Category Archives: The Footprint

New Ministries in 2018

GAP is overjoyed to announce the launch of four new ministries in 2018! In March we will be opening a thrift store for GAP families. God laid this ministry on our director’s heart over a year ago, and the vision was to build a home for this ministry on Elk Ridge in the second building phase. However, over the last couple of months, God has been clearly saying that the time for this ministry is now. We are in the process of converting the warehouse used for the Christmas Store into a thrift store that will be opened the first week of each month, February through October. It has been challenging working out the logistics with the constraints of our space, but through some creativity we are making it work. This will not only meet a great need in the lives of our families by providing clothing, household goods, and some furniture, but it will also allow us more opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus with those in our area. We have estimated that it will cost nearly $650 to purchase the supplies and equipment needed to do this, but we know that God will provide for that which He has called us to do. We are also concerned about the limited parking space that is available at the warehouse. For those of you who have helped during the Christmas Store, you know just how limited we are and how difficult it can be. Please pray for provision, but also safety for those who come, and for wisdom for those developing solutions.

In April, we will begin a 4-week series of Bible study classes each Thursday at the distribution building. We have chosen to host because we have seen that God has allowed us to create an atmosphere where our families feel safe and at ease. Our desire is that through these classes, people would feel comfortable enough to ask questions about the Bible thus providing them with a time of discipleship and spiritual growth. We want to encourage them in their Christian walk and to connect them with one of our local churches. Many of you know the challenges we will face in this area. Please pray that God’s truth will be revealed to those who do not fully understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately ask that you mark these days on your calendar to pray for those God will send and for those He has called to teach.

Throughout late Spring and early Summer, we will begin a ministry called Supper @ GAP. Several times a month, we will invite our families back to GAP to have a family picnic outside with food, games, and music. We were able to do a few of these ministry events last year and our families absolutely loved them. But more importantly, we as a staff see these events as an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with our families and to share the Gospel. During distribution and other ministry events, we (staff) are so busy working, that we are unable to solely focus on the one-on-one ministry. We are designing this ministry event in a way that would allow GAP staff to have no other responsibilities but to fellowship and share with our families. We want to provide a time where we are able to listen to our families and see how God is at work. We know that developing strong relationships and building trust is vital to any ministry here in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

The last new ministry we have developed has been in the works for several years. We are excited to finally be able to transform the way we do VBS and Backyard Bible Clubs during the summer. Mission Teams will now assist us in offering a three-week, three days each week, Day Camp. We will be hosting three of these Day Camps over the course of the summer. Each camp will be strategically held in a different location over the course of the 9-week summer. We have chosen the Bible study materials for the Day Camps so that each week builds upon the next and provides continuity. Each week will also have a special focus allowing the team to utilize their gifts and talents to engage the children in activities that they may not normally have the opportunity to enjoy. It is our desire to be more intentional with how VBS is done so that each child will be able to grow in their knowledge and relationship of who God is and what He has done.

We are excited about the new ministries of 2018 and the direction God is leading us in. We are thrilled at the prospect of being able to engage more people in our communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! God is mightily at work, opening new doors for us to serve here in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. We invite you to join with us in praying for these new ministries. Your partnership is vital to this ministry. We are grateful and praise God for each of you!


Christmas Project 2017

(Click photo to view more images of this ministry event)

In 2016, we began the new tradition of giving an annual limited edition GAP Christmas ornament to each family who came to the Christmas Store. Each ornament was presented in a box with a story attached describing the true gift of Christmas. It was our hope that they would read the story to their entire family as they hung the ornament on their tree. It was exciting this year to hear the countless stories of how God used the ornament. Several families told us that before any presents were opened, they hung the ornament on the tree and read the Christmas Story aloud to their whole family Christmas morning. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever done that. Needless to say, our families were thrilled to receive this year’s ornament “Star of Wonder” (Matthew 2:2). This is yet another tool used to share the greatest gift given to all mankind – Jesus Christ!

