessing herself and was becoming miserable.  She met with John and started asking questions about the missionary life.  “After a time of fasting and prayer,” Tanya says, “I confirmed that God truly was calling me to serve at GAP.

This was not an easy decision for Tanya.  She served as administrative assistant at Fitzpatrick Baptist Church and truly loved her ministry there, but GAP seemed to be just where the Lord was leading. 

Tanya’s pastor, Bro. Tommy Reed, was sad to see her leave, but had this to say: “If I were picking a team she’d be on it.  She is mature.  She loves Jesus.  She loves her family.  She loves her church.  I love her and will miss her immensely.”

GAP Director John Morris said, “For over two years my wife Shaughanessy and I have been praying that the Lord would send someone like Tanya Parker to GAP.  Who knew that He would send the one and only Tanya Parker.  Praise be to God!  We are so excited to welcome her to the Lords’ team here at GAP.  She brings a wealth of gifts, talents and experience to the staff.  She was raised here in the McDowell area so many already know her and/or her family, which makes building relationships for Christ easier.”

Tanya has come full-circle with GAP and God is using her in tremendous ways.  Just a few days ago she posted on her Facebook page (Tanya Parker – GAP MSC Life for me!):  “Today was a great day. I shared the Gospel today with a young lady and she made a decision to follow Jesus! Praise the LORD!”

Tanya has been married to Joseph (Joe) Parker for 21 years.  They have three daughters, Makayla (20), Grace (18) and Allison (16).  Joe is a deacon and Sunday School teacher at their church and the Lord has blessed him with a full time job at Prestonsburg City Utilities. 

You can follow Tanya’s ministry at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2757262984283862/.  Please pray for her as she serves at God’s Appalachian Partnership.

You are meant for so much more!

We have all asked the question, “Why did this tragic or hurtful situation occur?”  We have all experienced pain in life and have wondered why us.  But have we ever asked the question, “Why do blessings come our way?”  To ask it more personally, why am I blessed with what I have in life?  Psalm 67 is a prayer of blessing adapted from Numbers 6, where Old Testament priests would speak a word of blessing on the people of Israel. 

Psalm 67:1 prays, “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us—Selah” (all references NASB).  The Psalmist is praying for the grace, blessing, and favor of God.  But why is God gracious, and why does He bless and show us favor?  Verse 2 gives us the reason— “that your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations.”   

God’s good gifts to His people are not meant to be horded by us, but to be heralded for Him.  We have what we have, and we are where we are in order that we might make God known among the nations.  In fact, Paul told the leading men of Athens, “And He (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).  When we live and where we live are all determined by God’s good design—a design meant to be used to make Him famous around the world.    

Currently, there are 7,103 unreached people groups or 4.5 billion people unreached with the gospel of Jesus.  Unreached means that of the these 7,103 people groups less than 2 percent of the people follow Jesus.  According to the International Mission Board, a people group is the largest group through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance (www.peoplegroups.org). 

God’s desire, according to Psalm 67, is that the grace, blessing, and favor He gives us (v 1) is to be used to point all peoples to the salvation of our God (v 2).  How might each of us leverage our lives—the good gifts He has given us—to make much of Jesus where He is not known?  The goal God’s blessing to us and our proclamation of Him is so that “the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You” (v 3).      

God’s praise is meant to be global and He desires to use us for that aim.  Life is meant for more than daily schedules of work, school, running errands, and going to ball practice.  We have received educations, homes, cars, salaries, and retirements for more than our comforts.  “God, our God, blesses us.  God blesses us that all the ends of the earth may fear Him” (v 6b-7). You are meant for so much more.  How, then, will you use the blesses from God to impact the nations for His glory?     

Chosen to Go

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

As those redeemed by Christ, we have been chosen and called to proclaim the praises of our Savior into all the world.

So how can the church be a royal priesthood and fulfill the Great Commission given to us by God?

