Since 2005, one-third of ARM’s funding has come from the KBC. The other two-thirds has been supplied by NAMB and the 11 partnership conventions within the 10 states, including both Virginia Baptist conventions.
Beginning Jan. 1, NAMB will fund 100 percent of Barker’s salary and travel outside of the Appalachian region. The 11 partnering conventions, including Kentucky, will supply program money to fund Barker’s work and travel within Appalachia.
Barker noted that the change in funding will result in a reduction of available ministry funds by about one-third.
“So we’re going to have to run a leaner, meaner operation,” he added.
Despite the cutback, ARM’s director said he expects the ministry to continue its success in working among the Appalachian population.
He added that the affiliation with NAMB on the national level will bring a “new level of credibility” to ARM’s work in the region.
ARM “has now been recognized on a national level by Southern Baptists, which will open up more doors for me in the mountains,” he explained.
Randy Jones, leader of the KBC’s missions growth team, has served as Barker’s supervisor since 2005. Jones noted that he and other missions leaders have been working with NAMB for the past several years to establish this arrangement, which Jones described as “outside the box.”
He applauded Barker’s work in the mountains, noting that he has done “a whole lot with evangelism in the small mountain church.”
“He simplifies it, makes it understandable and puts it in mountain talk,” Jones added.
Barker returned the affirmation, noting that the support of Kentucky Baptists “freed me up to do what I needed to do.”
He estimated that since 2005, ARM has “mobilized directly or indirectly” more than 160,000 volunteers. That is half of the total number of volunteers the ministry has assembled in its first nine years of operation, Barker pointed out.
He also said approximately 40 percent of all volunteers who have come through ARM did work in Eastern Kentucky, adding that most projects are being picked up even before the organization can post them.
Through the surge in volunteerism, Barker noted that more than a dozen church buildings have been constructed. In 2007 alone, five ministry centers have been opened in the Appalachian region, including three in Kentucky.
Outside of the state, Barker said he is excited about ministry efforts in Pennsylvania, calling it an area of “primary focus.”
ARM recently established a partnership between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and an area of 31 counties in east central Pennsylvania. The North Carolina convention will soon begin work on several ministry projects in that region.
“Three years ago, we had very few volunteers going in there,” Barker noted. The partnership “has been like water after a long drought.”
Jones, who was part of the team that helped form ARM in 1999, said Barker’s tireless work in Appalachia has grown the ministry “bigger than we ever imagined.”
Barker “has had the personality, the commitment, the motivation … to put a face on missions in the mountains,” Jones added.
Barker predicted that the support of NAMB and recognition of Southern Baptists will help sustain the trust he has developed in the last six years. But he added that his work might never have been possible if not for the support of Kentucky Baptists.
“I’m personally indebted to (KBC Executive Director) Bill Mackey for his vision and passion to keep Appalachian Regional Ministry alive,” Barker declared. “Kentucky has opened doors for us to do ministry that were not open before.”
Western Recorder issue date: December 18, 2007