GAP’s Christmas Stores are always such a blessing to many in our community and to all of us who have the privilege of serving in them. This year God blessed 749 children through the Christmas Store with $42,568.00 worth of presents! Each family also received a beautiful fleece blanket that a partnering church had made. It was amazing to see how each blanket pattern or character was perfectly suited to each child who would receive it. My heart rejoices to know that I serve an almighty God who knew how much a Paw Patrol blanket would mean to a child and how He guided someone in another part of the state to make it. New families and families who have been there before, were in awe of all that God had provided. One young couple was moved to tears as they heard for the first time that God provided these toys just for them and their family because He loves them. This past Tuesday, at distribution, one father even brought in pictures of his children opening the gifts they had received to show how thankful they were that God would do something like this for them. It is such an honor to share the hope of Jesus Christ during Christmas with the families here in the mountains of Appalachia.

On December 11th, we held our annual Parents’ Store ministering to 165 children, grades K through 5th, and their parents. This is an exciting night of ministry as children come with their parents to pick out Christmas gifts for two adults. During this ministry event, the family hears the Christmas Story and children are taught that Christmas is not just about receiving gifts but also about giving. God gave the greatest gift on Christmas morning so that we could have eternal life. It is such a blessing to help the children shop and to fellowship with parents as they wait.

I would also like to say a special “thank you,” to all the volunteers who served alongside us at the Christmas Store, Parents’ Store, and to those who provided food. We are also so grateful for the many sponsors who gave so generously and for those who partnered through prayer. I cannot express in words my gratitude for your faithfulness and your value in ministry. This ministry event is so much more than Christmas toys for kids. It gives families hope during a time of year when it is easy to be overwhelmed with all that one doesn’t have. Christmas Project reminds us all that Jesus Christ is our Hope!  (Click here to view more images of this ministry event.)

KidStock 2017

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.)

KidStock 2016

dsc_0115On Saturday, July 30th we held our annual back-to-school ministry event, KidStock. The Lord blessed us with a beautiful day and provided all the needed resources for this wonderful ministry event. Families arrived by appointment and each school age child was given a nametag and backpack. Then the fun began! Families walked around playing carnival type games filling their backpacks with much needed school supplies. The day was filled with delicious treats such as cotton candy & snow cones, amazing clowns sharing God’s love through balloon art & laughter, fun filled inflatables, stories of God and His creation through the use of exotic animals by AnimalTales from western Kentucky, and numerous volunteers with hearts dedicated to Jesus and sharing His love.

Throughout the day each family rotated into the building where they were presented a skit of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Then, in the solemn quietness of the moment, individual volunteers humbly knelt before each child, washed their feet, and placed a new pair of socks and tennis shoes on them while sharing the world’s most powerful message, the Gospel.

During this time, I had the privilege of sitting with a grandmother who is currently raising five of her grandchildren. As the children were having their feet washed, her eight year old grandson finished and came running over. Full of excitement, he said “Look mawmaw, my new shoes are orange, my favorite color!” I spoke up and told him that I loved his new shoes. Then I asked him if he knew who had given them to him. The boy responded, “The lady who washed my feet said Jesus did.” “That’s right!” I said, “God provided those shoes just for you because He loves you so much and cares for you.” At this point, all I could think to myself was “WOW! Thank you God for allowing me to be part of this!”

Backpacks, pencils, erasers, crayons, scissors, folders, paper, notebooks, socks, shoes – all of these are just tools that the Lord has given us to use during the back-to-school season to share His love! Our prayer is that as each child continues to use these items, they will be reminded of who provided each of them and why.

Praise God for all our generous donors and partners who made this ministry event a great success! Thank you for your prayers and for the many volunteers who came and served alongside of us for the day! Thank you for standing in the GAP! (Please click on the image above to view more photos of KidStock 2016.)

