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VBS at Mid-Springs Park in Canadatown


WILLIAMSBURG, Ky.— This past Friday, July 12, UC’s Appalachian Ministries (AM) ended a successful week of Vacation Bible School at Mid-Springs Park in Whitley County’s Canadatown. Beginning on Monday July 8, AM students hosted more than 80 kids, teens and young adults at the park, leading Bible study, worship and playing games with the rural Whitley County residents.

AM students were joined by two groups, one a church youth group from Crossroads Church in Concord, North Carolina, and a group of volunteers that get together once a year from several states (this year Fla., Ohio, Tenn., Miss. and Ala.) to meet in Whitley County and minister to the residents. This group has been doing this since the 1970’s, when a missionary couple, “Mr. Tommy and Miss Lavinia,” began bringing their youth group from Pensacola, Fla.


Many of the adults helping from this group have been coming since they were kids: Jimma Domini (Pensacola, Fla.) was 11 when she traveled north in the 80’s to minister with her church group. Now 35, Domini works with teenagers who attend the annual VBS, and interacts with the children of kids she played with years ago. While French-braiding youngsters’ hair she chats with a 26-year old Williamsburg resident who has attended the VBS since she was four, and now brings her 5-year-old son. As they catch up, Domini’s reason for her yearly journey north is apparent.

“It’s a love of the community and kids, and sharing Christ with them,” said Domini of why she continues coming. “And seeing the impact it makes here.”

The relationships formed between this group and Whitley Co. residents is touching to watch as young people and kids pour out of University of the Cumberlands’ vans and run to greet friends they haven’t seen for a year. One young man from Florida who has attended from age 12 to (now) 22 tossed a football with a Whitley Co. man of around the same age, their friendly play the result of years of bonding over VBS activities.

First-time volunteers from North Carolina joined in the activities also, Crossroads Church youth pastor David Gaeta joining in and tossing the football while youth intern Prisicilla Huber chatted with young visitors from the county. Crossroads brought 13 middle-schoolers to Mid-Springs to volunteer with AM after learning about the group from a former youth intern. Huber said Gaeta instructed his youth group to “be the thermostat” during the week and set the tone or “temperature” for the attendees, so with every van that entered with more kids, Gaeta and his group greeted them with cheers and high-fives.

The week was a busy one for all involved, with Bible classes, crafts, worship and games all crowded into the space of two and half hours each day, but the smiles and energy of the attendees was testimony that the week was a success.

“Lots of great relationships were built,” said Magan Atwood, director of Appalachian Ministries. “Many kids made decisions to follow Christ in a more real way.”

Although the VBS volunteers were from different churches in U.S., they and the AM ministers all had a cohesive purpose: to minister to the residents of Canadatown.

“It was a blessing to watch so many people come together as the body of Christ to reach this community,” said Atwood.

Established in 1975, Appalachian Ministries gives students the opportunity to minister to area children, youth and families. Under the direction of the Appalachian Ministries director, student workers pick up and take participating children to local churches to lead them in recreation, crafts, games, and Bible lessons.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; 10 pre-professional programs; ten graduate degrees distributed over eight areas, including two doctorates and seven master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs. For more information visit