Life on Higher Ground

I grew up in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. Although I have been blessed to travel far and wide, the hills have always had a claim on my heart. After finishing a career in higher education, I retired in the gently rolling countryside of central Kentucky.  But, the hills continued to call.

About 10 years ago, I joined with a friend who lives in Eastern Kentucky to establish a church planting ministry there. Now, once a week, I take the two-hour trip up the Mountain Parkway to our home base at Bear Pen in Wolf County. As I gaze through the windshield, my heart thrills each time I see the hills looming ahead.

One of my spiritual heroes in the Bible is Caleb, a man who also felt drawn to the hills. At 80 years old, with the Exodus and wilderness journey behind, he longed for the challenge of the mountains. He wanted to continue being a soldier for the Lord. “Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said” (Joshua 14:12, NKJV).

In the spiritual realm, there is an upward call to the human spirit. It is a call to rise above the lowlands of ‘wake, eat, work, sleep, and repeat’. The hymn ‘Higher Ground’ by Johnson Oatman, Jr. beautifully expresses this upward call:

            I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining ev’ry day;
            Still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

             Lord, lift me up, and let me stand By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
             A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

            My heart has no desire to stay Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
            Though some may dwell where these abound, My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

            I want to live above the world, Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
            For faith has caught a joyful sound, The song of saints on higher ground.

            I want to scale the utmost height, And catch a gleam of glory bright;
            But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found, “Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”

Does your heart yearn for higher ground? Do you have a desire to be closer to the Lord? If so, scripture provides the pathway; “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully(Psalm 24:3-4, NKJV).

Prayer: Lord, let us walk in the light as you are in the light so that we may have fellowship one with another and your blood will cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7). With clean hands and a pure heart, we may to ascend the hill of the Lord.

~ Brother Roy

A Quick Update on Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief

We praise the Lord for what God is doing through His people in response to the horrific flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Here are some quick updates on the flood relief efforts of which NHIM has been able to be a part:

  • Two work teams led by Keith Madill were sent from Wilmore Free Methodist Church this week to do cleanup.
  • Two much-needed generators were secured and will be delivered Saturday.
  • A load of supplies including pet food is on its way to our staging area at the Bear Pen Community Center.
  • A used car was purchased for a family that lives miles from town and whose home was damaged and only vehicle was washed away in the flood waters.
  • An air conditioner was purchased to help cool the Bear Pen Community Center where flood victims will be staying.
  • Rolls of quarters are being provided for flood victims who have found coins hard to come by and must use a laundromat to wash muddy and soiled clothing.
  • A new load of food and supplies will be picked up Tuesday for the Abiding Hope Food Pantry.

We are exceedingly grateful for all who have come alongside NHIM and other ministries to show the love of Jesus to the hurting people of Eastern Kentucky. Please pray that the spirit of service and generosity will continue and consider how God might use you to bring healing and restoration to this flood-ravaged region.

Eastern Kentucky Flooding

When the national news is reporting live from your little corner of the world, it is rarely a good thing. The larger world has turned its eye to the area of Appalachia where NHIM is working in the church planting ministry through coverage of the historic and catastrophic flash flooding that took place this week. Flooding along the North Fork of the Kentucky River surpassed the all-time record set in 1939.

Communication is still difficult, the waters have yet to recede, and more heavy rain is on the way; however, efforts are already underway to meet the challenges of this disaster, and NHIM is working to minister God’s love to those affected.

Many of our partners in the church planting ministry that we have been able to contact are safe. We are still waiting to hear from some families who live in low-lying areas. The area around our friends at Wide Creek Community Church is badly flooded, and loss of and damage to property are expected to be tremendous.

Our friends at Bear Pen Community Church near Campton are serving as a staging area for donations that are already coming in and work teams that will be traveling down in the coming days to help with the cleanup. The Abiding Hope Food Pantry will be serving flood victims by distributing food and other necessities.