Six strategic principles can help the church to ensure that we do not turn from our primary calling to live on mission for Christ and to take the Gospel to every person across our globe:

  • Value the mission over methods. The Gospel and the Great Commission of our Lord are unchanging, but the methods utilized to reach our world can and often must change for us to be effective in our mission. It is always better to be missional than traditional.
  • Value people over programs. It is much more important to build relationships with people than it is fill calendars with programs. The church is not to just take up time in people’s lives, it is to disciple them to take the Gospel into the world.
  • Value risk over safety. To reach our world for Christ will involve risks. It may even mean at times that we suffer failures and setbacks and go to places that are less than safe. But great tasks and great missions are never accomplished by those who fear failure and who are unwilling to ever venture into the hard places. The Great Commission will always require steps of great faith.
  • Value super-teams over superstars. We are always stronger together than we are alone. The genius of the Cooperative Program is that it unites Southern Baptists to be more effective and efficient in reaching the world for Christ and in building His Kingdom not our own little sandcastles.
  • Value sending over maintaining. The church was not formed to gather us in. It was formed to empower us to go out. God is worthy of our worship, but real worship will always compel us to go forth from the walls of our church.
  • Value action over meetings. We can spend so much time trying to develop strategies and the perfect plan that we never actually accomplish the mission. Developing strategy and doing analysis has an important role in ministry, but we must always be careful that it does not paralyze us from action. Sometimes we just need to make a leap of faith and try something. If it does not work, stop it and try something else. Fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord will require us to get up from the pew and to go out for the sake of Christ.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

Join Kentucky’s “Adopt-a-Missionary” Program

Do you want an exciting and meaningful boost for your church?  Do you want your church or small group to be more involved in missions?  Do you want to “get to know” a missionary?  Then join Kentucky’s “Adopt-a-Missionary” program.

No, missionaries are not orphans, but adoption is a beautiful word that helps describe the strong relationship between missionaries and the churches and friends who pray and encourage them in their ministries. The church at Antioch, in a sense, adopted Paul and Barnabas as special messengers of the gospel to Asia and Europe (Acts 13:1-3).

The North American Mission Board and Kentucky Baptist Convention have assigned missionaries to specific ministries across our state.  These KY-MSC missionaries are adults, called by God and connected to a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, who commit to serve from nine months to two years (renewable), and are self-funded. The positions engage in or directly support missions, church planting, collegiate ministry or evangelism, in cooperative partnership with a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, association, or organization.

These missionaries are making a difference in the Kingdom, one individual at a time and, this past year alone, reported 4,442 professions as a direct result of their ministry and/or their personal witnessing.    

God calls some to go.  Others He calls to support those who go.  Support may be financial as we normally think, but there are many other ways to support our Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries.  We would like to connect churches, Sunday School classes, WMU groups, or small groups to one of our 106 KY-MSC missionaries. 

By adopting a missionary, you commit to:

  • Pray for the missionary.
  • Communicate and encourage the missionary by telephone, letter, email or card.
  • Send a birthday or holiday care package to let them know you are remembering them.
  • Visit the missionary’s ministry and assist with the work.
  • Invite the missionary to share in your church or small group.
  • Meet a need the missionary may have.

In turn, the adopting church or group will experience:

  • A personal relationship with an active missionary.
  • A strengthened commitment to missions.
  • A heightened awareness of missions opportunities.
  • A fresh, outwardly focused ministry perspective.
  • Group building and bonding through service to others.
  • An opportunity to see God at work and an invitation to join Him in it.

Since relationships do not generally happen overnight, and because it takes time for a church or group to organize and plan a strategy, a two-year adoption period is encouraged. At the end of the two years, the church or group can extend the length of the existing adoption relationship or request another missionary to adopt.

Can the missionaries count on you?  Would you commit to care for and support a Kentucky Mission Service Corps (KY-MSC) missionary?

Contact [email protected] to get connected with “your” adoptive missionary.

KBC: Helping Churches

Our mission as a convention is simple: created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.  The KBC staff aims to live out this mission of helping churches fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus.  But what exactly does this mission statement mean for the KBC? 

