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Summer Day Camps

2019 was the second year that God’s Appalachian Partnership held Day Camps during the summer at three different locations. It was the greatest year yet for our summer children’s program at GAP. This year we focused again in three different areas, holding three week long activities at each location: Left Beaver Townhouses, Weeksbury Community, and Ivy Creek Townhouses. Our biblical theme came from 1 and 2 Samuel entitled “A Kingdom Created”. Children learned that God was the nation of Israel’s first king but that the people wanted a human king to follow. Then they learn about Saul, Israel’s first human king. Finally, several days was spent looking at the life of David and how God used him. Throughout the study, the Gospel was clearly shared each week with the children. 6 children & youth accepted Jesus Christ!

The summer started off with a bang with three wonderful teams leading at Day Camp at Left Beaver Townhouses: Dallasburg Baptist Church, Wayne Association of Baptist, and South Orlando Baptist Church. We averaged 14 children each day and was able to build some wonderful relationships with the families there in the complex. Two weeks during camp, the kids were taught about puppets and on the last night of the three weeks they performed a puppet skit for their parents and community at a community cook-out! On the second week of the camp the team held a digital camera class for the kids where they learned how to take photos using a camera. They even played a scavenger hunt game with the cameras that the kids absolutely loved and are still talking about. Most of all, these children experienced the love of God first hand while they heard the Gospel message. Several children wanted to talk more about salvation and 4 accepted Christ!

June 24th through July 12th we had an amazing time in the Weeksbury Community. Barlow First Baptist Church, Heartland Church, and Blackrock Baptist Church loved on the children and shared the Good News of Jesus Christ! The first week of Day Camp began with an Olympic Games theme were the children were encouraged to run the race with perseverance. Heartland Church brought the stories of David to life through drama that kept our children wanting to know what would happen next. They also taught the kids some awesome truths through archery. Blackrock Baptist finished our time at Weeksbury sharing the Gospel and ended the week with a family cook-out event. The children had learned a few interpretive movements to songs which they shared with their families during the cookout. We averaged 13 children during the course of the three weeks at Weeksbury. The summer ended with Paducah First Baptist Church, Lawndale Baptist Church, and New Hope Baptist Church ministering to the children and families at Ivy Creek Apartments. The awesome aspect about this ministry site was that it consisted largely of youth instead of children. We averaged 17 youth at Ivy and they connected immediately with each team, forming bonds that allowed for the Gospel to be shared easily. Several Gospel conversations were had throughout our time at Ivy and 2 youth accepted Christ! Both of them have been baptized and them and their families are regularly attending church. Praise be to God!

Families are so Appreciative

Wednesday, October 9, 2019, was the last day that God’s Appalachian Partnership’s Thrift Store was open this year. Last year, we decided to open a Thrift Store just a couple days a month for only our families. 2019 was the second year of this ministry and today in preparation for closing for the season we held our annual $5 fill a bag. That bag is a 13-gallon garbage bag filled till it can’t close. Today was the busiest ever with 17 people waiting at least 30 minutes till we opened.

What we heard over and over again from our families was how much they appreciated the Thrift Store and how much they were going to miss it over the next few months while it will be closed. One pointed out that everything she was wearing she had gotten at the store some time before this year. So much appreciation and excitement for the great things the Lord had provided.

As they would say thank you we just reminded them to thank the Lord for it was He who provided all these wonderful things because He loves each of them so much! Shaughanessy and I would like to say thank you to all the volunteers that have worked so hard this year keeping the Thrift Store looking so neat and organized. We appreciate you more than we could ever express.  We would like to also thank everyone who has given supplies to the Thrift Store. Thank you for giving good, useable things. We appreciate your generosity and know that the Lord has used it.

NEW STAFF – Tanya Parker

Parker Family

I love God’s Appalachian Partnership.  Every time I hear the scripture “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me…” (Mt. 25:35-36a) I think about GAP.  They helped me and my family 14 years ago with food, clothing and encouragement in the name of Christ.  I have volunteered every chance I could over the last 10 years.  I have prayed for God to guide the ministry and bless it so they can continue sharing Christ and meeting needs. 

Around a year ago I began praying for God to send missionaries to help John and Shaughanessy carry out all that God had planned for GAP.  In March of 2019 I volunteered at the annual Easter Egg Hunt.  I remember exactly where I was standing that I felt the Lord tell me, “this is it.  This is where I want you.” I didn’t immediately obey.  I started second guessing myself and I was becoming miserable.  I finally gave in and called John at GAP and asked him questions about the “missionary life”.  After a time of fasting and prayer I confirmed that God truly was calling me to serve at GAP. 

