It may be July but Georgia Baptists are setting their eyes squarely on the Christmas giving season – specifically assembling backpacks for needy children in Appalachia.
For the third consecutive year churches and associations are setting their sights on assembling backpacks in what has become the most successful ministry in recent Convention memory. Started in 2012 at the urging of then-GBC President John Waters, the outreach has grown in popularity with each passing annual Convention meeting.
Churches and associations assemble the backpacks throughout the year, purchasing items as they go on sale to lower the costs and provide better quality. Early Fall, when merchants sharply discount school supplies, is an especially popular time to extend purchasing power, said backpacks coordinator and GBC state missionary Frank Nuckolls.
An average filled backpack costs about $45 but the price can be much lower through shopping around. For instance, a very good backpack without any contents can cost $20 but can frequently be found on sale for half that price in pre-school-day sales.
Last year Georgia Baptists provided a record 22,501 backpacks – 700 more than 2013 – with very little advance promotion and no set goal. This year, Nuckolls said, a goal of 25,000 will help even more children receive spiritual as well as material blessings in the impoverished region.
“We have seen 1,891 total professions of faith from this outreach during the past three years, with 701 of them coming just last year. This is amazing since we only collected 4,400 in our first year of 2012,” he added.
“Those figures show the fruit of our efforts and commitment of Georgia Baptists. These are not just children who are accepting the Gospel but
their parents, grandparents, and guardians as well.
“Backpacks for Appalachia reaches far beyond the children into their extended families.”
Nuckolls said the support from public schools has been affirming, as well, as each year they increase their requests for children in their communities.
Churches and Associations are encouraged to visit www.Missiongeorgia.org and click on the backpacks link to view a video, learn more about the ministry, and register. Registration is necessary to help coordinate the process – especially if a group wants to directly adopt a location. The adoption commitment will avoid duplication of others committing to the same community and will help distribute backpacks to areas that may be underserved.
Drop-off locations will also be announced in the coming weeks. And backpacks can always be brought to the annual Convention meeting on Nov. 8 and 9, the Sunday and Monday before the meeting begins. This year’s gathering will be held at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.
Georgia and other state conventions partner with NAMB’s Appalachian Regional Ministries to determine the needs, distribution points, and ongoing ministries opportunities.
Georgia Baptists have repeatedly placed first in their level of giving among sister Conventions. Last year North Carolina assembled 5,200 followed by Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia with 1,600 and Kentucky Baptists with 1,000.