The following is a reflection from Cindy Brewer, a member of Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC.
Being involved in missions in eastern Kentucky through the “Book Buddies” effort of Providence Baptist Church has been a unique opportunity to develop relationships with children and families that are typically not available when mission activities take place away from one’s own community. The Book Buddies effort began in June of 2004 when a small group of us decided to travel to eastern Kentucky to distribute new and gently used books to children in the area who did not typically have books of their own in their homes. With the help of people in the Owsley County and Nada areas who knew of families who might welcome our visits, we traveled up and down the backroads of these communities, visiting families whose names we had been given as well as others whose yards had children’s toys scattered in them or who happened to be outside as we passed by.
We introduced ourselves, gave out books to all who were interested and told these folks about get-togethers we had planned for our week in eastern Kentucky. We asked if the family had any special needs we might pray for and took down information about the ages of the children, school grades, birthdays and addresses so we could follow up after we returned to Charlotte. While we did not engage in direct witnessing, we did let everyone we met know that our desire to share God’s love was our motivation for coming and that we wanted to stay in touch with them.
After we returned to Charlotte, we stayed in touch with letters and cards. In October of 2004, we returned to the Nada community and had a fall festival, ladies craft luncheon, and a dinner at Nada Mission for all in the community. This gave us an opportunity to see these new friends again and to let them know that we were sincere in our desire to stay in touch and respond to their needs. Our church had also provided over 200 pair of new shoes and socks for the children at Owsley Elementary that fall, a response to a need that the school services specialist and several teachers made us aware of. Each summer since then, we have returned to these communities to share books, sponsor fellowship activities, and maintain our initial family contacts and make new ones. As a result of our trips, others in our church have also traveled to eastern Kentucky to do construction projects and to work with some of the teenagers in the area. We have all shared information about the folks we met and know there and have formed a real network of caring. The desire of all these groups to have someone available to these children and adults on a more permanent basis resulted in our church’s helping to find and fund a missionary, Paula Settle, who is now in this area.
Our Book Buddies group, which has had some of the same and some new volunteers each year, has also helped with the public library’s summer reading program and, for the past three years, has been a part of Owsley Elementary’s summer enrichment program. This more structured interaction, in conjunction, with the continued visits along the winding Kentucky roads has given us a chance to get to know so many special people in the area. Many of us stay in touch with children and adults we have formed relationships with throughout the year and all of us look forward to the yearly summer visits. I believe that our dedication to staying in touch and our non-judgmental approach to sharing God’s love has helped these relationships to develop a sincerity and continuity that is often rare in missions outside our own towns. I am very privileged to be a part of this ministry and know that God has used and is using it to support and expand the work of his people in eastern Kentucky. I ask each of you to pray for the people of eastern Kentucky and the work of all the groups and individuals who are there to do God’s work.
Providence Baptist Church Book Buddies