Created by churches

We exist as the Kentucky Baptist Convention because Baptist churches throughout Kentucky in 1837 desired to cooperate for the furthering of the gospel.  The KBC owes its existence to Baptist churches. 

For churches

Baptist churches created the KBC for churches.  In other words, the KBC was created not to be served by the churches, but to serve the churches.

To help churches

Thus, the KBC exists to help churches do what God has called the church to do—the Great Commission.  Because the KBC was created by churches, for churches, the convention exists to help churches.  Helping mobilize churches for the Great Commission is the mission of the KBC. 

Reach Kentucky and the world for Christ

God did not give the Great Commission to denominations or mission boards; He gave it to the church.  Denominations and mission boards are helpful insomuch as they help churches reach those across the street and across the sea with the gospel.

If your church needs help with carrying out the Great Commission of Jesus, please call on us.  If your church desires training or resources or ideas for Great Commission work, we are happy to help.  After all, we were created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach KY and the world for Christ.  Contact [email protected] to begin the discussion on how we can best help you.    

Storm Chasers

I have served almost twelve years as Disaster Relief Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and have been involved in countless disaster responses across our globe – from hurricanes on the Gulf Coast to tornadoes in the Midwest to famines in Africa. As I reflect on these events, there is no question in my mind that God is good and His heart breaks as He watches the suffering caused by these catastrophic events. For those reeling in the aftermath of these life-changing events, the loss can be overwhelming.

So what should our response be as the church to those suffering in the aftermath of these crushing incidents?

The Bible again and again calls us to reach to those wounded by life with compassion.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:12, ” Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The apostle Paul commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. “

This is at the heart of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. Disaster Relief volunteers respond time and time again to bring practical help, a healing touch, and the hope of Christ to those struggling in the aftermath of disasters. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are often the first on the ground and the last to leave these broken places. God’s light shines through the darkness as these responders offer the compassion and hope of Christ.

God often uses nature to both bless and to challenge us, to bring us food and to teach us the lessons of the struggle. The Bible challenges the church to fight against the devastation, disease, and brokenness of our world. He calls His followers to enter the battle and to be His hands and feet of compassion in a broken world. We are to leave the sidelines and enter the fray. As John reminds us,” This is how we have come to know love: Christ laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Historically, the church has always responded to tragedies with sacrifice and courage. During the third century it was the church that remained to minister to its neighbors when most others fled the plague. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provided millions of meals and rebuilt scores of homes. And last year, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provided over 116,000 meals to survivors of Hurricane Florence and assisted hundreds of families with chainsaw cleanup and recovery after Hurricane Michael.

As the followers of Christ, we choose to be “storm-chasers”. But we do not chase the storm to gather data, we chase the storm to bring help, healing, and hope.

If you would like to learn how you could become a Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, go to www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (502) 489-3527.

Meridzo Ministries Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary

Last week I was privileged to attend the 20-Year Anniversary Banquet of Meridzo Ministries in Harlan County, KY.  I too am celebrating 20-years with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Lonnie & Belinda Riley were two of the first people I met when I came on board.  It has been amazing to see Meridzo Ministries develop over the years.  Every time I make a visit, new and exciting things have happened at the ministry.

Dr. Larry Martin, retired Missions Team Leader with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has also connected with Meridzo from the beginning, and shares about the evening as a guest writer to this blog:

Meridzo Center Ministries, Lynch, KY celebrated 20 years of ministry in the heart of Appalachia on September 6-7. More than 200 people from at least 10 states gathered for a banquet on Friday evening at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn and a cookout on Saturday at Shekinah Village and The Stables at Creekside Glen. At the banquet, 22 current staff members of Meridzo were recognized. Meridzo is a faith-based ministry; no staff member receives a salary. 

At the banquet four speakers shared about the impact of Meridzo:  Dr. Larry Martin, retired KY Baptist Convention missions team leader; Dr. Bruce Ayers, president emeritus of Southeast KY Community College; Claude King, co-author with Henry Blackaby of the Experiencing God study; and George Otis, Jr., producer of Transformation Videos from communities around the world which are experiencing unusual movements of God. Martin has often described the movement of God in Lynch as “the greatest movement of God in one location I have experienced in more than 50 years of ministry.” Otis referred to the movement in Lynch as the greatest example of transformation he has encountered in North America. 

