FRANKFORT, Ky. (5/4/13) – Located 15 miles west of Fort Knox, Buck Grove Baptist Church already reaches out to military families. However, the Ekron church will soon join a new effort to provide assistance to National Guard soldiers.
Pastor Dave Campbell will attend a launch ceremony in Frankfort May 6 for Partners in Care, designed to match Kentucky congregations with National Guard enlistees needing help.
“Right now, it’s food, but it can develop into other things,” Campbell said of Buck Grove’s benevolence efforts. “Offering transportation might be one thing we can do. As we learn what other churches are doing, it may spur us on to say, ‘Hey, we can do that.’”
Started in 2005 by a chaplain in the Maryland National Guard, Partners in Care has since spread to 18 states. Kentucky is one of 15 more slated to affiliate with the program during 2013.
Through this grassroots program, churches, synagogues and other groups sign an agreement to provide services to Guard employees regardless of their religious beliefs. Placed in a database, they will be matched with requests for assistance from Guard members, based in all but one Kentucky county.
This can include such outreach as food and clothing, emergency financial assistance, auto repairs or child care. Each group decides what services it will offer.
Two other Kentucky Baptist congregations will be represented as new partners at the May 6 launch, and about 10 others have expressed interest, according to Chaplain Maj. Jerry Shacklett.
The help is greatly needed, he said, noting that the 8,000 Kentucky Guard personnel face such problems as unemployment, marital discord and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some units have been deployed overseas three times in the past decade, said Shacklett, who pastored two Kentucky Baptist churches before becoming a fulltime Guard chaplain.
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, some may think that Guard members are facing less stress but that isn’t necessarily true, Shacklett said.
“It may appear that way but a lot of soldiers come back and have a problem getting jobs,” said the chaplain, explaining that some weren’t employed before going overseas.
Even though this is an inter-denominational initiative, Eric Allen of the Kentucky Baptist Convention said it offers KBC churches a chance to act as Christ’s hands and feet.
“If chaplains are willing to refer enlisted men and women to the local church for assistance, we must be ready to seize this ministry opportunity,” said Allen, leader of the KBC’s mission mobilization team. “It may only come once.”
Chaplain Col. William Lee, the Maryland minister who designed Partners in Care, expressed excitement over its growth.
The four churches that originally signed up have expanded to 92 in all 23 Maryland counties. Last year, they helped 138 families; emergency food assistance was the number-one need.
“We weren’t sure what the Lord was going to do with this idea,” Lee said. “It’s given churches the opportunity to live out their faith in a very practical way and touch folks who live in their community.
“They can meet people at their point of need with love and compassion,” he continued. “A lot of churches have veterans (as members) and this allows them to be involved.”
It is spreading beyond the National Guard, said Wayne Stinchcomb, a weekend Guard chaplain who attends a Southern Baptist church in suburban Baltimore.
For example, Stinchcomb recently received a referral from the Veterans Administration. He provided a $150 grocery store gift card to a retired Navy veteran who had lost his civilian job.
“He was elated and so grateful there was an organization out there to give him a hand up,” Stinchcomb said. “These folks like a hand up, not a handout.”
In addition to his chaplain duties, Stinchcomb is president of Praise N Thunder, a nine-year-old evangelistic group of Christian motorcycle riders.
Praise N Thunder joined Partners in Care in 2010 and last year aided nearly 20 Guard families. That included distributing $400 in gift cards and half a dozen food baskets during the Christmas season.
“What a great way to minister outside your four walls,” said Stinchcomb, who encourages Kentucky Baptist churches to volunteer for the program.
“As Southern Baptists, our desire is to preach the gospel verbally, but this is preaching the gospel with action,” Stinchcomb added. “People are moved by it. A lot of times people think we’re doing actions because we want something. This says, ‘We don’t want anything.’”
Even though the program is open to all faiths (or no faith), and help is extended to everyone, churches aren’t prohibited from sharing about Jesus Christ, Shacklett said.
“A church still has the right to ask, ‘Would you be interested in us telling you about Christ?’” Shacklett said. “Our hope is people (receiving help) will get connected to a church.”
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.
Information provided by Dannah Prather
Photo provided by SurfKY News
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