Over the past several weeks, GAP has been blessed to receive food from a large food drive undertaken by the South District Association of Baptist in central Kentucky. First Baptist Church of Danville, Parksville Baptist Church, and New Journey Baptist Church have transported thousands of items to our center. We are so grateful for not only these churches but for all the churches in the association who participated in this wonderful event. These items are much more than just cans of food, for they are tools that will not only fill empty bellies but will be used to share the love of Jesus Christ with our people! Please join us in praising God for His provision through His people!
Heartland Church from Paducah, KY sent their second team of the year April 2nd through Aril 6th, 2018. The team was led by their youth department with a total of 12 excited servants for Christ. They grilled hamburgers for BeansTalk, served at the Thrift Store, and ministered at the Group Home and Senior Citizens’ Center. They also showed the love of Christ at a home construction ministry site where they put down new flooring in a room. The home owner was thrilled and forever changed by their Christ-likeness. The team also hosted our first Supper @ GAP. Temperatures were cold and quite windy that evening but we still had a great time connecting to our families that braved the weather. Thank you Heartland. We look forward to seeing three more teams from your church this year! (Please click on the photo below to view more pictures.)
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.)
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!
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.)
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.)
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.
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!
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?
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.)