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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!

Phase One of Building Project

We are so excited to announce that GAP has embarked upon the journey of building new facilities on Elk Ridge! Since acquiring the property several years ago through generous partners, God in His perfect timing has lead us to begin this project. As you know, years of prayer was answered last fall as God provided water on the property; and through a series of events this year, He has made it clear that the time is now.

Currently, we have an architect who has created drawings of all the buildings God has led us to place on the property. He is now drawing up the blueprints for Phase One, which will consist of a Distribution/Office Complex and one staff house. As you know, we have outgrown our current building and are in desperate need of a new one. God has given us a clear vision of what ministry here at GAP will one day look like and we know that our current building is not sufficient. This is a God-sized task and if it were not for the leading of God, I would be terrified. We will be sharing, with you, our faithful partners, the blueprints and 3-D drawings as they become available from the architect. I felt impressed to share these details with you and ask for your prayers during this exciting project. I am spending a great deal of energy working with the architect, engineer, and surveyor at this time. Please pray God will provide a project manager that will take some of this load off my shoulders, especially since I know little to nothing about construction.

We need partners to join us, in standing in the GAP; by partnering together to build this much needed facility. Please pray for God to provide in such a way that everyone will see His all sufficiency and join together in praise of the great I AM! Even before this announcement, God already laid it upon hearts to start giving to the building fund. If you would like to give a one-time gift or even a monthly gift, designated to the building fund, please contact me for more information.

As God continues to lead us into the future, we have become even more certain of His mission for us here is eastern Kentucky. There are hurting, hungry people scattered throughout these beautiful Appalachian Mountains that have not been engaged with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our mission is to meet people at their point of need for the purpose of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. This would not be possible without you, our partners. We have been standing in the GAP since 1999. Will you continue standing in the GAP with us by ensuring future generations will receive Hope by partnering with us in this building project?

Hunting for the TRUTH!

Children and adults who attended this year’s Community Easter Egg Hunt discovered that the truth of Easter has nothing to do with eggs, bunnies, or baskets. As each family arrived on April 8th in the midst of egg hunts, games, music, and food, they each embarked on a “hunt” to discover the truth of Easter.

Children 12 and younger played games, won candy, and collected specially coded cards. After collecting all 10 cards, the children took them to the Truth Pavilion where they received a pair of special decoding glasses and a volunteer helped them decode the truth of Easter – Jesus is Alive! We were then able to share with them how this truth could transform their life just as it has ours. Many children told us that they didn’t know that this was the truth of Easter. It humbled many of our volunteers when they realized that several 10-12 year olds had never even read the name of Jesus before.

At the same time, there were five posters hidden throughout the park with decoding glasses attached. Teens and adults had to find all five posters, use the attached glasses, and write down the special symbol on the paper provided. When they completed that task, they brought it to the Truth Pavilion were someone used those symbols to share the truth of Easter with them and gave them a bracelet with those symbols on it as a reminder. Also, for completing the tasks, their names were put into a drawing for the adult prizes.

This year, Union Baptist Church in northern Kentucky had collected and brought to us beautiful dolls and stuffed bears. The dolls were of all different sizes, colors, and shapes. The women at the church had carefully placed each one in its own box and handled them with such love and care. These dolls gave us the opportunity to share with the children that they too are all different with different color hair and eyes, some short, and some tall and that God loves each of them because He created them in His image. The children loved these dolls and bears. It was so precious to see their faces light up and to see the care and love they handled them with. My heart was overwhelmed as I watched one little boy, who couldn’t have been more than 3-4 years of age, pull back the doll he had been cradling and tenderly look at it and told it “I love you.” God always does amazing things with the resources He provides.

About 600 attended this year’s event and it was one of the best! It is always great spending time with our families in our community but it was such a blessing to see our community come together for an event like this. At one moment during the afternoon, I stood in the middle of the basketball court and just turned around slowly praising God for what He was doing that day and every day through GAP and in this community. I saw families laughing, playing, and so many smiles. I could see young and old looking for posters, finding them, and then putting on some funning looking glasses. I saw a pavilion full of children and adults sitting one on one with a volunteer hearing about the truth of Easter, some for the first time. Two adults accepted Jesus Christ that day and four others made other decisions! Praise the Lord! What a joy it was to see so many of all ages HUNTING for the Truth! I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37b-38).

This ministry event is a great example of how God works through many different people as they all partner together in ministry with a common goal of sharing the Gospel with those here in eastern Kentucky. There were several financial donors scattered in several different states that partnered together. WMU groups from several different churches in the Three Forks Association purchased and filled about 5,000 plastic eggs. The Kentucky Baptist WMU at their annual meeting filled over 2,000 plastic eggs and made the cutest bunnies out of socks. Several volunteers from churches came to minister on the day of the event and countless individuals and groups, more than I even know, across many states, prayed in the weeks before and during the event that God would work mightily and that His Truth would be made known to all. This is the true picture of partnership! The decisions that we witnessed that day were a direct result of God working as His children partnered together to accomplish His task of spreading the Gospel. Thank each of you for the part you played in this ministry event but more importantly for your role in the lives that were forever changed because of the Truth! (Click on the photo below to view more pictures of this ministry event.)

