By Lonnie Wilkey
FRANKLIN — Last year Tennessee Baptist Convention churches embraced the Christmas Backpack Ministry in a huge way, observed Joe Sorah, compassion ministries specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Tennessee Baptists provided more than 3,500 backpacks in 2018 for the ministry which serves children and families in the Appalachian area of Tennessee.
The ministry is part of a nationwide effort for Appalachian Mountain Ministry which is now housed at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Nationwide, more than 77,000 backpacks were donated, and more than 2,000 children prayed to receive Christ.
Sorah said that the backpacks donated by Tennessee Baptists, along with those donated by sister Baptist state conventions, enabled 15,474 children to receive Christmas gifts last year.
He noted that more than 22 percent of children in Tennessee live in poverty, necessitating the need for ministries such as the Christmas Backpack Ministry.
Last year was the first year that the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board made a concentrated effort to promote the ministry, Sorah said. “I knew many Tennessee Baptists would want to be involved in this important ministry,” he added.
The TBMB once again is supporting the ministry and is promoting it this year through a Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions video. Last year, Calvary Baptist Church in Lafayette was one of the approximately 35 churches/ministries that took advantage of the Christmas Backpack Ministry.
“Our county (Macon) is a poor county,” said Calvary Baptist pastor Johnny Beaver, adding that there are people who don’t have running water or working toilets in their houses. “The backpacks are really just a tool for us,” Beaver explained in the video. “It’s an excuse for us to feed them, love on them … but more than anything, it gives us an opportunity to share the gospel.”
“We are asking churches to partner with us in getting the gospel to children all across the state. We do that through the donation of backpacks filled with Bibles, toys, hygiene items, clothing and food,” Sorah explained. Those backpacks are then distributed to children across Tennessee, giving those who distribute them opportunities to share Jesus Christ and to follow up with those who make decisions, he added.
Because of the success of last year’s effort, Sorah anticipates the need for even more participation among Tennessee Baptist churches this year. “Our needs have increased this year with more churches requesting backpacks. Our goal is to collect 5,000 backpacks,” he said.
He noted the Christmas Backpack Ministry provides “a great opportunity for folks who want to do something for children in Tennessee.”
Sorah requests that churches that want to distribute Christmas backpacks contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Churches that want to collect backpacks can get more information and sign up at www.tnbaptist.org/backpacks. B&R