SNEEDVILLE/ROGERSVILLE — Georgia Baptists have worked hard this year with a goal to provide 35,000 backpacks to ministries in a 15-state area defined by Southern Baptist as Appalachia. More than 1,100 of those “Christmas Backpacks” made their way to Of One Accord Ministry recently, all of which came from just one association of churches in Carrollton, Georgia.
The Southern Baptist Convention recognized in 2000 that the lowest income families in America, per capita, were families living in rural isolated Appalachia. Ministries like Of One Accord, serving Hawkins and Hancock counties, have become the connectors between churches east of the Mississippi and the struggling families living in the ‘hills and hollers’ of East Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and West Virginia.
Of One Accord has been a host for mission teams coming throughout the summer to do home repairs, backyard Bible clubs, sports camps, distributions and providing many other needed services like dental clinics.
“Since we do the countywide Christmas activities, teams have also wanted to return during December and help,” said Sheldon Livesay, the ministry’s director. “Evidently teams, like the ones that come here, have gone back to their respective states expressing the need for churches outside Appalachia to help Appalachian ministries at Christmas. Out of that need, the Christmas Backpack program was initiated.”
According to Livesay, churches in the Associations prepare backpacks just as they do the Samaritan’s Purse “Shoebox Ministry” for children overseas.
They designate a “Christmas Backpack Sunday” for members to bring the backpacks, and they in turn, ship them to Appalachia.
Each backpack provides Christmas items, healthcare items, some snack treats and school supplies.
Carrollton, Georgia-area churches have had a long partnership with Of One Accord, so when the “Christmas Backpack” program was initiated, they decided to supply all the backpacks needed to fill Christmas for the Children’s Christmas needs.
Jennifer Kinsler expressed her genuine thanks on behalf of every recipient child and their families.
“We offered 38 parties last year for the 1,320 children we served,” Kinsler said. “Each child was given a backpack to open the night of the party, but the wrapped gifts were placed in black garbage bags for parents to take home and place under the tree.”
Kinsler stated in amazement, “they not only collect these backpacks for us, they turn around and deliver them!”
Dr. Dan Dockery, the Missions Director of the Association, invited Tammy Helton to Carrollton this year so that she could personally thank their churches on “Backpack Sunday” as backpacks were brought in. Then, Dockery brought a team of men from Carrollton to unload the 20-foot truck — full to the brim — with these “gifts of love” from Carrollton churches.
Kinsler also told of a single 88-year old member of one of their churches, who accumulated used bicycles and completely restored them with new tires and rims, new seats and gearing. She said he even painted them and put new decals on them. These gifts are handled through OOA’s ministry in Sneedville.
Of One Accord staff and volunteers all agreed that, “Christmas will be a lot happier in East Tennessee through these ‘backpacks of love’ from Georgia.