Two teams from Wilmore Free Methodist Church are already planned to travel to Eastern Kentucky in partnership with NHIM in the next week to do cleanup. In addition to the team that will put feet on the ground, that church’s benevolence fund has made a large financial contribution to the relief effort. Shiloh Camp Meeting in Georgia has also sent funds through NHIM, and we are deeply grateful. One hundred percent of all funds coming to NHIM for flood relief work will go directly to helping the people impacted by this unfolding tragedy.

How, you may wonder, can I help?

First of all, please pray for the precious people who are experiencing such devastating loss in this natural disaster. More rain is forecast, and there is great concern that the receding waters will rise again. Many people were just recovering from unusually severe flooding in the Spring of 2021 and have now lost everything all over again.

Secondly, you can give. Friends wishing to make tax-deductible donations through New Hope International Ministries may (1) send a check or money order directly to our office: New Hope International Ministries, One Macklem Dr., Wilmore, KY 40390, (2) contribute online via Venmo here, or (3) donate online via PayPal here. Please indicate “FLOOD” as the reason for your contribution.

The driving force behind all New Hope has done through the years has been Jesus’ admonition, “That which you have done for the least of these, you have done for Me.” Thank you for joining us in prayer and giving as we seek to serve Jesus by serving the people of Eastern Kentucky.

Reaching to South Africa from Eastern Kentucky

Raliegh Spencer, a mountain youth, was in his early teens when he talked to me about Africa and our ministry there. He felt the Lord was moving him to reach out and try to help a boy in Africa. He went to work earning money and saving his allowance. By the end of the summer, he had approximately $350. He wanted to know if New Hope could help him find a boy about his age that needed help. My daughter, Lori Wright, was living in South Africa. She was working with a single mom with a son about Raliegh’s age named Aubrey who desperately needed help to stay in school. 

Lori was able to get the money into the hands of the boy’s mother, who was then able to pay her son’s school expenses. Aubrey was able to stay in school, a key to his survival in a country locked in poverty. Aubrey completed his basic public school education in 2021. He took the rigorous government exams to see if there was a chance that he could pursue post-secondary education. After long months of waiting, the results came. This exciting news just came to us — not only did Aubrey qualify to proceed, but amazingly he received a full scholarship to the University of Botswana!

The axiom, “Little is much when God is in it,” is validated by this account. A mountain youth with a small amount of money reached across the world and across cultures and provided help of inestimable worth to an African boy. May God be praised!

~ Brother Roy

Eastern Kentucky Update: A New Preacher

The Lord is blessing our church planting ministry in Eastern Kentucky. New Hope International Ministries has partnered with local church planter David Spencer in this neglected area. A reliable survey of the area indicated that there were more than 690,000 unchurched people in the 42-county area our ministry is targeting. God is blessing the ministry in spite of an era of church closings and plummeting attendance.

We have experienced a problem along with our success. Where do you find Godly ministers to lead the churches? Small congregations in the Appalachian poverty pocket often struggle financially. Opportunities for work are scarce and unemployment rates are among the highest in the nation. Salaries for ministers are minimal at best. Attracting quality people to join our team is problematic when they have families to support.

The call of the Lord on potential ministers, the effectual fervent prayers of God’s people, and diligent searching for people to join us is our strategy. Our scriptural guide – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).   

Recently, we redeployed one our most successful pastors. We were faced with the need to find a new couple to lead the church that has been the hub of our church planting ministry. The Lord answered prayer. A graduate of Southern Wesleyan University, Jonathan Herron answered the call. Jonathan is an ordained minister with valuable experience. His wife, Celia, had served as a missionary in the Middle East under World Gospel Mission. She is a registered nurse that brings needed health care expertise as well as spiritual leadership to Bear Pen Community Worship Center. Is God amazing or what? Will you join us in praying for them?

May God be praised!

~ Brother Roy

Spiritual Splitters

New Hope International Ministries helps with the operation of the Abiding Hope Food Pantry at Bear Pen Worship Center in Eastern Kentucky. Approximately 350 families are served by this vital ministry.