Gleaning Garden

14256293_1249613498416456_1685670340_n1“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 23:22

According to, each year, well over 100 billion pounds of food are thrown away in this country. Some estimates from 2009 indicate that up to 20 percent of America’s entire food supply goes to waste. At the same time, there are 49 million people, including more than 16 million children, who are at risk of going hungry. Gleaning—the practice of collecting and donating excess foods—helps simultaneously address these pressing issues. Importantly, it also gives low-income individuals access to fresh and locally grown foods. In fact, more than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income neighborhoods where affordable, quality and nutritious foods are inaccessible.

In an effort to combat hunger issues in the rural community of McDowell, Kentucky, the IMPACT (Influencing My Peers As a Christian Teen) Youth Group from McDowell First Baptist Church decided to create a “Gleaning Garden.” Toward the end of May, forty youth and adults came together, tilled the land and planted the seeds that would later bring forth corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, green beans and other fruits and vegetables. The care and upkeep of the garden was performed by the youth in shifts throughout the impending months. The entire harvest was delivered to GAP as it became ripened and able to be picked. Then, the fruits and vegetables were distributed by the missionaries at GAP accordingly.

It was a very rewarding experience to all that were involved. The work was hard, but the benefits far outweighed the labor. It was an event that taught the youth group real life lessons about gardening, use of the land, how hard work pays off, reaping what you sow and many other intangible wisdoms. IMPACT is excited to create an even bigger garden with a larger variety of fruits and vegetables next year! (Please click on the image above to view more photos.)

Community Easter Egg Hunt 2016

GAP’s annual Community Easter Egg Hunt was held on March 19, 2016 and was a huge success! One client commented, “My children had a wonderful time at the Easter Egg Hunt but I don’t know who was more excited to discover the truth about Easter, me or my kids!” This client was referring to the new theme for this year’s ministry event called “Hunting for the Truth.” When families arrived to the event, each received a brochure listing the day’s events and schedule, but also, a coded message, which was the truth of Easter. As each child played various carnival-type games they collected 10 specially coded cards. Once they had all 10 cards, the children and families went to the Truth Pavilion in order to decode the truth. There they received special glasses that allowed them to view the message on each coded card and to decode the truth of Easter – Jesus is Alive! At the Truth Pavilion, each child also received a bracelet that had resurrection symbols which allowed us to share the full message of Easter.

The day was filled with egg hunts for different age groups, various games that families could play together, inflatables, food, singing, and so much fun! 457 people attended the ministry event. Volunteers from seven different churches partnered with us on that day to share the love of Jesus Christ with all who attended. The following week Patty came to Distribution and confessed that after the Easter Egg event she prayed to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior! She stated that when the young man was sharing with her child about what Jesus had done for him she knew she was a sinner in need of Jesus. It wasn’t until the next day that she got the brochure out again and read how to become a Christian. She then gave her life to the Lord!

We praise God for all who partnered with us making this year’s Community Easter Egg Hunt a great event. Thank you to the several WMU groups and children groups who prepared over 6,500 eggs. Our prayer is that all who attended will continue “Hunting for the Truth” because Jesus is alive! (Click the photo below to view more pictures!)DSC_0353

McWherters Join GAP Staff

FB_IMG_1455839885827We are excited to announce that the McWherter Family is planning to join the GAP staff on July 1, 2016! Josh, Tasha, Kaelyn, and Ziley McWherter are from Murray, KY. In February of 2013, Josh and Tasha knew that God was calling them to fulltime missionary service somewhere in the world and the only question left in their minds was where. They looked at different countries, towns, people groups, and ministries, but their hearts always returned to the people of Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. Tasha said, “I began to feel so compassionate about a place I had never been.” In August 2015, the McWherters made a 3 day vision tour to Eastern Kentucky. That trip was confirmation that 3 days would never be enough; that they belonged in Eastern Kentucky.

