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Faithful Servant of Christ

If you have ever served here at God’s Appalachian Partnership, you have probably met Mary Poole. In her own right, she is a legend around here. She was never one to talk about herself but her life story is one amazing journey of faith!

Mary was born August 30, 1935 in Pennsylvania and was soon placed in foster care never knowing her biological parents. As a young teen, she was sent to a family that fostered many kids near Philadelphia, PA which became her home. There she was introduced to the Gospel, accepted God’s salvation, and grew up in the Mennonite Church. After graduating high school, she sensed God directing her to missions so she decided to do a 2-year assignment of VS. VS in the Mennonite denomination stands for “volunteer service” and refers to a mission program where Mennonites go for a period of time and serve without pay.  During her first VS term, she discovered she wanted to serve others by being a nurse. After that first term, she went to school and graduated as a Register Nurse and decided to serve another 2-year assignment of VS, this time as a RN.

A small hospital in McDowell, KY was in need of nurses, so Mary Poole and another Mennonite VS lady was sent to serve for 2 years. Mary completed her first term, but the need for nurses was so great that she signed up for another 2-year assignment in McDowell. When those 2 years were up, Mary had fallen in love with the people and decided that she was not leaving. That first 2-year assignment at this little hospital ended up turning into a 49-year career.  

God had called her to missions and she was a missionary. She took numerous mission trips both abroad and locally. Her heart for the lost took her to Hatti, Ukraine, Brazil, Russia, Iran, and Israel just to name a few places. She also traveled in the US responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornados in order to minister to hurting people. Mary traveled the world but her heart was for the people of Floyd County and Appalachia.

For years when she still worked at the hospital, she always made sure one of her “off days” was distribution day at God’s Appalachian Partnership. Mary faithfully served the local community through GAP. God used her to share the Gospel with hundreds of people at GAP which resulted with numerous people accepting God’s call to salvation. She gave her time and resources to anyone who was hurting or in need. Christ’s love and compassion flowed through her to others.

I know no other person that exemplified Matthew 6:3-4 so well, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Mary gave and helped so many people without asking for anything in return.

Mary was a faithful member of McDowell First Baptist Church where she sang in the choir, was member of the WINGS group, and actively served Christ. For many years, she served as a director on the board of GAP.  For 57 years, McDowell, KY was Mary’s home. However, on March 14, 2022, the Lord called Mary Poole to her eternal home in glory. The Lord ushered her in and said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Just a week before her passing, Mary called me and asked me to stop by her house. She had made 20 loaves of banana nut bread for me to freeze and give out to our families during distribution. Even though she was not physically able to be at GAP anymore she was still giving to our families in so many different ways.

There are two ways you can give in memory of Mary Poole if you desire. Since nursing was one of her loves for 49 years, the McDowell Appalachian Regional Hospital, McDowell First Baptist Church, and God’s Appalachian Partnership have partnered together to offer a Mary Poole Memorial Nursing Scholarship to a student from Floyd Central High School who is pursuing a degree in nursing. Mary’s other love was the ministry of God’s Appalachian Partnership. Mary gave countless hours and resources to GAP serving the community. She so hoped to be here to see GAP move into a distribution/office complex on the new property. Although this was not God’s plan for her, you can contribute to the building fund allowing GAP to continue serving families for future years. Please email your donation in memory of Poole designating which you would prefer.  

New Ministries on the Horizon

God’s Appalachian Partnership is excited to announce that we plan on launching two new ministries this fall: free dental clinic and after-school tutoring. Both of these are in response to great needs in our area.

A few years ago, we had the privilege of partnering with a mobile dental unit and local dental professionals to host free dental clinics. We were overwhelmed by the need for oral healthcare in our region. We only had access to the mobile dental unit once a year which meant about 30-40 appointments in one day. However, we received hundreds of calls from people who needed to come to the dental clinic.

After much prayer and discussion with a group of local dental professionals, we began envisioning what a free regional dental clinic would look like in our area. God began to move and dentists that were retiring decided to donate their equipment to GAP instead of selling it. Plans are in motion to convert one of our buildings on Elk Ridge into the Dental Clinic. Please lift this ministry project up in prayer as we seek permits, begin the remodeling phase, and the necessary funds to complete these tasks as well as purchasing the other required dental items for the clinic. We are projecting the clinic to be open by this fall! What an exciting way to meet people at their point of need and share with them the love of Jesus Christ!  