To preserve the food in the pantry, it is necessary to maintain both cool temperatures in the summer and above freezing temperatures in winter. Our traditional system was old and inefficient, and utilities costs weighed heavy on the budget. A friend told us of a relatively inexpensive system that would meet our needs and be less expensive to operate. He introduced us to the ‘Mini-Split’ unit. Mini-Split heating and cooling systems are comprised of a small outdoor/indoor unit that requires nothing more than mounting capabilities and access to electricity. It resembles a window mount air conditioner unit and can move efficiently between heating and cooling. The Mini-Split units helped solve our problem.

In the physical world, a unit like the Mini-Split that alternates between cooling and heating can be the answer. Not so much in the spiritual world. Blowing both hot and cold is not a virtue to be cultivated in Christ’s kingdom here on earth:

  • “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:14-16).
  • “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).

Are you a lukewarm Christian? Scripture says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV). The following are some indicators of a lukewarm Christian:

  • No true confession of personal sin, no repentance, no sorrow, and no lasting change
  • Only wants to be a Christian because of fear of hell
  • Only comes to God when there is a problem
  • Goes to church on Sunday, is self-centered the other six days of the week
  • Believes Christianity is about God doing things for them and making them happy
  • Doesn’t obey the Word of God and may even try to twist Scripture to justify sin
  • Compromises with the world because it’s the popular choice and everybody’s doing it
  • Spends little time in God’s word and prayer
  • Gives little time to reaching out to those in need
  • Loves to say things like, “I’m only human;” “Everybody sins every day in thought, word, and deed;” “Nobody is perfect;” “Do not judge;” “It’s not my fault”
  • Is unwilling to make sacrifices
  • Any sacrifices made are small and won’t affect lifestyle

Do you find items on the above list to be characteristics of your spiritual life? Would the Savior say of you, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot” (Revelation 3:15, KJV)?

Don’t Be A Spiritual Splitter!

Drive-In Revival

“Get in touch with God, turn your radio on!” That was the theme at the Sunday afternoon worship service at Bear Pen Church.  We were in our second week of Sunday afternoon drive-in revival services at the little church in Wolfe County, Kentucky.  A global pandemic required us to avoid close contact with each other, but “social distancing” did not prevent us from gathering to worship and hear the Good News.

Cars gathered on the hillside in front of our Abiding Hope Food Pantry as music and a revival message filled each car. Our little FM radio transmitter sent a clear signal to each car. The “Amens!” came by way of a honk of the horn and the flash of headlights. Praise the Lord, when our church door was closed, God opened a window. The Spirit of God visited with us as we turned our radios on.

lauter bear pen drivein

Abiding Hope Food Pantry


Abiding Hope Pantry

The Abiding Hope Food Pantry has been an important part of our ministry in Eastern Kentucky since the beginning of our partnership there. Eugene Spencer, the pastor of Bear Pen Community Worship Center, oversees this vital ministry. Lewis Roberts manages the day-to-day activities of the pantry and, with other volunteers, provides invaluable service managing the acquisition and distribution of food to needy families. The pantry is located at Bear Pen and currently serves approximately 350 families a month.

ahfp 1The pantry started as an outreach to the community when David Spencer, now director of the church planting ministry, was pastor at the Bear Pen Church. On Sundays after service, the pews in the small church were moved to the platform so the floor of the sanctuary could be used to stack the food. The food was sorted and boxed for distribution by volunteers from the congregation.

ahfp 2

Later, a rough shed was constructed on the property.



As time passed and funding became available, a concrete floor was added and other improvements were made.


The building was finally brought to its current condition and shelving was added.

truckThere are other improvements that should be made, and the pantry also needs ongoing financial support. Fuel and upkeep on the box truck as it makes the roundtrip journeys from Bear Pen to God’s Pantry in Lexington necessitate a regular flow of money. Utilities costs for the building also provide a recurring challenge. If you would like to help support this outreach in the name of Jesus, you can make your checks payable to NHIM and mark in the memo line – ‘Abiding Hope Food Pantry’.

Jesus said, For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” (Matthew 25:35)