Explosive Growth, Extraordinary Impact


It was five years ago this spring that our church began a relationship with an individual who has ultimately helped to change lives and enrich families.

Let me dig into the dim recesses of my memory and try and recall how it all came to be.

As I remember it, our Mission and Fellowship Center was nearing completion and our church was excited about the ministry opportunities that the new facility would help to birth. Our process of discernment was extensive as we sought to hear the church’s hopes and dreams.

One of those hopes and dreams was an after-school ministry. Our community was going to be losing a federal grant to provide care for children and youth after school and our church was concerned for the well-being of the families that we were trying to reach. A small group of us met to research, discuss and pray about what it would look like for First Baptist to become leaders in this field. But we could only go so far. We needed outside help.

Kelly Brown’s name came to me from a trusted source. Kelly was currently serving in campus ministry at WCU and might, the source told me, be a good candidate for us. I met with Kelly to discuss a very limited partnership with our church to develop an after-school ministry, and in doing so I had the kind of experience that many of us have had over the years. That is, I found Kelly to be exceptionally relatable, engaging and sincere. I also found him to be curious and intrigued by what we were trying to do here at First Baptist.

Our first experiment with providing after school care was limited. It involved a small group of sixth grade students from around our county. The parents were responsible for their child’s transportation and the scope of our program was minimal. But, it was a start.

In the coming months, our after school hopes and dreams began to bear fruit. Under Kelly’s leadership, the after school ministry grew. And grew. And grew. As confirmation of our hunch months before, parents in our community clamored to our ministry for help with care for their children after school. To assist in our growth, Kelly developed partnerships with our schools so that he could pick up children with our own church bus. Before long, the number of children interested in our ministry exceeded the number we could pick up. A waiting list emerged and our after school ministry was openly heralded in our community as the best choice for childcare to elementary and middle school children each weekday afternoon.

Still, our ministry grew. After school care was a significant concern for parents, but it had a kissing cousin in the name of summer care. Our summer explorers camp experience was birthed from the collective prayers and idea-swapping that was generated on a church-wide mission trip to a church in Washington, DC. Kelly saw what was being implemented to children there and worked with us here to provide a comprehensive camp experience to children in the summer.

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The ministry that began humbly now had its own name and logo. 1st Explorers Ministry at First Baptist Church was now a mission initiative that provided care and ministry to preschoolers, to school-age children after school, and to children throughout the summer. Staffed by eager college students and young adults, our director provided creative and nimble leadership to help our church care for families in our community.

Today, our 1st Explorers Ministry enables us to minister to children 6 days out of 7. Our ministry has provided part-time employment to scores of college students. Our ministry has allowed us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ most every day of the year to children that we would not ordinarily have exposure to. Our 1st Explorers Ministry has helped to care for strung-out, cash-starved parents in our community who, without our ministry, had no other choice but to let their second grader stay home alone. And throughout our community, people know our church as the church that loves children and that allows them to play on their playground.

The fruit that our ministry has born is significant, also. Children and families have come to know Jesus and be baptized in his name because of our 1st Explorers Ministry. Children and families, as well as their neighbors, their grandparents, co-workers and friends, have come to know our church and to join us in worship, fellowship and membership. 1st Explorers is one of the many ways that we are doing justice and loving kindness. And we know that because of the gratitude, smiles and hugs that Kelly receives from children, parents and grandparents each and every day he serves alongside us.

First Baptist Church, thank you for your relentless commitment to this still-growing and ever-expanding ministry. Thank you for your patience as we have had to make course-corrections and strive to learn from our mistakes along the way. And above all, thank you for helping to bless our community by investing in our 1st Explorers Ministry Director, Kelly Brown.

On behalf of all of us, Kelly, let me convey our deep appreciation for your commitment to our church and to our community these last five years. We are proud of you, and the work that you help to lead and coordinate. Please know of our love and support for you as we continue to work together to serve, to love and to grow.