We are just as excited about our second new ministry for 2022. Prior to Covid-19, families, especially grandparents and great-grandparents who were raising kids, shared with us how difficult it was for them to help their children with homework. Covid-19 and a shift toward virtual learning increased these difficulties. After much prayer and discussion with key local partners, GAP will be offering after-school tutoring for children.

Due to a lack of space at our current facilities, we are partnering with Floyd County Fiscal Court and McDowell Senior Citizens to hold the tutoring at the senior citizens’ building in McDowell. We are also partnering with the Floyd County Public School System. Tutoring will be one day a week and we will offer a hot, nutritious meal, tutoring, and a Bible story. We plan to infuse art and music into the sessions also. Our target audience will be just across the road at the Left Beaver Townhouses.   

We are excited to see how the Lord is leading us in these two new ventures. Please pray as we prepare spaces, make plans, seek volunteers and the financial resources needed to begin these new ministries. We look forward to having two different avenues to meet people at their point of need and share with them the love of Jesus Christ!

Easter Event 2022

For millions in our culture, the word Easter brings to mind images of colorful eggs, baskets full of candy, and chocolate bunnies. God’s Appalachian Partnership has been seeking to transform our community’s view of Easter by holding an annual Community Easter Egg Hunt called Hunting for the Truth. Although the ministry event has age appropriate egg hunts, the focus of the day is to share the true meaning of Easter, Jesus is Alive!

This year’s event was held on April 2nd with 283 registered participants and 85 volunteers from 7 different churches. We had a wonderful attendance after not being able to have it for the last two years due to Covid-19. One family said, “We look forward to this every year. When the kids saw the banner hanging a couple weeks ago they got so excited. It gets us all out of the house and doing something together. Thanks to everyone who puts this together!”

As always, the day was filled with 7,500 filled Easter eggs, music, games, food, inflatables, lots of fun, and the Gospel. This year, when children and families rotated to the Truth Pavilion, kids were given their own bag of Legos. Then using Legos, the Gospel was vividly explained to the children and their families. Volunteers used the Legos to create a tree, giraffe, heart, and cross to present the Gospel story. An older man who said he believed in God overhead a volunteer sharing the Gospel with a family at the Truth Pavilion. He spoke up and said he had never heard some of those things before and wanted to know more about this Jesus!

Later that afternoon, a grandmother came up to one of our male volunteers and thanked him for talking to her grandson about the Lord and his need to continue growing in his faith. It meant a lot to her because her grandson lacked a positive male role model in his life.

It was a wonderful day of ministry. We are grateful for the many volunteers who came and served alongside of us for the day and the many other partners who supported us through prayer. The Lord blessed and we are grateful for everyone’s partnership in ministry! May we continue to proclaim, “Jesus is Alive!”

Missionary Opportunities @ GAP

We are excited to announce that God’s Appalachian Partnership is accepting applicants for our Summer Internship Program and two full time staff. For our internship program, we are looking for Christ-centered, college age, highly motivated adults who would love to serve alongside us this summer for a minimum of 10 weeks. GAP will work with you to customize an internship that fits your needs, skills, and experience. You will be working with a dynamic group of staff members who have a passion for service and want to see you grow and develop. We promise to be accessible and share with you what we have learned over the past 20+ years serving in eastern Kentucky. All interns will be provided with training activities in leadership development, professional practice skills, and team development. We will also provide interns with a stipend as well as housing. If you would like more information or would like to apply to be an intern, please click on the image above.

God’s Appalachian Partnership is also looking for two mature Christians to join our ministry team who are highly motivated and have a servant’s heart for the people of eastern Kentucky. Please reach out to our Executive Director, John Morris at john.morris@gapky.org for more information and to receive an application. Please join us in praying that the Lord will raise up individuals to fill these staff and intern positions!

Christmas Project 2021

A young couple, Amber & Billy, pulled up to the Christmas Store for their appointment. They were greeted at their vehicle as someone brought a bag full of gifts for their two little girls. Barry, a member of the visiting mission team, introduced himself to the couple and handed them the 2021 GAP Christmas ornament. He stated that it was a gift from GAP to their family and that we would love for them to hang it on their tree Christmas morning before gifts were opened, and to read with their children the attached card that told the Christmas story.

The couple was excited to receive the ornament and to share it on Christmas. At that moment, Barry looked at Amber and asked, “Do you know Jesus as your Savior?” She quickly replied, “I’m not saved.” He went on to say, “Jesus has sent me the whole way here to tell you how you can be saved. Would you like to hear?” Amber said, “Yes.”

