Written by: Michael & Melisa Bell
A new school year was coming for the children and families of eastern Kentucky. A new school year can, for many be an exciting time filled with the opportunity for new beginnings, new opportunities, and the chance for growth and learning. However, for many parents, grandparents and guardians in eastern Kentucky, the anticipation of the return to school can bring with it a time of anxiety due to the inability to provide much needed school supplies and clothing for their children because of poverty, socioeconomic struggles, lack of employment and many other difficulties.
God’s Appalachian Partnership along with its many dedicated volunteers – some who have been participating with them in ministry for years and some who were brand new volunteers this day – came bright and early to Minnie, Kentucky on July 29, 2017. The volunteers began to pray, prepare and welcome hundreds of families and children to KidStock 2017 to accomplish one mission and vision – to provide each child with a tangible expression of God’s Love. The event is an opportunity to provide a school age child with a backpack filled with school supplies, new shoes, new socks, a fun family event and more importantly – MOST IMPORTANTLY – an opportunity to hear the message of Jesus Christ.
Our family, which includes us, Michael and Melisa Bell, as well as our children, Isaac age 16, Jonah age 15 and Abby age 11, are so thankful to have been involved with GAP throughout the years through various volunteer experiences. On this particular day, we arrived at KidStock without a particular “job” in mind and not having been pre-assigned a volunteer duty. We were just answering a call for volunteers through our local church and were trying to be willing to serve. After waiting for all the assignments to be handed out, we along with our 11 year old daughter, Abby, were placed by the leadership at the “Salvation Keychain/Evangelism” Station with several other volunteers from around Kentucky. Throughout the day, we had hundreds of children, along with their families, come by our Station. Many were waiting to receiving their supplies and new shoes, however others would come with smiles that would light up a room, showing us with such delight their new bright shoes, their brand new backpacks and their supplies they had received. Our responsibility at the Salvation Keychain/Evangelism Station was no different than anyone else’s that day, just in a different form…share the love of Jesus in a tangible way. We were able to do this by assisting each child in crafting a beautiful keychain they could place on their newly received backpack with colorful beads that told the salvation story in an easy to understand method. Each child also received a bracelet with the same beads, a written copy of the salvation story and a New Testament. Often, the parents would ask us for a bracelet as well and we had time to share with them, give them a Bible, mark a place for them to begin reading and pray over their lives and circumstances. It was a grand opportunity to build relationships, tell the story of Jesus’ love for them and His sacrifice for them on the cross, and offer them the gift of salvation. We talked throughout the day that we honestly could not think of another single day where we had shared the Gospel message individually with that many people! What a great day!
An added benefit and beautiful experience for us as a family at KidStock this year was watching our daughter Abby develop in her ability to share her faith. We noticed throughout the morning that she closely watched us and the other volunteers share the Gospel message repeatedly with children and parents. When we began to get busy and had many people coming at one time, she just jumped right in and did what came natural to her…she shared her faith and told the gospel story also – many times! Our teenage boys worked tirelessly all day, setting up the event, helping other volunteers, working all day at one of the carnival games, serving children and families, having fun and interacting with them, loving them, giving out school supplies and cleaning up after the event. What a joy to witness!
We have found that serving as a family with God’s Appalachian Partnership has been a fantastic way to model a lifestyle of missions. By volunteering with GAP on many occasions, our family, including our children, are learning, understanding and developing a heart for people, and their role in missions and the Great Commission! I strongly encourage you to get involved in missions and support God’s Appalachian Partnership…as an individual, a couple, or as a family. God will stretch you as far as you are willing to be stretched. He will use you if you are willing to go! (Please click on the Photo to view more images of the ministry event.)