Christmas backpacks open doors for personal ministry

Published 6:12 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2022

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Christmas came early for students at two Lowndes County schools Friday when members of Imago Dei Church at the 45 and 27 volunteers from the Chilton Baptist Association of churches distributed 419 backpacks at Jackson Steele Elementary and Central Elementary School in Hayneville.

“The students were really excited,” said Jackson Steele Elementary Principal Shana Ervin. “Some of them don’t have as much. It’s just a blessing to receive this from people who genuinely care.”

Christmas backpacks, an outreach ministry of the Southern Baptist auxiliary organization, Woman’s Missionary Union, are distributed by compassion ministry sites and church plants like Imago Dei to provide Christmas gifts for underserved children and to open doors for believers to share the love of Christ in local communities.

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“All backpacks collected go to kids and their families who are in extremely poverty-stricken situations,” said Pat Ingram, Alabama WMU Missions and Ministry Consultant. “These are the kids that could possibly not receive any kind of Christmas gift. Some will not even be able to have the food they need while out of school [for Christmas break.] The backpacks are a tangible expression of God’s love, to let children know they are valued and important.”

Partnerships like the one between Chilton County churches and Imago Dei offer missionaries much-needed resources and the volunteers to help distribute donated gifts.

“We’re a church plant,” said Imago Dei Pastor Davey Lyon, who, with his wife Amber, works alongside Terry and Melanie Sharpless to serve nearby Hayneville and White Hall communities. “There’s no way we could have pulled this off. We don’t have the resources to pull together that many backpacks and distribute them. We need partners.

“We want people to come and see Lowndes County and meet our folks. It’s one thing to hear about missions, but it’s another thing to come talk to the kids. Then it becomes personal. Jesus said, ‘Go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and other parts of the world.’ This is our Jerusalem.”

According to Lyon, Christmas backpacks represent more than a gift. The bags open doors, he said, to relationships, Gospel conversations, and even more opportunities to serve community families.

The children at Jackson Steele love the Lyons and other church members who volunteer in the school, Ervin said.

“The children know him when he comes up with Melanie and his wife Amber,” she added. “They are very helpful, and the students look forward to him coming to do prayer on Thursday morning. They do a lot for our school, and we appreciate them coming in the way they do.”

Each year, churches pack Christmas backpacks and many like those in the Chilton Association, also send volunteers to help with distribution outreach events.

Euleta Guy, a Chilton County volunteer from Thorsby First Baptist, said the ministry blessed volunteers who donated items, packed backpacks, and traveled to help give them out.

“We came to bless the kids but really it’s the other way around because we were blessed,” Guy said. “I’ve always wanted to help give out backpacks. I’ve packed backpacks for years and this year our church sent 100.”

To learn more about Christmas backpacks, visit