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.)

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.)

Kreation Kids’ Day of Ministry

On Saturday, February 25th, GAP was honored to host Kreation Kids from Big Creek Baptist Church in Hazard, Kentucky. These enthusiastic children and their leaders arrived eager to work and ready to serve. The first half of their day was spent separating and pointing diapers they had generously collected to distribute to mothers here in Appalachia. The second half was spent sorting and pointing a large quantity of food items that had arrived that afternoon from Bryantsville, KY. These children were not only a blessing to those in our area, but also to us who were so encouraged by the desire of there young hearts to serve the Lord. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord”- Romans 12:11. Thank you Big Creek Baptist Church for your partnership in ministry and continuing to teach your children the importance of missions! (Click on photo below to view more images.)

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.)