Louisville—Around 50,000 backpacks were collected by the North American Mission Board, Appalachian Regional Ministries, and Mississippi River Ministries to be distributed to children in need. Approximately 15,000 of those were distributed to Kentucky children.
Each backpack contains school supplies, a Bible, a toy, a clothing item, a gospel tract, and a hygiene product. The backpacks received by Kentucky children were packed and donated by Alabama and Georgia Baptists. However, this year, the backpacks packed and donated by other states reached as far as New York City.
The backpacks are distributed to various churches, associations and ministries to assist with outreach across the state of Kentucky and the Appalachian regions. NAMB, ARM and MRM have been collecting and distributing backpacks for years, beginning as a small operation with 300 shoeboxes in 2001 and growing to thousands of backpacks by 2011.
When churches and ministry centers give out the backpacks, they are encouraged to have a birthday party for Jesus. Ministries such as Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg give out food boxes and clothing to families as well as the backpacks. “It’s about helping the child and introducing the family to Christ,” Bill Barker, national director for ARM and MRM as a NAMB missionary, said.
The purpose of the backpacks is threefold, Barker said. They are to be “child focused, Christ centered, and local church connected.”
“We had a saying in eastern Kentucky when I came on board. One of our state missionaries took me aside and said, ’Bill, just remember this: A hungry child cannot hear you tell them about Jesus over the growl of their hungry stomach,’” Barker said.
“I’m just grateful for Southern Baptists and their support of the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong. This would not happen without that,” he added.
Barker continued, “As I’m out there these last two weeks, renting trucks and equipment and moving backpacks from point A to point B, we send Send Relief semis out, that can only happen because Southern Baptists not only gave the backpacks but they gave to the Cooperative Program and AAEO.”
“I am so thankful for the churches that worked to provide and fill the backpacks so that children in eastern Kentucky could receive them,” Eric Allen, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s missions mobilization team leader, said. “I pray that many children will come to faith in Christ as the gospel is shared and backpacks distributed.
He added, “The backpacks are a blessing to our Kentucky missionaries who will be sharing them with families they minister to.” (WR)