Published October 17, 2013
At our convention annual meeting at the Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Georgia, we will be collecting 20,000 backpacks for the children of Appalachia. I thought you might be interested in knowing more about our work in Appalachia from a recent report I received from Bill Barker who serves as the National Director for Appalachian Regional Ministries. Georgia Baptists have been in partnership with Bill, serving alongside him and under his leadership among the people in Appalachia since Appalachian Regional Ministries first began.
In his recent annual report, Bill states that mission volunteers have come from across the Southern Baptist Convention to serve in the rural communities in central Appalachia as well as in the metropolitan cities that cover the region from Alabama to New York. Close to 43,000 volunteers have served this year with over 3,500 salvation decisions. There are over 100 compassion ministry sites where Dewey and Kathie Aiken, National MSC missionaries, assist the ministry to impoverished children, families and elderly persons.
Bill reports that in 2012 working with the Georgia Baptist Convention, WMUs, and churches within other states, Appalachian Regional Ministries collected and delivered 5,800 Christmas backpacks for Appalachian children. In his national report, Bill shares the fact that this year our Georgia Baptist Convention has challenged our churches to collect 20,000 backpacks for the children of Appalachia and that ARM is challenging churches outside of Georgia to collect an additional 10,000 backpacks for the children.
Bill suggests that one way ARM helps with sharing the Gospel is through the ARM Mailbox Bible Club (MBC) which is headed up by Carol and Les Posey in cooperation with the First Baptist Church of Mary Esther, Florida. The Poseys and their team of volunteers are on track to process over 8,000 correspondence Bible lessons.
The MBC over the past 18 months has moved beyond Appalachia and is now in 30 states. The Mailbox Bible Club is also being used in prison ministry where Bible lessons are going into 50 prisons and regional jails in 15 states. Bill reports that God continues to use the tract Appalachian Regional Ministries utilizes to introduce the Mailbox Bible Club. The tract is titled “How Can I Get to Heaven?” This year the North American Mission Board printed the one-millionth copy for distribution.
Since 1999, Appalachian Regional Ministries has been involved in church revitalization with the goal being to come alongside the pastor and key leadership in the church to provide coaching while using short-term mission volunteers to assist them in penetrating their communities with the Gospel. Please pray for Tom and Ann Patterson who serve ARM in the work of revitalization among the churches.
ARM is also involved with church planting across the Appalachian region and assisting church planters in discovering long-term partners and mission volunteers.
Should you wish to read more about Appalachian Regional Ministries, I would encourage you to go to the website www.arministry.org.
I count it a privilege and a joy to come alongside a committed servant of Jesus Christ, Bill Barker, in the ministry to the people of Appalachia. Without a doubt this is one of the most poverty-stricken areas of our country and in much need of care and compassion as well as the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. I trust that you are working diligently to prepare your backpacks for the children of Appalachia.
I would love to see us go over 20,000 backpacks. We can do this because Georgia Baptists love the Lord and are a generous and compassionate people. May God richly bless our efforts to minister among the people of Appalachia and may God continue to bless the good work and ministry of Bill Barker.
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