For over two years Shaughanessy and I have been praying that the Lord would “send someone like Tanya Parker to GAP”. Who knew that He would send the one and only Tanya Parker! Praise be to God! We are so excited to welcome her to the Lord’s team here at GAP. She brings a wealth of gifts, talents, and experience to the staff. She was raised here in the McDowell area so many already know her and/or her family which makes building relationships for Christ easier.

Tanya has been married to Joseph (Joe) Parker for 21 years. They have three wonderful daughters, Makayla (20), Grace (18), and Allison (16). Joe is a deacon and Sunday School teacher at their church and the Lord has blessed him with a full time job at Prestonsburg City Utilities. Makayla is currently pursuing a nursing degree. Grace is in cosmetology school expecting to graduate this summer. Allison is a sophomore in high school and is currently being home schooled.

(Italics written by John Morris)

The Blessings of Fresh Vegetables

Do you remember the days of tilling the garden, planting rows of produce, hoeing and weeding, watering, and patiently waiting for God’s blessings of harvest? There is just something amazing about eating food that one has grown and cultivated. There is no better food than fresh vegetables from the garden.  However, we live in a world were unfortunately the art of gardening has almost been lost. The youth of McDowell First Baptist Church for the last three years are being taught about gardening and GAP and our families are being blessed with the “fruits” of their labor.

Inspired from the Biblical account of Ruth and the concept of gleaning, McDowell’s youth group has raised a garden for the last three years and given the produce to us to distribute to our families. This year around Memorial Day weekend, deacons in the church plowed the garden and prepared it for planting. The youth planted green beans, corn, onion, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Based upon a weekly work schedule, youth was given tasks to accomplish each week in the garden. As the produce became ready they delivered it to GAP for us to use on Distribution days.

Our families have been thrilled with the fresh produce. A couple of weeks ago, the youth delivered green beans. We divided them up into bags and put them on the shelves for our families that morning for distribution. One lady shared with me that she was so excited for the green beans because this was the first ones she had since last year when we had them on our shelves. I reminded her that God provided them for her and her family and as she eats them just remember how much He loves them all!

Thank you McDowell First Baptist Church for not only teaching our youth the valuable skill of gardening but also compassion, love, caring for others, and for blessings our families with the abundance of God’s harvest! (Click on the image above to view more pictures.)

KidStock 2018

At the end of summer when it is time for children to go back to school there is always a flood of emotions for both parents and children. The one thing that usually brings smiles to faces is the newness that comes with this time of year. Whether it is a new outfit, a new pair of shoes, or new school supplies, we all enjoy receiving something new in preparation for a new school year.

For many families in our area, KidStock is the means that God uses to provide some of these new items. KidStock is GAP’s annual back-to-school ministry event and it was held July 28th, 2018. 223 children and their families attended this fun-filled day. Families arrived by appointment and each student was given a nametag and new backpack or new pull string bag, depending on their age. Then the fun began! Families walked around playing carnival type games filling their backpacks with much needed school supplies. The day will filled with delicious treats such as cotton candy, snow cones, hot dogs, and lots of candy. 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!

Families not only received new supplies for school and new shoes but they heard how they could have a new life in Christ Jesus. This year we had a station for the elementary children where they could color their own Bible bookmark. Volunteers helped them find the scripture on their bookmark in their new Bible while others talked with parents sharing with them how to have newness of life in Christ. It was a blessing to see all the smiles on children’s and parents’ faces alike but nothing compared to the fact of knowing that seven people accepted Christ at KidStock 2018!

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 with hearts dedicated to Jesus and sharing His love! Special thank you to Left Beaver Volunteer Fire Department for providing cotton candy for all to enjoy. Thanks to all who stood in the GAP at KidStock 2018! (Click on the image above to view more pictures.)

Have You Ever Considered the Ant?

(Please click on above image to view more pictures.)

As I sat outside one day, I marveled at one of God’s creatures, the ant. The ants were so well organized and disciplined in their lines as they sought out to accomplish their goal. They displayed such strength and work ethic as they worked together. The ants tirelessly stayed busy all day with such persistence because they understood one thing: winter is coming. They plan for winter, when food is scarce, by stock piling during all the other seasons. As I was fascinated over these small wonders, I was reminded that, in Scripture, God calls us to consider the ant. Proverbs 6:6-8 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers it food at harvest.”

