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10-state Appalachian ministry to be housed by Ky. convention

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Appalachian Regional Ministry, a 10-state ministry partnership, will shift its headquarters from West Virginia to Kentucky effective April 1.

Bill Barker, ARM’s director since 2001, will continue in that role as an associate on the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s missions growth team.

Barker, a Southern Baptist North American Mission Board-approved missionary, was elected to the KBC staff Jan. 27 by the KBC mission board’s administrative committee.

“I’m excited about what Bill Barker has done over the past four years,” said Randy Jones, leader of the KBC missions growth team. “He has the heart of an evangelist; he’s good at church development.”

Jones, who also serves as chairman of ARM’s executive committee, added, “I think there’s a genuine excitement about bringing Appalachian Regional Ministry to Kentucky…. God is at work in the mountains.”

ARM, launched in 1999, stretches along the Appalachian region from Georgia to Pennsylvania.

In addition to Kentucky and West Virginia, the partnership includes nine other state conventions: Georgia, Pennsylvania-South Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Maryland-Delaware, the Baptist General Association of Virginia and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. The 11 conventions also partner with NAMB and national Woman’s Missionary Union.

The region is home to more than 19 million people, including an estimated 12.6 million people who are unchurched or unreached with the Gospel.

The 10-state coalition, as described by ARM, is “an intentional missions response to the spiritual and physical needs of persons living in the Appalachian region.”

The West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists housed the partnership for the first five years of the effort. Terry Harper, executive director of the West Virginia convention, asked that another convention take primary responsibility for the partnership office so West Virginia Baptists could shift limited resources into a fulltime church planter position.

Noting that Barker “has done a real good job for us,” Harper added that “there will be a certain sense of loss for us for him to move out of West Virginia.”

Barker is “uniquely qualified for this position,” Harper said. “One reason ARM has been so overwhelmingly successful is because Bill has been in that position. He is a native of Appalachia and he understands the culture and relates to the people so well.”

Jones said ARM’s ministry priorities will mesh well with the KBC’s “Connect” goal of involving 1,250 churches in developing and implementing outreach ministries and missions strategies.

Barker will spend about 35 percent of his time coordinating ministry projects in Kentucky and 65 percent working with other state conventions. KBC leaders have made an initial three-year commitment to funding the position.

“Why would we want to give 65 percent of a staff member’s time to other states?” Jones asked. “Because it’s part of Kingdom work. When the Kingdom wins, everybody wins.”

Barker served more than 20 years as pastor of churches in Georgia, including a church start in Columbus. He is a graduate of Shorter College in Rome, Ga., and Covington Theological Seminary in Rossville, Ga.

Describing ARM efforts as “a God thing that’s been taking place” the past few years, Barker said, “As we began to make known the needs that are out there, the response has been overwhelming.”

During the past year, more than 50,000 volunteers have been involved in more than 800 ARM-related mission projects in such areas as church planting, home repair, evangelism, literacy and medical missions.

Emphasizing that he has seen “God work in miraculous ways across the Appalachian Mountains,” Barker said, “Each day I wake up wondering, ‘What is God going to do today?’ Whether it is a need for volunteers or money for a ministry need, God seems to raise up just the right person or persons at just the right time.”

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson

    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.

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