Barry began sharing the plan of salvation using John 3:16 and 17. He then asked her if she would like to pray then and there to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She affirmed and Barry lead her in a prayer of repentance. To his surprise what he heard as the prayer was being repeated was both Amber’s and Billy’s voices. After the prayer, Barry opened his eyes to see the couple both in tears, broken, yet excited about their new found faith in Jesus Christ. Billy shared that they had just been talking about going to church and that now they couldn’t wait to go.

Amber and Billy’s story is just one family that was blessed by Christmas Project 2021. We have also been overwhelmingly blessed by our many donors and sponsors who allowed us to minister to 486 children this year through this program. The Christmas story and the Gospel were shared with every family! We continue to pray that God will use those gifts as visible reminders of His provision and amazing love for each family. All of us at God’s Appalachian Partnership would like to thank you who have sponsored a child and/or prayed for this ministry event. God is at work!

Summer Ministry 2021

This summer was like a breath of fresh air as we hosted six mission teams who served alongside us for a ministry-filled summer here at God’s Appalachian Partnership. After a year of having no mission teams and limited ministry due to COVID-19, the staff was excited to engage our communities with the Gospel. We continued with drive-thru distribution and teams served families a hot meal in to-go-boxes, prayed with them, and shared the Gospel. Our GAP families loved the interactions and delicious food they were served!

We had five weeks of Day Camps (four days each week) for children in our area in three different locations. One week, we hosted two different Day Camps at different locations. We had a wonderful turn out averaging 10-12 children each day. The teams did a tremendous job not only sharing the Gospel Message but also showing the love of Christ with these children. Once the camps ended and teams left, many of the kids would ask for team members by name.

After a long pause in ministry, we were so excited to be back into the Group Home to visit our precious friends. It had been a year since the staff had been in the facility due to COVID-19. Some of our old friends had passed away, others had moved, a few were still there, but it did not take long to make many new friends! What a blessing it is to visit and minister here each week. Plus, we were able to start back at the Senior Citizens Building for about three weeks this summer. How we have missed seeing their smiling faces, even through masks!

Throughout the summer, several teams continued to help us minister to families affected by the March 1st flood with home repairs. The Lord has given us amazing opportunities to share the Gospel and build relationships with many families we would have never had the opportunity to meet before. One mission team helped us host a block party in a community greatly affected by the flooding. It was very special to see families who were once so overwhelmed by disaster, join together and be blessed by the fellowship of community and the great love of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in our county, on July 22nd we had to cancel the rest of the mission teams for July, August and September. Later the difficult decision was made to cancel all teams through the rest of 2021 calendar year. We did not come to this decision lightly but for several weeks the number of cases in our region were extremely high. Many of our families had to cancel distribution appointments because they were sick with COVID-19. Please pray for our region as it is being hit hard by this pandemic.   

We praise God for the following partner mission teams that were able to serve alongside of us this summer: Lawndale BC (Lawndale, NC), Forks of Elkhorn BC (Frankfort, KY), Wake Cross Roads BC (Raleigh, NC), Memorial BC (New Haven, MO), Parksville BC (Parksville, KY), and South Orlando BC (Orlando, FL).

Sponsors Needed

We are gearing up for a busy, ministry packed Christmas season at God’s Appalachian Partnership. Due to COVID-19, Christmas Project 2021 will look different this year compared to previous years. However, one thing will remain the same: as families receive needed Christmas gifts they will continue to hear the Gospel message! Christmas Store will be a drive-thru ministry this year. As we register each child we will be taking an interest inventory for gift ideas. And even though we do not start our Christmas project signups until this month, we have been receiving calls for weeks now. It would be easy to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed but we know and trust that God will provide for that which He has called us to do!

GAP began to have sponsorships for the Christmas Project in 2001. Since 2008, the sponsorship amount, per child, has been $35. Now, 13 years later, we see the need to increase that sponsorship amount to $43 per child. The cost of quality gifts has increased, especially gifts for teenagers. $3 of every tax-deductible gift will cover administrative costs and $40 will be used to purchase gifts. Administrative costs include the design and purchase of GAP’s annual Christmas ornament and materials that are used to present the Gospel.

We are grateful for all our partners. If you are unable to sponsor the entire $43 please give as you are led. Every amount, not matter how great or small, will be used to glorify God! Your faithful partnership in ministry is a blessing and allows us to share the Gospel with families in our area! Please consider sponsoring a child today!