There is a sweet family that GAP has had the pleasure of serving that I would like to introduce you to. They have considered the ways of the ant and in turn have become wise. Victoria and Thomas is a young couple in their early 20’s who have three small, precious children. Thomas works at the local Lowes Home Improvement Store which is about 45 minutes away and Victoria is a stay-at-home mom. The couple was paying rent on an apartment until they decided to act upon their dream of owning their own home. They decided to make sacrifices and move in with Thomas’ parents in order to save money and purchase property near where Thomas grew up.

Within months of saving and making difficult sacrifices, they were able to purchase the land and prepare for building. As they continued to save money, they sought out and were able to buy materials as they came on sale or became discounted. Although Thomas puts in long hours working at Lowes, he and Victoria have persevered and work hard laboring on their house. Thomas’ parents have joined in and have physically helped, but it is the determination and devotion of this couple that is making their dream a reality for their entire family!

Not only is Victoria a stay-at-home mom with a 4-year old, 3-year old, and 1-year old, but in May she graduated with her associate degree in Early Childhood Development. How she found time for taking care of the kids, her home, homework, and building a house is beyond me. I was talking with Thomas about how much I hate finishing drywall and he said he had done very little of it because he could not do it to suit Victoria. She had done all the mudding and finishing herself, and it looks wonderful! Victoria plans to go back to college in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

At the end of May, a group of men from Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA arrived and served alongside us, helping this young family with their home. The team installed three interior doors, five windows, one exterior door, siding on the entire house and built a small back porch. The team also left resources for them to build a big front porch, which they have almost completed. Victoria and Thomas expressed how overwhelmed and grateful they are for all the team accomplished and how humbled they were by the team’s love and generosity. Thank you Smoke Rise Baptist Church for being the hands and feet of Jesus and loving this family!

Although the home is not complete yet, the family is thrilled with the progress. Victoria said, “It would have taken us months to save and do what this team did in just a few days. We are so grateful!” As for now, Thomas is building his own kitchen cabinets as he finishes the porch and prepares for the next big job of laying carpet/flooring down in the house.

Families are Grateful & Thankful for the Thrift Store

This past March we opened our first ever Thrift Store just for GAP families. Families who have visited the store have been incredibly grateful. “It is so hard finding clothes I can afford for these kids. They grow too fast. This store has helped me so much. I can even buy some brand new clothes here. Last month, I even started school clothes shopping for next year. I have never been able to afford that before. I am so thankful you opened this store. There is even stuff for me too!” laughed one of the ladies we are honored to serve.

The store is only opened the first Monday and Tuesday of each month from 10:00 – 2:00 pm. Although we mostly have clothing, we do have some furniture and household items. The purpose of the Thrift Store is to meet this need in our community and give us an opportunity to share with them about their greatest need, which is Jesus Christ! The store has allowed us to show God’s love, strengthen relationships with our families, and given us more opportunities to share. Please continue to pray for this new ministry!

First Baptist Church of Winter Garden 2018

GAP hosted our first mission team of 2018 in March!  It was such a joy to have the First Baptist Church of Winter Garden, Florida serve alongside us. The team of eight served supper at Golden Years, ministered to our families at BeansTalk during distribution, ministered to families during serval home visits, sorted clothing at our new Thrift Store, prepared materials for our Easter ministry event, and gave the outside of the lodge a good spring cleaning. It was a busy, fun-filled week with ministry and sharing the love of Jesus. During distribution we were privileged to have our first salvation of the year as we witnessed one gentleman come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! This year makes 10 years of partnership with FBC of Winter Garden. Three of the teammates on this trip have been to GAP every one of those years. We are so excited that this year will be the first that Winter Garden will be sending two teams. The second team will arrive July 29th. Thank you Winter Garden for your faithful partnership and ministry! (Please click on the photo below to view more pictures.)

Note from a Mission Team Leader

Written by: Kevin Weisman, Associate Pastor of Student Ministries, Lawndale Baptist Church

Over the past few years, God’s Appalachian Partnership is a ministry that I cannot imagine not having as part of my life. When I think of GAP, I am inspired by the staff’s service for the Kingdom of Christ. They live immersed in the mission field to which God has called them. I have watched time and again as they have personally sacrificed to follow the Lord. I have seen the love they have for the people of Floyd County – and the love that clients and neighbors have for them.

