Our History

A History of the United Methodist Mountain Mission

The United Methodist Mountain Mission is a project of the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and in trust to the same. It is governed by a Board of Directors duly appointed from various areas and representations throughout the Kentucky Conference.


Over 70 years ago a vision of God was planted in the mind of a young minister, Rev. John Lewis, for a mission among the mountain people of Eastern Kentucky. In 1943 this vision was realized and had its beginning under the leadership of Rev. Lewis. He was a pastor in the Methodist Church in Jackson, Kentucky at the time. Rev. Lewis had served two charges in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky during the previous 10 years. He could see the need of the people. He had observed the work of Save the Children Federation stores in the area and felt that people of the Methodist churches throughout Kentucky could serve their own people’s needs in a similar way. This vision of ministry given to Rev. Lewis had among its purposes to:

  • Make available to the people of the area good usable clothing and household items, moderately priced, which the residents of the area can affordably obtain. The philosophy of the Mission has been that it is better to charge a moderate price than to give the items away, as sometimes a gift of such is demeaning. Being able to pay a small price for the merchandise reflects pride of ownership. The income received from the sale of the used clothing and other goods is used to support the mission, pay the wages of the employees, and supplement the salaries of the ministers in the two parish churches.
  • Provide a source of employment for the people of the area. The Mission currently supports and provides such employment to 70 families.
  • Be involved in the spiritual growth of the people in the community through the financial support of two local United Methodist churches. Currently, the two churches under the Mission are Hampton UMC and Wolverine UMC, both located in Breathitt County.

Now, over 70 years later, those same purposes have been successfully realized and still are being done so today. God made it possible; the people of God took up the cross and have followed His calling.


Over 900 churches located in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania contributes to our materials and supplies from which the Mission's OPPORTUNITY STORES operate. Truck runs using the Mission's own trucks are made two or three times per year to each location. The Mission owns six trucks which are on the road at least 48 weeks of the year picking up the materials provided by the churches.


All materials received must be sorted, processed, reviewed for usable content, packaged and prepared for distribution to the Mission's OPPORTUNITY STORES. The Mission uses strict guidelines in the preparation of materials for distribution to the stores. These guidelines do not allow soiled, torn, or damaged clothing or other unacceptable items to be put in the stores for sale. Just as pride of ownership comes through paying small amounts for the items sold, so is that same pride realized in quality of materials.

The materials received are sorted by seasons of the year, male or female, adult or children, and types of materials. The Mission is frugal in its use of the materials provided. If the materials are not usable for the stores, they are sold as rags. We wish we could make repairs to appliances and furniture; however, the work would be too costly, and we would be unable to recover the cost of the repairs. Consequently, furniture and small appliances are not repaired.

Distribution of all prepared materials is made to the Mission's stores using the same trucks that are used for pickups at the churches. Two drivers are on the road on a full-time basis. Others are used to relay loaded and empty trucks throughout the distribution areas and to our own stores.


Currently 70 employees are provided work through the Mission and the stores. Approximately 29 are provided employment within the Mission's processing/office center. Employment in the Jackson headquarters includes administrative staff, ministers for the two churches, as well as the processors and truck drivers in the plant. An additional 41 persons are employed in the OPPORTUNITY STORES.

Currently, the Mission consists of eight OPPORTUNITY STORES located in Jackson, Barbourville, Irvine, Harlan, Hazard, Pineville, West Liberty and Burkesville, all in Kentucky.


The revenue received by the Mission's stores provides the major portion of and is the lifeblood of the Mission's operations. In addition to the revenue from the sales of donated merchandise, the other income and contributions provided are invaluable, and shall continue to be during the stressful and inflationary economic times of the future.

God has provided graciously and abundantly in the past and the Mission trusts in His guidance and blessings for the present and the future. God created His mission in the mountains; it is your mission in His service in the future!

Other ministry is provided for those volunteers who make their time, talents and financial support available for use in and around the Mission, the stores and church properties. Work camps are available for these individuals, and groups who wish to serve in the "volunteer-in-mission" way, from building structures, repairs, or just cleaning off creek banks. This support has been tremendous in the past years.

Your Mission also provides goods and support to those who are in need and unable to provide the funds with which to purchase the needed material goods through the Opportunity Stores. This support primarily is for those persons or families who have suffered loss through fire or flood, and for those who require immediate aid before the other support agencies give their approval.


When the Mission began its work over 70 years ago, Rev. Lewis started with no support, save that of God Almighty, and no salary. Soon afterwards, the only financial support was a $3,000 contribution from a lady in Nebraska who had heard of the Mission. Today, through the generosity of God's people, the support of the store sales, and other donations, God's Mission continues to thrive.

The Mission owns the six trucks, a parsonage/residence for the Director of the Mission, a parsonage for the pastor of the Hampton/Wolverine United Methodist Churches, a community building adjacent to the Hampton Church, and a processing and administrative complex through which all contributions of material and financial goods flow for processing and distribution to the nine stores.


The United Methodist Mountain Mission is a NATIONAL ADVANCE SPECIAL, which means that any United Methodist Church can receive Advance Special credit by sending cash donations or gifts to the United Methodist Mountain Mission. The Project Number is 771458. To receive Advance Special credit, contributions can be sent to the Advance Special office in New York. Contact your pastor for additional information.


The Mission was located for many years in a multi-story building in the city of Jackson. Due to the location, materials were handled many times, loaded on elevators to be moved upwards, and again handled. God provided the opportunity in 1992 to purchase a facility on one level just outside the city limits of Jackson. By purchasing this facility the Mission has been able to fully incorporate the total Mission operation on ground level, without elevators, without double handling, and has greatly improved the efficiency of the entire operation.

Do you believe in miracles? Through a miracle of God, in 1992, a gracious lady in Illinois, who was unknown to the Mission or any of its employees, made a gift of major proportion to the Mission. She had no way of knowing how badly we needed that sum of money since we had just committed to the purchase of the new facility. God provided the security of the Mission's future by eliminating a significant debt of $300,000.

Education about the Mission continues to be a necessity, and this continued education is the very reason the Mission has been so successful in the past. Folks, this is what we need in the Mission: if you can use it in and around your own home, then the Mission can certainly use it likewise in support of the Mission and the various programs. Monetary gifts are also encouraged and desired. No gift is too small. Our future is bright, and it is due to your efforts, your generosity, your prayers and love.

What is the Mission to you? Is it truly "GOD'S MISSION IN THE MOUNTAINS" and is it also"YOUR MISSION IN HIS SERVICE?"

We, the staff and board of directors of the United Methodist Mountain Mission, are continually striving to address the original purposes set forth by our predecessors. There is no doubt in our minds that the hand of God is directing us and assuring that His work will never cease. The Mission's work would never have prospered in the past, present, or future without His hand. We are blessed, grace-filled for having been called to this service, and truly excited about the future of God's work through His Mission, for it truly is"GOD'S MISSION IN THE MOUNTAINS---YOUR MISSION IN HIS SERVICE!"