• Shirley Cox

What Country is that in?

Written by Shirley Cox

Somewhere in the back of Mission Service Corps missionary Linda Otterback’s closet sets of pair of boots with the price tags attached. Linda purchased the boots several years ago for a mission trip to El Salvador but God had other plans. A week before the mission trip to El Salvador was scheduled, Linda received a call from the Kentucky Baptist Convention saying the trip had been cancelled and asking her if she would like to go to Fleming-Neon.

“What country is that in?” Linda asked.

That day, Linda began a journey with the Lord deep into the Eastern Kentucky Mountains that has proven both challenging and rewarding. Each month, Linda packs clothing, diapers and household furnishings into her car and drives four-and-a-half hours from Louisville to Fleming-Neon to help with a food and clothing distribution for 300-500 families. For three or four days, she offers a message of hope and encouragement to the Appalachian people. The visits provide many opportunities to share the gospel as she leads devotionals and services with praise, prayer and scripture in an area where the people are 71% unchurched.

“They have become very close and dear to my heart,” Linda said. “We have prayed, cried, laughed, rejoiced and worshiped together.”

To provide support for God’s work in Appalachia, Linda organized Eastern Kentucky SonRise Prayer Partners, a women’s group that meets two or three times a year. In September, Linda tapped leadership from the group to hold a two-day Women’s Retreat in Seco, near Fleming-Neon. In April, she coordinated another retreat for Hispanic women and single Moms in Shelbyville. She is planning another Women’s Retreat in October. These spirit-filled retreats are “full of testimony and praise for Jesus.”

Linda’s husband, Larry, also a Mission Service Corps missionary, led a Men’s Retreat in Fleming-Neon in March. “The retreat was based on the book, ‘If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat’ by John Ortberg,” he said. “Sometimes, we have to find out just where our boat is! When we do, God can lead us and guide our actions if we will just get out of the way.” Larry has scheduled another Men’s Retreat for October 17-18 at Renfro Valley.

Linda serves as a board member for the Mountain Missions Development Corporation, a non-profit corporation formed in 2001 to receive donations of assets and property for Eastern Kentucky. MMDC, which currently has eleven holdings, recently purchased the Berea Attic property that includes 15 housing units, a discount clothing store and a 6,700 sq. ft. warehouse to be used for food distribution throughout Eastern Kentucky.

The Otterbacks are members of Woodland Baptist Church in Louisville where Larry serves as a deacon and facilitates Bible studies and a prayer group. He also serves as Prison Ministry Coordinator and has led prison Emmaus walks and REC (Residents Encountering Christ). “I find the inmates are a blessing to those of us who go,” he said. “I tell the men to be prepared as the residents know the scriptures very well.”

Additionally, Larry and Linda are active participants in the Emmaus Community in Louisville, serving as sponsors for four to six spiritual sojourns a year. “We pray, serve meals, attend functions and many other things as sponsors,” Linda said. Linda coordinates “Friendship Bible Coffee,” a subsidiary of Stonecroft, a Christian women’s club and works part time as a Radiological Technologist at the Veteran’s Hospital in Louisville. The Otterbacks also speak in churches across Kentucky and coordinate volunteers who work in Eastern Kentucky.

“Larry and I feel it is truly a joy to be doing what we do,” Linda said. “God has blessed us abundantly throughout our lives and we feel we are returning a very small portion back to him. Bringing others to Christ and telling what He means in our lives is a special reward that we hope continues until we meet our Master face-to-face.”

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