EDITORS’ NOTE: The following two stories are part of a series initiated by Baptist Press to explore and describe how individuals, churches, associations and conventions exhibit a passion for Christ and His Kingdom
INEZ, Ky. (BP)–Larry Martin is passionate about his heavenly bank account — “prayers on deposit,” as he puts it — after seeing ministries springing up like mushrooms in recent years.
Martin, missions leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said he and other leaders came up with the term after seeing prayers answered in various communities.
Everywhere positive steps have occurred, they discovered one or more Christians had been praying — for as long as 30 years — that God would move there.
“Prayers are never wasted,” Martin said. “They’re like money in a bank, waiting to be withdrawn. When God is ready to move in power, He sets His people to praying.”
There are many signs that God is active in Kentucky, Martin said, including:
— Since 1999, the number of eastern Kentucky ministry centers dispensing food, clothing and other assistance has grown from a handful to 43, many based in local churches.
— In March, the federal government awarded a $3.1 million grant to the Mountain Missions Development Corporation to establish 14 family service centers in eastern Kentucky. The MMDC centers will provide medical, dental and other services to low-income families. Established in 2002, the independent agency manages properties used in various mission causes. MMDC’s board of directors includes members from six Southern Baptist churches.
— Southern Baptists in Kentucky started five job training centers last year, with 100 people currently enrolled in courses. Some have accepted Christ as Savior.
— Churches are being started in previously untouched rural hollows. One congregation that originated with a pair of summer outreach initiatives has purchased land. A second recently baptized 16 converts and had to move to larger quarters.
Martin made his remarks at the latest state convention quarterly prayer meeting, held July 22-23 near Inez, Ky.
Led by the mission growth team, the meetings have been held in various locations for the past seven years, attracting between 12 and 40 participants.
The prayer sessions originated with a pair of events during which personnel expressed frustration over a lack of results in the field.
The first occurred in 1996 at the annual mountain missions conference at Oneida Baptist Institute. As that summer’s meeting concluded, frustration led one person to suggest they stop meeting.
Instead, Martin said, people fell to their knees and prayed.
“God, if You don’t something in the mountains, we can’t go on,” he described their pleas.
Although the three-day session was near its conclusion, participants prayed for three more hours.
The following year, a new mountain missions director joined the state convention staff. He scheduled a series of prayer meetings in five state park lodges, which were held in 1998.
Meanwhile, at a state training event in 1997, Martin said a director of missions in western Kentucky broke into tears when discussing the problems he faced. That conversation prompted the first state convention-sponsored prayer meeting later that year.
A former North American missionary who spent a decade with Southern Baptists’ work in Boston, Martin believes the activity in Kentucky signifies another Great Awakening.
Noting that New England was a center for the first national awakening, and Kentucky (home to the famed Cane Ridge meetings of 1803) the second, Martin said a similar movement is developing today.
A friend of Martin’s in Boston has documented that 300 pastors meeting for prayer in 1979 had a dramatic impact. Today there are 50 percent more churches in the city than 30 years ago, and those that survived a long period of spiritual decline are 50 percent larger, Martin said.
The movement in Kentucky is following along the same lines, even though much of it is quiet, Martin said.
However, he compared that to the difference between the impact of a tornado and the pattern of the sun and rain. While the tornado gets more headlines, the latter has a longer-lasting impact, Martin said.
One visible demonstration of God answering prayer was the scene of the July prayer meeting –- Haven of Rest, scheduled to open Oct. 1.
Founded by the wife of a retired Southern Baptist pastor, the facility will offer free lodging and food for low-income families coming to visit inmates at a nearby federal prison.
Eileen Mullins, a Mission Service Corps volunteer with the North American Mission Board, said she has received direction from God regularly because of prayer. That included the Lord leading her to approach the wife of the businessman who donated the property where Haven of Rest sits.
Originally, the man gave the ministry 1.9 acres. After a group prayed while walking walked around the area, he donated an additional acre. Mullins said the new tract spanned the outer boundary of their prayer walk.
A participant in various community prayer meetings in recent years, Haven of Rest’s director said she has seen God provide in so many ways it’s hard to count the miracles. Mullins estimates volunteer labor and donations of supplies have enabled her to save about $180,000 on the project, much of it coming “in the last minute and in small amounts.”
“And He’s always come through,” Mullins said of her continuing struggle to raise funds.
Eric Allen, co-director of prayer strategies for the state convention, said prayer efforts extend beyond the quarterly gatherings.
Four years ago his office knew of about 120 churches with prayer coordinators. Today there are 570, nearly one-fourth of the state’s 2,400 Southern Baptist churches. Fifteen associations (of 74) also have prayer coordinators.
“That says to me that churches are beginning to realize the importance of prayer and people are taking responsibility,” Allen said.
The interest has stimulated two “100 Days of Prayer” campaigns the past two autumns, with the state convention distributing a list of needs statewide.
It also prompted the first “Great Commission Prayer Conference,” held last March at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
The second is scheduled Feb. 4-5 at the seminary. Keynote speakers will be John Franklin of LifeWay Christian Resources and Gregory Frizzell, prayer strategy coordinator for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Despite the progress, state convention officials and MSC missionaries say many needs remain. Prayer requests they listed for Kentucky, particularly the Appalachian region in the eastern part of the state, include:
— continued growth and development of new ministries started the past five years, and that these ministries would make an impact on the people they serve.
— more long-term volunteers to help supervise and manage the increased number of short-term volunteers coming into the state.
— more conversions and that God would do a great work in Appalachia.
— that Appalachians would send mission teams to other areas.
— that people would regain their moral compass and know the difference between right and wrong.
— more churches that would care about converts and are willing to disciple them.
— more mission teams willing to work alongside local churches.