‘Little church’ in Georgia does big work in Appalachia


SOCIAL CIRCLE — With just around 35 regular members, Berean Baptist Church in Social Circle looks pretty ordinary. But this church has an extraordinary passion for missions – locally, globally, but specifically in Appalachia.

The first year Berean Baptist Church collected backpacks, they collected 60. Eight years later in 2018, they collected 470 under the leadership of their missions pastor, Bill Burnett. BEREAN BAPTIST CHURCH/Special

In 2018 alone, the church donated around 100,000 pounds of food and clothes, 470 backpacks, socks, diapers, and gift bags to children in need throughout Appalachia. And they’re not planning to slow down in the new year. Already, they’re collecting baby items in preparation to send them to those in need.

Over the last eight years their missions pastor, Bill Burnett, has been a part of their church, they’ve cultivated relationships with ministries in Whitesburg, Kentucky; Williamsburg, Kentucky; Beattyville, Kentucky; Beaver, West Virginia; Welch, West Virginia; Sevierville, Tennessee; Ducktown, Tennessee; and other places. Locally, the church supports Newton Pregnancy Center and Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief.

But just last week, Burnett contacted Bill Barker, affectionately known as the “Backpack Guy” in Georgia, asking if he has another missions connection in which they can get involved. In fact, all the aforementioned Appalachian ministry connections came about because of Barker.

Burnett, who previously served as a NAMB missionary to eastern Canada, got a call from Berean, located in his hometown, to be their missions pastor as he and his wife, Sarah, were planning to return from the mission field. Around the same time he also got a call from Barker.

Berean Baptist Church's Missions Pastor Bill Burnett, a retired NAMB missionary, checks boxes headed to a ministry in Appalachia. BEREAN BAPTIST CHURCH/Special

“Then Bill Barker called me and said, ‘Bill will you serve in Appalachia? I know a good church that you would fit in.’ And I said, ‘Bill I cannot do that. I’m praying about a church in Covington,’” Burnett recounted. However, he agreed to pray and see where God would lead.

And although Burnett ended up accepting the call to be the missions pastor at Berean Baptist, he’s used that as an opportunity to get an entire church rallied around reaching and serving Appalachia.

This past year, through the generosity of the entire church, he and his missions team of around a half-dozen senior citizens, bagged up 50 Ziploc bags of Christmas supplies and hygiene items for children in Appalachia. He was responding to a direct request from one of their partner ministries. “We filled 50 of those bags and took them so they could be clean at Christmas,” he said.

But, Burnett recognizes that his “little church” couldn’t do it alone. Not only does the missions team put in the effort, many of them work in husband-wife teams to clean, fold, and load boxes of laundry to be donated. Local businesses get involved in donating supplies as well.

And not only have the people who the church ministered to been helped, but the missions team itself has seen it impact their lives.

“I so love being on the mission team. Working with Rev. Burnett and his wife Sarah, I have learned the importance of helping others,” shared Linda Feistamel, a part of one of the husband-wife teams who gives of her time to organize the supplies.

She continued, “There is a certain drive that just comes upon you to want to help those who need help, and I feel honored to have been asked to be on the missions team. God could have taken me home to heaven due to a life-threatening illness 12 years ago, but He had different plans for my life. Little did I know it was missions.”

God could have taken me home to heaven due to a life-threatening illness 12 years ago, but He had different plans for my life.

Linda Feistamel

And although Burnett is thankful for those volunteers who give of their time and resources to help those in need, his motto is “We give God all the glory.”

“The Lord sent me to Georgia to do the work in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Appalachia,” he shared. “It’s the Lord’s work. It’s not our work. It’s His work. He put us all in this place through Bill Barker.”

Appalachia, Appalachian Mountain Ministry, Christmas Backpacks, missions