May you continue to lead us, Kelly, as we seek to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.

Friendship of Beloved Community


"Human trafficking is the slavery of our time. Women who have been trafficked often times have been subjected to profound trauma both physically and mentally. They also face social rejection, discrimination and humiliation both in their own society and the one for which they are forced to work. In France, a group of Christian women have joined together through the Ladies in Waiting ministry. This group aims to reach out and minister in holistic and meaningful ways to prostitutes.

The first time we met Jessica, we invited her to a Ladies in Waiting picnic and invited her to bring a friend if she would like. Jessica said, 'I don't have a friend.' That is what this ministry is all about; building beloved community with those who do not have a friend."

- Joel and Tiffne Whitley, CBF field personnel in Strasbourg, France

Greening Up the Mountains

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Greening Up The Mountains will be on Saturday, April 28th in Downtown Sylva! We will need assistance as we provide hospitality to our community. We will need assistance with purchasing supplies, volunteering to give things out and assist with restrooms. 

Items needed:  Popcorn kernels and oil, sno-cone mix, balloons. 

Contact Tom (828-497-3677 or tsgraham1@gmail.com) or Marina Graham (304-575-2509 or marinahunley3@gmail.com)

Take a Hike

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Join us for a hike on Sunday afternoon, April 29th! Enjoy God’s creation and the gift of fellowship as we hike in our beautiful mountains. Everyone is invited to join us on the path. 

The hike will last no more than 90 minutes and will have gentle terrain and little elevation gain. A water bottle, snack, hiking stick and weather-appropriate clothing are all that you might need. We will meet in the church parking lot at 3:00 PM and will return no later than 7:00 PM. 

In keeping with our theme of Path: Walking Humbly With Our God, we will be taking a monthly hike together throughout the year. If you have questions, contact Jeff. 

Kelly Brown to Attend Forum at Princeton Theological Seminary

Next week, Kelly Brown, 1st Explorers Ministry Director will be at Princeton Theological Seminary attending The Forum on Youth Ministry. The Forum’s theme will be Image: Youth Ministry in a Visual Age. While at the forum, he will attend the following electives and seminars: The Unedited Self: Spontaneity and the Souls of Boys and Young Men; Selfies, Self-Image and the Imago Dei and many other thought-provoking sessions and lectures that will shape his work here among us at First Baptist Church. 

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Scarlette Jasper to Speak Wednesday Night, May 2 at 6:00 pm

Scarlette Jasper -CBF Field Personnel                                        olivebranchministriesky.org
Rural Poverty Advocate

Scarlette Jasper to Speak Wednesday Night, May 2 at 6:00 pm

Be inspired by this Baptist Missionary that is supported by WMU in the poorest counties in Kentucky, and America!

Scarlette will be sharing stories of her Mission serving the homeless, survivors of domestic abuse, families fighting poverty in the areas of nutrition, education, living conditions etc.

Her goal is to partner with churches and individuals to bring Hope to these areas and to individuals and families that they have not been forgotten.

One of the families Scarlette is serving is Natalie’s Family:
Natalie has cervical cancer, is a single mother of four and her mother recently passed away from brain cancer. She had put her life on hold for the last 10 years to care for her mother. During this time her husband left her. Less than a month after the loss her mother, her step father made Natalie and her children leave the home they were sharing.  She has found an apartment and a part time job but can certainly use help moving forward!
There is a box in The Loving Kindness Room marked WMU Natalie’s Family.
Any contributions of Bar Soap, Laundry Soap, Liquid Soap, Bath Towels or Washcloths (don’t need to match), Shampoo, Kleenex, Toilet Paper, Toothpaste or Tooth Brushes.  Or Canned Fruit, Mac and Cheese, Canned Soup, Cheerios, Applesauce.  Or Coloring Books, Doll for Kaitlyn age 10, Cecilia age 8, Ball for Jacob, Hair Accessories etc. would be greatly appreciated.