Published December 25, 2014
Georgia Baptists donated 22,500 backpacks to bring Christmas to impoverished children in Appalachia in 2014 – a surprising 700 more than were donated the previous year.
That amount places Georgians first among sister state conventions that also participated in the seasonal project. North Carolina Baptists assembled 5,200, followed by Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia with 1,600 and Kentucky Baptists with 1,000.
Increase in giving
The Georgia total for the past two years dwarfs the first year’s effort when 4,400 were gathered in 2012. The ministry was the vision of then-GBC President John Waters, pastor of First Statesboro, who challenged Georgia Baptists to give to those who would otherwise not have a Christmas.
The backpack collection is coordinated with NAMB Appalachian Regional Ministries (ARM) missionary Bill Barker, who lives among those being served in his native West Virginia.
Every backpack, assembled by churches statewide, included school supplies as well as Christmas gifts – including a Bible and information on how to become a Christian. Winter coats are perhaps the most important of the items hidden in the backpacks, which are color-coded for boys or girls.
Numerous professions of faith have already been reported, Barker said. For example, Associational Missionary Dan Dockery and representatives of churches from Carrollton Association travelled to Rogersville, TN to distribute 498 backpacks at Of One Accord Ministry. Sheldon Livesay, director of the ministry associated with ARM, said 28 professions of faith were recorded as a result of the backpacks distribution.
Dockery noted that an additional 71 backpacks – for a total of 569 – were delivered to Copper Basin Ministry in Ducktown, TN. The association collected 200 more backpacks this year than in 2013.
GBC Executive Director J. Robert White thanked Georgia Baptist churches, ranging from WMU groups to Sunday School classes, for their sacrificial giving in the name of Christ.
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