More than 100 SBC of Virginia churches participated in the September and October 2016 mission project, Christmas Backpacks for Children in Appalachia. These backpacks were brought to the Annual Homecoming in Roanoke in November and were processed and loaded into a North American Mission Board (NAMB) tractor-trailer, which transported them to the distribution centers in the Appalachian area. A total of 2,181 backpacks were put on the truck, while 147 made it to Appalachia another way.
Last March, Toni Jones from Journey Christian Fellowship II in Lanexa contacted Sue Sawyer, state mobilizing associate for the SBC of Virginia. Toni’s pastor, Jim Pulling Jr., wanted Sue to find out how their church could not only prepare backpacks but also help deliver them to the children. Sue directed them to Bill Barker, NAMB’s Appalachia Region ministry director, to find out the best place for them to go to help. That began several months of preparation for the church and God putting His plan in place. Toni and her husband, Russ, led a group of 11 adults and youth to Manchester, KY to distribute Journey Christian Fellowship II’s backpacks to the children at a local school.
After Annual Homecoming, a few churches contacted SBCV about backpacks they had not been able to get to Roanoke. They arranged to transport them to Richmond so Sue Sawyer could take them to the children. Bill Barker believed the greatest need for those backpacks was in Manchester, KY and asked Sue to take them there the same week that the group from Journey Christian Fellowship II would be there.
When the group arrived in Kentucky, the local pastor who had coordinated the distribution of the backpacks asked Toni how many backpacks she had. She replied, “57.” He then asked Sue how many SBCV brought. She responded, “90.” Combined, there were 147. Nothing could have prepared them for what he was about to say. The poorest school in the county—where they were headed—had just called to say it needed 147 backpacks. They were amazed! Only God could have worked out that exact detail.
While at the school, they had the opportunity to eat lunch with the children, share the Gospel (with their parents’ permission), give them the backpacks, and provide coats and blankets (donated by another ministry). Each of the children also received a Bible.
The team is aware of one girl in the 5th grade who accepted Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. Toni’s 9th grade daughter, Caroline, shared the Gospel with this little girl. It was a life-changing experience for the child as well as for Caroline because it was Caroline’s first time leading someone to the Lord.
Another child admired Toni’s camera and told her that she had won some awards at the school for pictures she had taken before her camera broke. She took Toni to the library to show her the pictures. That evening, Toni purchased a camera for the child and asked the principal the next day if it was okay to give it to her. The teachers and principal were delighted that this young lady would once again have a camera with which to take pictures. She was overjoyed and gave an enormous smile when she saw the camera.
The faces of those children as they received their backpacks was a sight to behold. They were all so excited to dive into them to see what was inside.
On behalf of those children, thank you, members of SBC of Virginia churches, who provided a total of 2,328 backpacks. Let’s all work together next year on behalf of the children who did not receive a backpack and try to surpass our goal of 2,500 backpacks.
Thank you again for giving so sacrificially!
For more information on participating in the 2017 Mission Project: sbcv.org/missionproject
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