Mine closures strain Eastern Kentucky ministry centers
by STEVE LeMASTER
Ministries in Eastern Kentucky are bracing for a tough winter as hundreds of Eastern Kentucky residents have been furloughed or have lost their jobs entirely because of drastic reductions in coal production.
A single employer, Arch Coal, laid off 750 workers across Appalachia last month. Other companies have been forced to idle employees or close operations.
Added stress on an already economically depressed area has created a sense of urgency among some Kentucky Baptist ministries there.
“These ministry centers rely on in-kind donations as well as financial contributions,” said Eric Allen, leader of the Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization Team. “There’s no doubt that their resources will be stretched thin because of the increased need in these communities.”
John Fitzwater and his wife, Melissa, are Mission Service Corps missionaries and directors of Loaves and Fishes Ministry in Lynch. The ministry provides food boxes to the needy each month.
On a recent Thursday evening, “we had 66 new (people), or regulars who had not come to get a box in months,” Fitzwater said. “We usually average about 200 boxes per month. We gave out 225 (in July).” Now that the layoffs are in effect, the Fitzwaters expect demand to go even higher in coming months.
Judy Caulder in Benham said needs already were profound even before the mine shut downs. She and her husband, Frankie, direct Kentucky Sacks of Love, which provides backpacks, school supplies, clothing and other necessities to needy children.
Before the school year began, “teachers were anticipating more students being eligible to participate (in Sacks of Love),” Mrs. Caulder said. “We assisted with clothing and school supplies at two schools before school started and overheard several parents comment that they did not know what they would do without the giveaways.”
Allen noted that it is often during times of great need that God’s people and His love shine brightest.
“Each of these ministries is focused on sharing the gospel, as well as meeting physical needs,” he said. “Kentucky Baptists can have confidence as they support these works.”
In order to provide what is most needed, supporters who wish to assist are encouraged to visit the ministries’ websites or make contact by e-mail or phone first.
Freedom Center Ministries, Inc. in Lynch
George and Robin Lewis, directors and Mission Service Corps missionaries
Various essentials for individuals and families
God’s Love from a Diaper Bag in Jenkins
Baby care items and other necessities for families
Lester and Bessie McPeek, directors and Mission Service Corps missionaries
Kentucky Sacks of Love in Benham
Backpacks, school supplies, clothing and non-perishable food
Frankie and Judy Caulder, directors
Loaves and Fishes Ministry in Lynch
Emergency food aid
John and Melissa Fitzwater, directors and Mission Service Corps missionaries
Another Eastern Kentucky ministry in need of food donations is Emergency Christian Ministry in Williamsburg. Director Bill Woodward said the shelter’s location creates the demand, not mine layoffs.
The shelter is only three blocks from an I-75 exit. People come because their vehicles are out of gas and there’s no money to fill the tank, or maybe the car has broken down. Still others come on foot. The needs are basic, Woodward said—a safe place with a meal and a bed until they figure out their next step.
“We have enough food for our clients,” he said, but until recently the ministry also had enough to provide emergency food aid to families in need, even if they weren’t staying at the shelter.
Woodward said demand “usually picks up in October,” and he hopes the pantry can be restocked by then. “The Lord will make a way,” he added.
David Aker, director of missions for South Union/Mt. Zion Baptist Association, said Emergency Christian Ministry “is thought to be one of the last centers for food operations” left in the area.
For information on how to support the ministry, e-mail Woodward at email@example.com. Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Emergency Christian Ministry, 630 South Hwy. 25 W in Williamsburg.
Kentucky Baptists’ gifts to the World Hunger Fund assist ministries in the commonwealth, the nation and the world. For details, visit http://worldhungerfund.com or send a donation to the Kentucky Baptist Convention with “World Hunger Fund” in the memo line of the check at: Kentucky Baptist Convention, PO Box 43433, Louisville, KY 40253-0433.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a cooperative missions and ministry organization made up of nearly 2,400 autonomous Baptist churches in Kentucky. A variety of state and worldwide ministries are coordinated through its administrative offices in Louisville, including: missions work, disaster relief, ministry training and support, church development, evangelism and more.
For more information, visit the KBC website at www.kybaptist.org or find “Kentucky Baptist Convention” on Facebook or follow “kentuckybaptist” on Twitter.
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