When I think of GAP, I think of God’s provision. I have watched and experienced the Lord provide for GAP’s needs for stocking the distribution center by setting answers to prayer in motion before the need had become known or the prayer had been prayed. I have watched clients enter the food distribution center to be provided with kindness, dignity, and practical assistance.

When I think of GAP, I think of the residents of the group home that GAP serves. Having served as part of churches around the USA and traveled to more than my share of countries, I have never felt more used for and helpful in God’s plans than I do when I spend a few afternoon hours with these residents. GAP provides a lifeline of love and community for these individuals whom our society has largely overlooked.

I am honored to be a small part of God’s work through God’s Appalachian Partnership. I am excited to continue to bring student ministry teams to serve alongside this ministry – and I am even more excited to see the vision for GAP spreading into my church’s adult ministries.

Personal Note from John

I want to thank those who sent cards, emails and words of love during this difficult and challenging time as we grieve the passing of my father, Elisha Morris. God gave him a passion and heart for the ministry here at GAP and he enjoyed serving here so much. Whether it was at BeansTalk, Community Easter Egg Hunt, KidStock, Christmas Store, or going with me on home visits, he enjoyed sharing the love of Jesus with others. Thank you to the many who gave to GAP’s building fund in his memory. He was so excited to one day see GAP’s new facilities on Elk Ridge.

Below is a part of the eulogy I read at dad’s funeral:

“Over the last couple of days, as I have reflected over the life of my dad, there has been many, many things God has taught me through him. But I want to share 3 things this morning that I believe God has taught us all through his life.

First, I have learned so much of what a life of service and ministry looks like from my father. For 27 years he served our city as an officer of the law but for him it never was a 9 to 5 job. He had a servant’s heart. For so many years he taught DARE with such passion and commitment. He desired to make a difference and in many lives he did. He was known as the “DARE Man” which yes made me nicknamed “DARE Boy.” There were countless DARE essays, poster contests, classes, summer day camps, graduations, and thousands of graduates not just here in Perry County but also in Owsley County.

Even though he physically had to retire, he quickly became involved with the Salvation Army, helping people in need. He volunteered at the hospital. Then once again his health required him to let go of those things, but he continued to live a life of service and ministry. He would make wood crafts to give and brighten someone’s day and big kettles of soup to deliver to peoples’ homes. Just last week in the hospital he was making plans to visit somebody that had stop coming to church. He modeled for us that it is better to serve than to be served.

The second thing I have learned from dad is that when we are living out the great commandments in Scripture the lines between family and friends become blurry. If you know my dad, then more than likely you know Betty Joe Kidd. For years as a child Elisha and I thought Betty Joe and her family was our family. Still to this today people think we are related. When I was young I thought Stella and Earlis Thornsberry were family. Dad had a way of making friends family. As a child, I was a little confused. I would ask, “are they part of our family.” And the response would be “no.” So in my mind I would be thinking, “then why are we here, why are we bringing these things, why are we doing this.” What I saw was an example of Christ’s love and an example of love for others that I so try to model in my life today. An example of putting others first!

And finally, the greatest thing dad taught me about was faith. His favorite verse was Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This verse became his life verse. Losing his leg was difficult for him because he was such a man of action. But he clung to this verse. It was during this time that he had to give up his beloved hobby of wood working and he wondered what would ever occupy his time. He developed a hunger and thirst for God’s Word and began spending countless hours studying Scripture. It was during this time he grew spiritually by leaps and bounds. Using resources such as Charles Stanley’s Life Principles, he began applying Scripture to his daily life, trusting God for the strength for each day. God gave him a burden for the lost, including people in our own family who are here today, whom we love so much, and other men and women who he prayed for and shared the Gospel with. Just 3 days before he passed, he had asked me to pray for a close friend of his who comes to church but has never made a profession of faith.

He loved his church and took his servant role as a deacon serious. He enjoyed ministering to his deacon families.

Dad was prepared and ready to meet His Savior and Lord. It was on October 2, 2017 at the Hazard Medical Center that dad passed away. Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:8 to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Dad would always say, I know, that I know, that I know where I will go when I leave this earth. I must ask you this morning, do you know, that you know, that you know where you will spend eternity?”

Thank you for your prayers and love during this time!