Since then, the McWherters have made other trips to GAP and God has confirmed that this is where they are to serve. At this time, the family is in the process of being appointed as NAMB Missionaries with the Southern Baptist Convention and will be MSC/self-funded missionaries. Josh and Tasha will be serving on our GAP staff team as the new Missions and Ministry Associates working with mission teams coming to serve here. Please pray for the McWherter Family during this exciting time of transition. If you would like to become acquainted with them, and follow their move to GAP, please “like” their new Facebook page “The McWherters in Appalachia”.

Christmas Project 2015

Christman BoyGod poured out many wonderful ministry opportunities during Christmas Project 2015. This year’s event was characterized by generous donors and grateful recipients like no other year. God blessed us with the honor of ministering to 1,234 children through the Stephenson Christmas Store and 163 children through our parent’s store. Praise God for the generous donors who partnered with us to share the Gospel this past Christmas season and the many volunteers who served alongside of us!

This year we had several first time clients come to the Christmas Store who had been hit hard by the economy. They had found themselves struggling and needing help this Christmas for the first time. As they walked into the Stephenson Christmas Store and saw the shelves full of toys they were moved to tears. God gave us opportunities to share with them about His care and love for them and their family.

I received a letter from one of these families a few weeks ago. The note read…

“John,                                                                                                                                                         I know you probably don’t remember me but you helped me get toys for my kids this Christmas. I was the one that kept crying. I just wanted to say thank you for the help this Christmas. My kids would not have had Christmas without them. Every time I see my kids play with these toys I cry because I just can’t believe someone would do this for me and my family. I know you said not to thank you but to thank God but I thank you both. Me, husband, and kids have started going back to church.

Thank you,                                                                                                                                                 Sarah”

Please pray for Sarah and her family as they are not believers. Pray that God will use those toys as constant reminders of His love and provision for this family and the many other families that we had the honor and privilege of ministering to. I received several other thank you notes from parents and children of our clients this year. Many cards with just the words “thank you!” It is great to hear back from our clients.

I cannot express in words my gratitude to all our Christmas Project sponsors. Thank you for partnering with us to share the Gospel message with so many this past Christmas season. I would also like to give thanks to all our partners who came and served during Christmas Projection 2015. The following churches had people serve: Forks of Elkhorn B.C., New Found B.C., Heartland Worship Center, South Orlando B.C., Union B.C., McDowell F.B.C., Big Creek B.C., Fitzpatrick B.C., and Ridge Point Community. I am also grateful for all our prayer partners. Please continue to pray for these families. Pray that the toys and gifts will continue to be visible reminders of God’s great love and provision for each of them. Pray that God will continue to water the seeds that were planted!

(To view pictures of Christmas Project 2015 click on the above photo.)

The Journey to Serving

IMG_4184By Troy Petty, Member of Newfound Baptist Church, NC

It was time to seek where God wanted me to focus -beyond my comfort zone, beyond our community- to go, share and make disciples. Would it be a risk worth taking?

I am just one member of the Mission Committee. Because of our burden, our committee chairman and pastor invited Appalachian Region Mission’s Missionary Dewey Aiken to speak. Afterwards the committee chose to consider GAP as one of three ministries to visit on the August 2015 vision trip to Eastern Kentucky.

Led by our Pastor Jeff Maynard and Mission Committee Chairman D.C. Whitlock, we left the comfort of our community. The first two ministries tugged on my heart but lacked the answer I sought. The last stop on our overnight trip was McDowell, KY and the GAP. Missionary John Morris gave an introduction of the work and described the heart of the ministry. We toured the facilities and met Kathy Henson. After the introduction, as I walked the lodge property talking to the Lord, I knew where I would be engaged, learn and serve. My heart was broken and at peace. The process remained for others on the trip to understand what the Lord was saying to each of them. The Mission’s Committee remains unified that there is much work and opportunity in all three of the locations we visited.

