Two years ago my wife Lisa and I were attending a church Christmas play event and I noticed some children who were there. For some reason I felt my heart greatly burdened for these children. As we left I spoke to Lisa about my burden and said to her, “We are not going to have another Christmas without ministering to the needs of the children in Rockcastle County.” I said, “Next year things are going to be different.” My wife and I began to pray about this. Lisa also shares a deep love for children. She has dedicated her life to teaching preschoolers. God has given Lisa a unique ministry and gift. She operates Tic Toc Christian Preschool in Mt. Vernon where three, four, and five year old’s not only are trained and prepared for kindergarten, but also learn about Jesus and God’s Word. As we prayed I felt God speaking to my heart and giving the vision for Operation Give Hope. It was clear to me that a Christmas outreach event of this magnitude would require the involvement of many people, and I felt that the Rockcastle Baptist Association would embrace such a ministry. God led me to speak to Katheryn Pope and the Community Mission Team. The previous year Katheryn organized a ministry to provide Christmas shoebox gifts to children in Rockcastle County, similar to that of what Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse does. Clearly, Katheryn has a deep love for children and families in our own community. Katheryn immediately embraced the vision for Operation Give Hope and the Community Mission Team unanimously agreed to provide leadership to the event. We decided that this event would be held as close to Christmas as possible and that we would do our best to not only minister to physical needs but also that we would share the message of the Gospel. Katheryn arranged a meeting for me to speak to the Community Mission Team. I shared with them about Operation Give Hope. The basic plan that I shared was that at this event every child receive a new toy of at least a $20 value. Also, that we collect new or slightly used coats and blankets. I also emphasized that we be intentional about sharing the Gospel with every person that attends. Katheryn and her team expanded the idea and helped to coordinate an association wide effort to provide resources for Operation Give Hope. Our first year we had help from our friends in Alabama through our missions partnership. We also had great support from the association churches. Hundreds attended last year’s event and 12 people trusted Christ as Lord and Savior! We learned a lot and felt God leading us to do it again. This year was our second time to have Operation Give Hope. The Community Mission Team far surpassed any expectations I had of providing leadership. Operation Give Hope is the largest outreach ever attempted in Rockcastle County. God’s hand has been upon it from the beginning. It is a ministry of compassion to the people of Rockcastle County. Through acts of kindness we demonstrate the love of Christ and share hope in Jesus at Christmas time. What better time of year is there to share hope and witness about the Gospel? This year over 600 people came to Operation Give Hope. There were 128 volunteers the day of the event, not counting all those who served in various ways leading up to it. There were 35 professions of faith in Jesus Christ this year! Every person attending received a Bible. The Bibles were provided by the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Teresa Parrett connected us to the Christmas backpacks through the North American Mission Board and in particular ARM (Appalachian Regional Ministries) a division of the North American Mission Board. Southern Baptist churches from different states collected items to fill each backpack. Much love went into filling and providing 600 Christmas backpacks for our outreach event. Baptists working together can accomplish more than we can by ourselves. I tell people that I am a Baptist because I believe the Bible, and I am a Southern Baptist because of the Cooperative Program! I am grateful to God to be a part of a Baptist Association that is intentional about sharing the Gospel. I am grateful for the way God blessed Operation Give Hope this year and for all those who served, prayed, and gave. We are planning to have Operation Give Hope in 2016 on Saturday December 17. Mark your calendar and start praying now for a great harvest!
Randy J. McPheron