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Former saloon home to Ky. missionary of the year

CORBIN, Ky. (BP) — With her decision to become a missionary, Amy Wilhelmus’ one request to God was to send her anywhere on earth — except to her northern Kentucky hometown of Covington.

But as Wilhelmus would later observe, who is she to question God’s plans? So, she stood on the stage at Central Baptist Church in Corbin on April 1 to be honored as the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Missionary of the Year for her work sharing the Gospel — in Covington.

She joked at the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting where she was honored that accepting the award on April Fool’s Day seemed appropriate.

Wilhelmus had grown up at Southside Baptist Church in Covington, her mother an inner-city missionary there. As she began to learn more about missions, she said she couldn’t visualize how the things God had taught her could add to what her mother was already doing.

But Wilhelmus said God had a plan. She had seen her childhood pastor, Harold Pike, pray for decades for God to give their church the bar next door with a promise of using the building for the good of people and the glory of God.

“Seventeen years ago today, Southside Baptist Church bought the Salty Dog Saloon,” Amy said to the laughing crowd. “A church buys a bar? That’s very appropriate for April Fool’s Day, right?”

Wilhelmus said her plans to “go anywhere but home” were thwarted just as she was finishing seminary when she received a call from her pastor asking her to “come home and run the bar.” And she did just that, though, of course, it went from serving alcohol to sharing the Gospel.

Wilhelmus is director and inner-city missionary of the Moore Activity Center, which is housed in the former Salty Dog Saloon.

A graduate of Cumberland College, Wilhelmus formerly served as missionary in Binghamton, N.Y., before graduating from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Under her direction, the Moore Activity Center is reaching thousands of people in the downtown Covington area using tools such as tutoring, family fun nights, Bible programs, community service events, recovery programs, and summer programs to share Christ’s love.

Wilhelmus has developed a reputation through the years for being a woman with a servant heart and for living a life of sacrifice and discipline.

“She has a great compassion for those she serves,” said Teresa Parrett, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s missions mobilization coordinator.

Eric Allen, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s missions mobilization team leader, said Wilhelmus is a worthy recipient of the Missionary of the Year Award.

“It’s so inspiring and challenging to see Amy’s dependence upon God and to hear how He has faithfully been at work through the ministry of Southside,” Allen said.

Although her hometown was once the only place in the world she did not want to serve, Wilhelmus said she now believes she is exactly where she is called to be.

“God used each place I traveled to prepare me for what I am doing now,” she said. “I love watching God at work.”

Also recognized in Saturday’s celebration were eight of Kentucky’s newest missionaries, all with a call to reach across the state in the name of Christ to make a difference in the lives of those in need.

In a missionary commissioning service, the new missionaries made the promise to dedicate their lives to serving God and to fulfill the Great Commission by sharing the Gospel.