The Appalachian Coalfields Ministry (ACM), sponsored by Baptists on Mission (formerly N.C. Baptist Men), helps meet the physical and spiritual needs of people living in the Appalachia. Working with many ministry centers and churches in five Appalachian states, they help mobilize volunteers and resources to meet such needs.
“When all is said and done we will have just over 5,000 backpacks collected and delivered,” said Mark Abernathy, consultant for Baptists on Mission (BOM). “This is a good bit fewer than what we were aiming for, but … [t]he 5,000 backpacks represent a significant contribution by N.C. churches from all across the state and we are grateful for each one.”
The items collected for each backpack include: school supplies such as crayons, notebook paper, pencils, pens, composition books, folders, erasers and rulers; new clothing such as winter hats, gloves, socks and underwear; small canned food such as ravioli, tuna, beef stew, vegetables and fruit; a least one new, age appropriate non-breakable toy; hygiene items; a children’s Bible; fresh, wrapped candy; and a copy of The Christmas Story and a “Mailbox Bible Club” enrollment.
BOM photo by Mark Abernathy
Dewey and Kathie Aiken serve with the Appalachian Regional Ministry, one of the poorest regions in America, through the North American Mission Board. Baptists on Mission, also known as North Carolina Baptist Men, has been part of collecting about 5,000 backpacks to distribute to children.
Twenty-two collection sites were set up across the state and two processing sites at Red Springs and Shelby Mission Camps.
Appalachia is one of the poorest areas in America, and Christ wants to meet physical needs, said Abernathy. But this “also opens the door for the gospel message to be shared.
“These backpacks are the only present some children in these areas will receive this Christmas. We want each child to know that people care, but more than that, to know that God cares,” he said.
Dewey and Kathie Aiken serve as North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries working with the Appalachian Regional Ministry, a ministry of NAMB. For the past five years, they have been site coordinators for the ACM.
Kathie Aiken said, “Through both of these, we help to mobilize volunteers and resources to assist scores of ministries throughout areas of poverty in Appalachia. These ministries submitted applications for assistance with filled Christmas backpacks for the children in their communities.
“They informed us how the gospel would be shared using these backpacks. We processed these applications and matched their needs with churches desiring to help them with Christmas events.”
This year, 26 N.C. churches plan to provide food, clothing, games and filled backpacks to ministries in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Other ACM projects include week-long sports events, children’s ministry, evangelism, music and construction sites.
Many of these children’s families have lost jobs in the coal mining business, have difficulty providing the basics of life and are plagued with generational poverty. N.C. Baptists have a history of concern for Appalachian people, and BOM has sponsored the ACM since 2010. The greatest gift given in every backpack is the Bible and the true Christmas story, Abernathy emphasized.
“N.C. Baptists can know that lives are being changed because of the liberating truth that is being shared through Appalachian Christmas Outreach.
“Our hope is that this message of hope and love will change not only that child’s life, but impact the whole family,” he said.
When the backpacks are received by thousands of children living in these dire situations, it will not only be the families that are affected, the givers will be also.
Kathie Aiken said, “We have heard many churches report that their whole congregation was involved in this ministry: young, old, [and] those who cannot travel on a mission trip.
“Some have never been involved in missions before this and are eagerly awaiting next year’s outreach. Being involved in a ministry such as this is doing what Christ told us to do: ‘Remember the poor.’
“We are assured He is pleased with the outpouring of love and obedience that N.C. Baptists have shown this year by working with Appalachian Christmas Outreach.”
Abernathy added, “Many churches expressed to us that they were helping with other collections this year, but would be interested in participating next year. We believe that we can build on the good start of this first effort and increase the number of backpacks we are able to collect and send next December.”
To find out more information or to get involved, visit Baptists on Mission’s website, baptistsonmission.org/Projects, scroll to the United States tab and click “Appalachian Coalfields.”