By Gabriel Stovall

Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, back-to-school time has a much different feel all around the globe. But whether students are going back to physical classrooms or partaking in some form of home or virtual learning, the need for school supplies hasn’t changed. And Send Relief ministry centers in Clarkston, Georgia, and Puerto Rico, along with partnering churches, are meeting that need.

Between the two ministry centers, 3,600 backpacks have gone out to a total of 41 churches. Those backpacks will be filled with supplies by volunteers.

For Greg Wilton, recently named Send Relief’s national director for refugees and internationals, the ability to serve in this way is exciting—especially given the diverse collection of students and families the ministry center will be able to serve.

“We were able to reach out to 11 churches in Atlanta, six of those 11 churches are immigrant congregations,” Wilton said. “We have a Nepali congregation, a Burmese, congregation and then Pakistani, Hispanic and Sudanese churches. The awesome thing about this is that these are people from other countries, other nationalities, and they’re using these backpacks to minister to their own communities.”

Send Relief provided the churches with the backpacks, as well as instruction cards with suggestions on how to fill the bags. For Wilton and the group in Clarkston, 75% of the students they’ll reach will range from Kindergarten to 5th grade, which means hand sanitizer, glue sticks, pencils, crayons, notebooks and notebook paper will be what fills up most bags.

In Puerto Rico, missionary Jonathan Santiago was also encouraged by the support received from local churches.

“We gave out 2,600 backpacks to 30 churches,” he said. “Fifteen were established churches and 15 were planters. It was a great mix and balance. They’ll be distributing the backpacks with supplies through the end of August, and at the end of the month, we’re looking forward to collecting the reports of testimonies, families impacted and people served. It’s an exciting time.”

Greg praised the way local churches responded in metro Atlanta, saying that it’s always the local church he wants to cast as the hero.

“That’s the joy of what we’re wanting to accomplish through Send Relief in Clarkston,” he said. “We want to position the local church to be the hands and feet of Jesus for their own communities. We want the local churches to be in focus, not us. We’re already working with a fantastic church in Clarkston International Bible Church, which has been kind of the hub here for our ministry center, and we want to see that continue with any outreach we do here. We’ll tee it up and let our local churches knock it out.”

Find out how your church can fill backpacks for families in your community.