Flood Recovery Update

On March 1, 2021, we saw one of the worse flash floods to hit our region since the 1980’s. In Floyd County alone, 199 homes where affected: 12 destroyed, 95 experienced major damage, 81 minor damage, and 11 affected. Total damages estimated at $1.937 million. In normal circumstances rebuilding a home after a disaster presents many challenges, but striving to rebuild during a global pandemic and in an economic depressed region compounds the problem and can leave individuals feeling hopeless.

We are grateful for our many partners who have allowed us to minister to 72 different families over the last several months related to flood relief and recovery. Just a day or two after the flood we were out walking the roads listening to families, feeling their pain, giving out immediate resources, and praying with them. We were overwhelmed with how the Lord provided for the needs of each family, even as those needs changed as days turned into weeks. We handed out cleaning supplies, gift certificates to local restaurants, new and used clothing, building supplies, new and used appliances and furniture, and new mattresses and box spring sets with sheets.                

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Teams from South Carolina came in for three weeks working a total of 884.5 hours and completing a total of 31 mud-out projects. We also had other teams from Smoke Rise BC (Stone Mountain, GA), Fitzpatrick BC (Prestonsburg, KY), and Calvary BC (Lewistown, PA) who helped with rebuild projects. We built many new relationships in our community, had several Gospel-centered conversations, and saw two people come to know Christ!

Summer Ministry 2020

This summer we have enjoyed a different way of doing Children’s Ministry. Due to Covid-19, we had to think outside the box to reach the children that would normally attend day camps. After much prayer and planning we decided to do a front porch Bible time in a couple of our county’s apartment complexes. Families sat on their front porch while we stood in the parking area telling a Bible story through skits. We provided each child with a packet of activities, crafts and a snack to go along with the story each week for four weeks throughout the month of July.

We purposefully planned this event between 5:00 and 6:00 pm so that parents would be home. Not only were children out on their porches, but parents and grandparents also sat listening to the Bible stories and interacting together. Both adults and children were enthralled with the big God of scripture. They discovered that God is the One True God (Elijah on Mount Carmel), Our big God controls even the winds and waves (Jesus walks on the water), Our God enables us to face our big problems (David and Goliath), and Our big God wants us to do big things (The Good Samaritan).

Week after week, we watched the anticipation of the kids grow while a handful of middle school aged kids stood in the background too embarrassed and “cool” to be a part of the group. Each week we passed out the activity packs to all the younger children and tried to encourage the middle schoolers to take one as well. Unfortunately the snack was the only offering they would partake of. On our third week, we finished telling the story of Jesus calming the storm. As we headed back to the office, we looked over and saw that the middle school kids were sitting outside with the younger ones going through all the activities helping them with crafts and other Bible materials.

When you plant a seed you never know how God will use it. We are praying that the Lord will use the scripture and the activity packs that were handed out in a big way. Please join us in praying for the children and families in our area. Pray that the seed that was planted will be watered and flourish to life!

Christmas Project 2020

We have been strategizing a game plan for Christmas ministry for several weeks now. Christmas Project 2020 will be different from previous years because of Covid-19, but we are preparing for a wonderful season of gifts and celebration of our Lord and Savior. GAP’s 2020 limited edition Christmas ornaments arrived a couple weeks ago, which has increased our staff’s excitement. It was with a heavy heart we had to cancel our Easter and back-to-school ministry events, but after much prayer and planning we are preparing for an exciting Christmas Project 2020. However, this year more than ever, we need the prayers and support of all of our donors.

Several aspects will be changing this year. One of the biggest will be not having mission teams helping at the store. Parents’ Store, where children shop for their parents, has been cancelled. In the last couple years, we have had 4 days of traditional Christmas Store, one day of deliveries, and one day at Weeksbury for a total of 6 days. With the current guidelines of Covid-19 it will take us 12 days to accomplish the same and with no mission teams. Plus, we have decided to try and do a lot of shopping online compared to in person to keep down exposure, allowing us to begin early, and enabling us as a staff to shop at a pace we can handle with little help.

We need your help to share the Good News of the Savior with many families in our area. We believe there will be a huge need during this time, which provides a massive opportunity to share the story of Jesus with those who are hurting and are hopeless. Please consider sponsoring a child/children and encouraging your friends and family to sponsor also. Join us in praying for this Christmas ministry.