Red Bird Missionary Conference
By David Malloy
The Red Bird valley, nestled in the Appalachian mountains of southeastern Kentucky is an isolated area where three counties come together. The area is underdeveloped, cut off from the educational and medical services of the county seats, with very little employment opportunities for the people of Appalachia. In a region with very little, the United Methodist Church has been a presence that has provided hope to a part of the country that many have forgotten. Formed in 1968 from the merger of The Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren the Red Bird Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church is one of three missionary conferences in the United States. The Red Bird Missionary Conference (RBMC) is comprised of 23 United Methodist churches, four worshipping outreach centers (#773978), Camp O'Cumberlands, The Appalachian Local Pastors School (#773978), Henderson Settlement (#773365), Red Bird Mission and Clinic(#773724), and The Bennett Center(#770130).
RBMC is the most comprehensive mission effort of The United Methodist Church in the United States, providing outreach and services in eight southeastern Kentucky counties. Two of these counties are listed among the ten poorest counties in the United States.
Chronic poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, and rugged mountainous terrain provide obstacles to a fuller life for the residents of this area. Ruth A. Wiertzema has been the director of connectional ministries for RMBC since 1992. She has witnessed the difference the church has made in the lives of the people of Red Bird.
"This area has no significant economic engine to help sustain the people. The presence of the church allows people to reach their full potential. We seek to minister to the whole person, spiritually, physically and socially. Families are given the opportunity to have medical and social services, clothing, home maintenance, and educational resources to help them achieve a more abundant life."