By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
MANY, La. (LBM) – Christmas will be merrier in Louisiana and seven other states for more than 11,000 needy families, who have received a backpack filled with gifts and a message of hope for the holiday season.
Included in that number are 4,500 backpacks filled with hygiene items, snacks, canned food items, school supplies, clothes, a Bible and a booklet of the Christmas story, contributed by 20 Louisiana Baptist churches and ministries.
Throughout December, the Louisiana-based Mississippi River Ministry has coordinated the distribution of the backpacks to families at Christmas parties and other outreach events.
Since the backpack giveaway began in 2015, more than 34,000 backpacks have been distributed that have resulted in 1,100 professions of faith in the eight-state region served by the ministry, according to Mississippi River Ministry regional backpack coordinators Marshall and Janell Ingle. Alabama’s Women on Mission has adopted the ministry and provided most of the backpacks since 2015.
“The backpacks are more than just gifts to children who are marginalized,” Janell Ingle told the Baptist Message. “The backpacks not only meet physical needs but they are used as a bridge to meet a spiritual need. Every backpack represents a child or family that will hear the Gospel and have an opportunity to respond.”
Jacob Crawford, pastor of Life Point Community Church in Mansura and director of missions for Louisiana Baptist Association, said churches in his association planned to distribute the 800 backpacks they received, collectively, during individual outreach events throughout December. He is thankful for how God has used the Ingles and the Mississippi River Ministry to touch thousands of lives across the Delta region.
“Imagine 800 Gospel conversations just in our association,” Crawford said. “For our church we will be using the backpacks to look for people of peace who we can build relationships with to eventually start discovery group Bible studies. This is a great way to be missional and make disciples.”
Ingle said they are excited about how God will use the backpack distribution to reach many who are in need of hope this Christmas.
“Thank you to all that donated Christmas backpacks to be given out,” Ingle said. “With every backpack there is a story. Check for more posts on our Facebook page over the next weeks as the Mississippi River Ministry touches thousands of lives across the Delta Region.”
The Mississippi River Ministry was founded in 1992 by the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) and the Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union to share the Gospel with those in poverty along the Mississippi River Delta. For more information visit facebook.com/MarshallandJanellIngle or mississippiriverministry.com.