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NAMB increases funding for Appalachian Regional Ministry


SYRACUSE, NY (BP) — Matthew Hallenbeck got a phone call no pastor wants to get on a Sunday morning. The church was on fire.

An incapacitated driver had plowed into Bellewood Baptist Church in Syracuse, NY, early that morning causing massive damage – and a fire. The church decided – as they worshipped together outside on a cool, crisp October morning – to rebuild again.

Yet no one worshipping on the church lawn knew exactly how the congregation would come up with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be needed.

Bellewood Baptist Church/BP

Volunteers from First Baptist Church in Barnwell, SC, work on rebuilding Bellewood Baptist Church in Syracuse, NY. The two churches were connected through the Appalachian Regional Ministry, a multi-state outreach now fully under the North American Mission Board.

Now, a year and a half later, Bellewood is just months from worshipping in a new building – thanks, in part, to a church nearly 900 miles away and the Appalachian Regional Ministry that connected the two.

First Baptist Church in Barnwell, SC, looking for a new mission trip to replace one that had been cancelled, found out about Bellewood’s need through Bill Barker, ARM’s longtime executive director. First Baptist then scheduled a construction trip to help Bellewood. It was the first of several volunteer connections made by ARM to help the New York church.

“One of the reasons I’m Southern Baptist is that I believe in the Cooperative Program,” Hallenbeck said of the help Bellewood received from volunteers through the Appalachian Regional Ministry. “Southern Baptists learned a long time ago that we can do a lot more together than we can by ourselves. This just proves it to me – these people coming together and working with us to build the church.

“It’s not something we could have done on our own.”

ARM started in 1999 as a partnership of 13 state conventions, the North American Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union. It has been a catalyst for nearly 600,000 volunteers’ ministry throughout the region. More than 60,000 people have come to faith in Christ through ministries associated with ARM.

“Southern Baptists learned a long time ago that we can do a lot more together than we can by ourselves.”

Bill Barker, executive director ARM

Because of its unique role in penetrating lostness in one of the poorest and least-churched regions of North America, NAMB has increased its role, taking full responsibility for funding the ministry starting in January 2012. NAMB will pay the salary and benefits for Barker and cover the ministry’s operational expenses. Because of some of the similarities to Southern Baptist ministry in the Midwest, ARM will relate to that NAMB region.

The Appalachian Regional Ministry began as a Southern Baptist response to the immense spiritual and physical needs of the region, which runs from the state of New York to Alabama, following the path of the Appalachian Mountains. Barker said ARM focuses on five key areas: church planting, ministry centers, construction projects and church strengthening within Appalachia.

To meet the physical and spiritual needs in the region, ARM connects Southern Baptists to an array of ministries within Appalachia. Barker speaks at 125 churches a year sharing the needs of the ministries and churches relating to ARM – along with sharing the church planting opportunities within the region. Barker also keeps an updated list of ministry needs and volunteer opportunities on the ARM website.

Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.