My evaluation: I was impressed with GAP leadership, their prayer lives and their understanding of the community. They have in place a great potential to reach their community for many reasons; two are: their established local church relationships and their evangelistically developed process to build relationships within in the community. Also, they have in place many opportunities to utilize all the generations of our church with the least amount of pre-planning on our part. I believe GAP has the most in place to teach us about reaching the Leicester community.

Three of us who took the vision trip are members of the Empty Nesters’ Sunday School Class. As director of this class, I inquired of the other two where they felt the Lord drawing each of them? We were unanimous: McDowell and the GAP! Then in prayerful agreement with class leadership, the opportunity was presented to the members for prayer. Pastor Jeff gave his affirmation: “John and his team has established guidelines because he understands the dynamics of the community; this is a great opportunity to become involved.” With the agreement of the class, I contacted John. One aspect that intrigue us was the opportunity to be face-to-face with those whom we could minister. It wasn’t just delivering “stuff”. We would have the opportunity to get to know them. We agreed we wanted to build relationships that point to Jesus.

It felt both exciting and overwhelming to prepare for this journey with the Lord. There were times it was difficult to understand how the process could possibly work! A time or two I really wanted to re-do the process; selfishly, I wanted to do it my way. So prayer and more prayer as I recommitted to follow the Holy Spirit and the plan John had given our group. I would question, “He lives and walks among them, so who am I to think I know better?” I resolved to proceed in unity. It was a faith process.

As class members were considering each one’s level of participation, a few stepped forward to begin shopping for the list of items to stock the store for the parents. Others made financial plans to help sponsor a child. And several began planning the crafts for the party. All prayed. The main event was Saturday, December 5 at an apartment complex we had not visited on the vision trip. The all-day event involved setting up and tearing down “the store” twice. Once for the parents to shop for their kids or teens, and a second for the children to shop for their parents. The last event was a Christmas Party with crafts to make-and-take. The whole experience would focus on those we grew excited about going to meet! Six made commitments to go. Short on team members, the opportunity was extended to the whole church.

Finally, it was time to pack and travel. Gifts loaded. There were a number of vehicles traveling each at different times that Friday leaving Leicester, NC just west of Asheville. We were warned that GPS’s would be of little assistance once off the main highway in Pikeville! Yes, this was going to be an adventure especially for the after-dark late and early morning travelers!

The first vehicles arrived at the lodge. We unpacked, ate, met with John and staged the gifts and crafts for the next day. With confidence, most turned-in for the night. Like a nervous big sister, I waited for the last vehicle that night and then woke-up early to check on the early morning travelers. Everyone would arrive safely! I repeated: God has this under control! I just needed to rest in Him and watch the day unfold.

With three travelers still en-route, the morning began with breakfast and re-packing the vehicles. John and Kathy met us at the lodge to lead us to the northwest corner of the county. At the apartments, the last vehicle arrived shortly afterwards. It was a blessing to see this team absorb the instructions for the day. Then in one accord everyone began the first set-up. All day long we enjoyed working together! Peace surrounded us.
The age range of our 11-member team was retirement to middle school, but age made little difference. The younger ones had the same enthusiasm as the oldest one. With diverse backgrounds and skills, we were knit together for one purpose: serve those who came to spend the day with us.

The store set-up, it was time to greet the first parent scheduled to shop. A team member would accept the “personal shopper” role and guide the parent through the store. The parent would be shown the choices and choose items for their child/teen, spending the assigned number of points per child. Through this process we learned about their child. Gifts chosen, the “personal shopper” would be joined by a second team member and help was given to carry the gifts to the waiting car, or to the family’s apartment. Conversation continued. At the car or apartment door an offer to pray was given. Everyone welcomed the opportunity extending their hands to join the circle of prayer. Often hugs were extended to the team members. Every parent expressed their gratitude. 19 families with a total of 45 children/teens were served.

