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03-13-2012


To Such as These

 


WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — Imagine a hungry child; a child who has not been bathed for days, maybe weeks, because there is no running water in his home; a child who has never entered a church or heard the love of Jesus. Now imagine where these children are from. If you imagined your back yard, you are right. Many children right here in our backyard live in poverty and do not enjoy even the smallest amenities that so many of us take for granted. A University of the Cumberlands ministry is working to change that.

Appalachian Ministries was started in 1975 by a handful of Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) students who understood the heart of Christ when he said “Let the little children come to me.” Just as Christ gave His time, attention and love to the little ones, so have Cumberlands students through Appalachian Ministries.

 


“Some of the children in our ministries come from really broken homes, poverty, etc.” says AM director Magan Atwood. “At the weekly ministry gatherings these children have college students who will show them God's love. They get a substantial snack and time to run off some energy with recreation and be creative with crafts. They know that God loves them and that no matter what He will never leave them. Our heart is to show these children and youth the fullness of the Gospel so that they may be drawn to Christ and so that their whole family may be drawn to Him.”

The help the children receive not only affects them, but their families and communities as well. Throughout a typical week, 20 to 30 UC students minister to sometimes more than 100 children and youth in the surrounding community. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the students go in teams into the community, where they build relationships through teaching Bible lessons, sharing music, recreation and crafts, and providing food.

AM students also work with local churches, taking part in worship, youth ministry and childcare. So far this year, they have assisted in a children’s crusade, church revival, a marriage retreat and rebuilding a local community park. They have also been working with the Kentucky Baptist Convention church plant.

Ministry doesn’t end during the university’s summer vacation; teams of UC students decline going to their homes, instead taking part in community service projects with several Whitley County outreach organizations, holding vacation Bible schools and serving as camp counselors.

Although the purpose of AM is to be an outreach to children, the impact in the lives of UC students is just as great.

“A little girl was sitting in my lap while the Bible story was being told. I went to sit her down and she told me ‘No don't let go, I never get to be held,’ and she grabbed my arms to pick her back up and sit her in my lap,” says student Deana Gabbard. “This broke my heart; these kids just want to be loved. I have a passion for children and sharing the love of Christ. Appalachian Ministries allows me to combine both of my passions and I enjoy it greatly.”

The changes in the lives of students are seen by others as well. “I love watching the students grow as the summer progresses and they begin to discover their spiritual gifts and realize what a great purpose God has for them,” says Atwood. “It is truly a blessing to watch them learn, serve and grow.”

Perhaps the greatest lesson they are learning is one that Christ told his disciples: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14, NIV

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; seven graduate degrees, including a doctorate and six master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.