Fall Celebration

On October 15, 2016, GAP hosted a ministry event unlike any other we do throughout the year. Sharing the Gospel and building relationships was still the purpose of the event but what set this event apart was our target audience. For the first time we were not focused upon ministering to families with children, although we did of course. Our focus was to share the gospel and build relationships with adults. The ministry event, called Fall Celebration, was held in the Weeksbury community with 111 local people in attendance, plus volunteer workers.

The afternoon was full of activities such as a corn hole tournament, a dessert bake-off contest, cakewalks, a pie eating contest, music, pumpkin painting, good food, and great fellowship. We also had several games and activities for children. The day allowed us to build many new, wonderful relationships and strengthen some old ones. It was filled with so much laughter and fun that the community continues to ask when we are going to have another one.

Nevaeh was a young girl who came to the event with her grandpa on the back of an ATV. She was shy and unwilling to leave her grandpa’s side, until the Christian illusionists began his presentation of the Gospel. After that, she was glued to Kathy the rest of the day. They played every game, painted pumpkins together, and even ate together. As Kathy built a relationship with Nevaeh, several of us were able to meet and spend time talking with her grandpa who really needed someone just to listen and pray with him. At the end of the day, Nevaeh made a bag and wrote, “I love Kathy” on it.

The pie-eating contest was a sight-to-behold. There was whipped topping and chocolate pie filling everywhere and the best part about it was that everyone was around the contestants cheering them on. Paula won the cash prize contest and was so excited because she said it was the first thing she had ever won. I spent time with Paula that day, sharing with her and talking a lot about the Christian Illusionists that was there from Springfield, MO. I was able to share more about the Gospel message with her through the magic the illusionists did. Paula confessed she was a believer but had stopped attending church. However, that day God used the Fall Celebration to get Paula back into church. One month later Paula was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer and died only a few short days afterwards. Her niece still talks about what a difference there was in Paula’s life. The difference was God! What a mighty, all-knowing, gracious God we serve.

The day ended with a presentation of the Gospel using a pumpkin, the awarding of ribbons, and lots of hugs and goodbyes to new friends. Special thanks to ministering partners South Gate Baptist Church from Springfield, MO, McDowell First Baptist Church, and Fitzpatrick Baptist Church. May every tool, gift, and talent we possess continue to declare the good news to all we encounter. (Click on the image below to view more photos.)

Christmas Project 2016

In the midst of the business of Christmas, too often our focus is upon the giving and receiving of gifts. We forget to stop and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. One of the families we served during Christmas Project 2016 wrote us this note, “Thank you all for everything that you do for our family. If it wasn’t’ for your help our kids would not have had a gift under the tree this year. So, we want to thank you from the bottom of our heart, God bless you!” Through this event, hearts are softened and the Gospel is proclaimed. We use each opportunity like this to share that every item in our warehouse is from God, not us. We explain how He has provided each doll, truck, basketball and curling iron because of His great love and desire to have a personal relationship with us. The awesome thing about GAP’s Christmas Project is that it does not center on gift giving. The focus of the ministry is sharing the true gift of Christmas, which is Jesus Christ! We are grateful for the many partners of GAP who made Christmas Project 2016 possible for the 998 children in our area. Your generosity, love, prayers, and service have humbled me. Thank you.

This year we added a new and exciting way to communicate the truth of Christmas. We gave each family a 2016 limited edition GAP Christmas ornament. Using the ornament, we explained, “true love was born in a manger”. Each ornament came in a box with a story attached describing the true gift of Christmas. Families were encouraged to read the story to their family as they hung the ornament on their tree. Our plans are to make this an annual part of our Christmas ministry with a new ornament each year sharing a different aspect of the Christmas story.

I received a card in the mail that read, “Thanks for being there and helping all of us. We love the Christmas ornament. I came home, read the card to the kids, and let them hang it on the tree. We are looking forward to next year’s already. Gabe points at it and says look mom there is baby Jesus in a manger. Thanks for all you have done this Christmas for my family and throughout the year.”

Thank you to the many partners who have financially supported Christmas Project 2016 and those who have partnered through prayer. I cannot express in words my gratitude for your faithfulness and your value in ministry. Thank you to the many volunteers who came and served alongside of us for a day or several days in the Christmas Store or Parents’ Store. Without each of us partnering together, Christmas Project 2016 would not be able to happen. Above all, I am so grateful to our Heavenly Father who always provides and who is at work all around and in us! Thank you Jesus! (Click on the image below to view more photos.)

New Journey Delivers Needed Food

Here at GAP we continually remind those we serve that any items they receive are not from us, but from God who has provided for their needs because of His great love for them. We know and want to teach that every good gift is from above and provided because of His great desire for each person to come to know Him and to have a personal relationship with Him. On February 25th GAP received 16,000+ good gifts. New Journey Baptist Church, from Bryantsville, Kentucky, delivered two trailers full of much needed food and personal items. We were not only blessed by what they brought, but also by the number of individuals who drove all the way here to help unload. Thank you New Journey for this mountain of resources that will be used to teach about who God is and how He provides. Thank you for partnering with us in sharing the Gospel with those we serve! (Click on image below to view more pictures.)