Next the parent’s store was set-up. The children came for their appointment and chose a gift for their parent/s. A wrapping paper station awaited the children so they could keep their gift a surprise. Again, the team members welcome the children and engaged them in conversations as the gift/s and wrapping paper were chosen. All the way to the last piece of tape the children were happy to be in the store. 17 children came to shop.

All day long the team talked with the residents inviting them to the Christmas party and the make-and-take crafts. Many residents seemed unsure about returning so we really had no idea who would return. We were overjoyed as the community room began to fill-up with moms, dads, toddlers to teens! Four tables were set-up and ready for making crafts: a twig tree ornament, a beaded candy cane ornament, a tissue paper ornament and especially for the teens a woven cord bracelet. The time flew as we worked and visited.

Asking for everyone’s attention, the work and talking stopped. Chairs were turned; toddlers grew quiet. The Story of Jesus’ Life was listened to with careful attention. Afterwards, there was opportunity to talk about the story as cake and punch were served and the craft-making continued.

Then it was time to clean-up and everyone return home. Saying our good byes, we realized they had touched our lives. Each one felt it: they had truly spent time with us. I am convinced, that as our group serves together, we are seeing spiritual strength and unity develop through practical applications of the Bible lessons we are studying.
Some comments by our team:

Cindy: “I was very happy to see the family participation at the party. It helped me feel like we were well received. I loved the fellowship with the other team members.”

Isaac (12 years old): “My favorite part was the party. We got to tell everyone about how Jesus left heaven to become human, died on the cross for everyone’s sins, and came back to life so we could live forever. It was good to tell why we celebrate Christmas.”

Lauri: “Being able to be the feet and hands for God is why I am here. Being able to know where God leads me and following His command puts such joy and peace in my soul. I am thankful God wanted me to share His story and love with the precious children and families in Ivy Creek, Kentucky. The country was beautiful and the people’s smiles were contagious.”

Dennis: “The people listened intently and were very respectful when I shared the Gospel with them. They were also very content and welcoming when we prayed with them.
Karen: It was a blessing meeting, praying, hugging, and having fellowship with the parents and children.”

Jim: “I thought I was going to go and be a blessing to those people there and I was the one that got blessed.”

Arriving home and continuing the conversation, we have a core group who are praying. Our goal is to return to the area four times in 2016 to help in the transition from lost-ness to planting a church. Our discussed plans include outside activities during the warmer months. We are already thinking about lawn chairs, grilling and outdoor games. About just being folks enjoying the time together with the intentional-ness of listening to them and sharing what God puts on our hearts. (To view more pictures of Christmas Project at Ivy Creek click on the above photo.)

The Power of a HUG

Looking back on the past several months at GAP I have been reminded of how important it is just to love others. During distribution our clients once a year have to be re-evaluated; during this time their paper work is updated and its quality one-on-one time. This is where you really get to know the clients more and build relationships. They share prayer request as well as the struggles they are having. At this time I usually have the opportunity to share my life struggles with them and how God turned my mess into a message and that He wants to do the same for them. I share the gospel and tell them that Jesus is our Hope and that if we accept Him into our hearts and make Him our Lord and Savior He will be everything we need. He will never leave us nor forsake us. All He asks is for us to trust Him. I explain that it doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect. It’s important that we as Christians just be real with each other because we don’t have it all together but we know the One who does. Praise God that He loves us in spite of ourselves.

Then after a time of sharing I ask if I can pray for them. Before they leave I will give them a simple hug. So many times this past year it is at that moment that many clients will break down and cry. They will thank me for the hug and say I never get that. My heart breaks because I personally know how it feels to not get hugs or feel loved.

Growing up I couldn’t hug people and wasn’t going to let anyone hug me. I thank God for coming into my life and He has taught me and filled my heart with love for others. He has now made me into a hugger. I give God all the praise and glory for without Him I am nothing and could do nothing. I praise His holy name. I thank God for His precious gift of love and His name is Jesus. It’s amazing the power a simple hug can have!

Written by Kathy Henson