Lynch Mayor John S. Adams emphasized the positive impact of Meridzo Center during the past 20 years. In honor of that impact on Lynch and the surrounding area, he announced that the street on which the Meridzo Center office is located will be renamed “Solomon’s Way.” 

Lonnie and Belinda Riley, the founders of Meridzo Center Ministries, served for more than 20 years through the Ohio Southern Baptist Convention and in local churches in Ohio and Mississippi, before returning in March 1999 to their home area of Southeastern KY. Belinda was reared in Lynch; Lonnie was reared in Hazard and attended college in Lynch. There he met Belinda, became a believer, and felt a call to ministry. Unexpectedly, in late 1998 both sensed God leading them to “return home and help hurting people,” as they put it. Over the past 20 years God has displayed His power in amazing ways.

On Friday evening Lonnie announced a transition in leadership. Lonnie will remain the President and Chairman of the Board for Meridzo Center as well as continuing to do speaking engagements and representing the ministry. Drew Baldwin will succeed Lonnie as the CEO. Drew and his wife Leah have been Meridzo staff members for the past 10 years, and Drew has served as COO since 2014.

More information concerning Meridzo is available in the book “Miracle in the Mountains” and the DVD documentary “It’s Only Cookie Dough.” Website for Meridzo is:     meridzo.org

They Went because They Were Sent

In response to Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8), churches should be intentionally sending their members. Sending them on mission trips, church planting efforts, ministry projects and disaster relief responses. The church can reach our world with the gospel by putting the focus on how many we send rather than how many attend. 

What does it mean to send? Sending isthe act of enlisting, equipping and mobilizing believers to engage the world with the gospel through local community ministry, short-term mission experiences, church planting efforts, disaster relief work, vocational ministry, and long-term missionary service.

A sending church equips its members go, challenges them to live on mission every day, and provides many opportunities for them to demonstrate the gospel using their gifts, talents, and life experiences. 

First Baptist Church, Inez, Kentucky is one example of a sending church.  FBC Inez has experienced tremendous missions participation growth during the last two years  because pastor Casey Carver has made sending a priority. 

Pastor Casey preached a month-long series of sermons on the importance of missions, challenging the church to not only pray and give, but to send and go.  He used “One Call” to send a missions themed daily devotional by phone to the entire church during that month-long emphasis.

The church had not taken a mission trip in many years, so pastor Casey planned a 3-day mission trip to an eastern Kentucky ministry that was only 3 hours from their church.  They sent 25% of the church’s Sunday morning attendance on that initial mission trip.

Pastor Casey also encouraged the church to engage in ministry to the local community and many have done so.  Members are doing mission work through local ministries like Appalachian Reach Out, Haven of Rest, Heavenly Treasures Thrift Store, and God’s Food Pantry. Additionally, a group of ladies meets regularly to knit items that are given to residents of the local nursing home. 

The church recognized the need of children in the foster care system who arrive at local homes with nothing to call their own.  Therefore, the church began a ministry in which they provide host families with backpacks filled with items needed by foster children.

The sending of members on mission continues, as does the vision for how that will happen.  Pastor Casey has taken steps toward a new ministry called, God’s Connection, that will serve as a residential drug recovery ministry.  That vision includes a coffee shop and thrift store that will provide revenue for the ministry and a place of employment for those in the program. They have received permission to use an old motel for the ministry are seeking donations to help with renovation as plans for God’s Connection and the micro-ministries are developed. 

Sending people on mission out from the church won’t happen by accident.  There must be intentionality by church leadership, specifically, the pastor.  Pastors, will you challenge your members to go?  Churches, will you send your members out on mission as commanded by Christ?  We serve a sending God who expects nothing less from us, than to go, because we’ve been sent.