Christopher lay in his mud hut in Sweetwaters Township, near Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, when a group of Woman’s Missionary Union volunteers visited him. A simple sheet tacked over his window blocked out the sun, and a green comforter kept him warm.
Baptist Global Response hospice kits. Each kit included an assortment of medical and hygiene supplies, as well as comfort items, packed neatly into a five-gallon bucket.The Baptist women had traveled to South Africa to deliver
Joy Bolton, executive director and treasurer of Kentucky WMU, placed the bucket next to Christopher’s bed and sat on it beside him. He identified himself as a Christian, so she and two of her companions prayed with him.
She later described the trip in an email.
“We all knew that none of us should ever complain about our homes, possessions, etc. ever again,” Bolton wrote. “We are blessed beyond measure, and the least we can do is to pack a bucket with some basic hospice care items to relieve the suffering of someone with very little.”
In recent years, the hospice kits brought relief to thousands of terminally ill people in Africa, many dying of AIDS. As part of the Baptist Global Response bucket project, volunteers filled buckets with items for both patients and caregivers. Items like lotion, cotton sheets and lip balm eased pain for patients during the last stages of life, while fingernail clippers and plastic gloves helped the caregivers look after their loved ones. These small things made a big difference.
“These people are in their last days, so they’re desperate,” BGR Bucket Project Director Lori Funderburk said. “They’re desperate for hope. They’re desperate for love, and these buckets are instruments in giving them that.”
Baptist Global Response established the program about seven years ago and then relaunched it in 2012. The bucket project uses volunteers in several states to assemble kits. Bucket project coordinators organize the promotion and collection of hospice kits. Once the kits are packed, volunteers send them to locations in Richmond, Va., and Houston, where they are shipped to Baptist partners in Africa.
2,000 kits shipped from Houston last year
In 2013, Funderburk said, Baptist Global Response focused on collection efforts in Texas, where volunteers shipped 2,000 buckets from Houston last year. This year, the organization shifted its emphasis to Kentucky, where state bucket coordinators Herb and Wanda Edminster hope to inspire even more people to join the effort.
“Our Baptist partners have said we cannot send enough buckets,” he said.
Franklin and Paula Kilpatrick lived in Zambia as International Mission Board missionaries when the buckets first began filtering into Africa. Now retired, they work as state coordinators for the bucket project in Texas. They wanted to continue working with the program, she said, because the hospice kits made significant differences in people’s lives.
“It’s often the caregivers who actually cry when they get the contents of the bucket, because they have so little to work with, but what means the most to the person who’s sick is that somebody in the United States prayed for them,” she said.
The couple’s church, First Baptist in Jacinto City, serves as the final storage center for buckets in Texas before they are sent to Africa. The Kilpatricks believe many people contribute to the project, in part, because they feel connected to people in need when they pack and pray over hospice kits.
“Packing a bucket is a real satisfying and emotional experience,” she said. “We’ve seen people just really touched by praying for these simple items that we use every day.”
Many volunteer packers even asked the Kilpatricks if they could travel to Africa and distribute the buckets themselves. They wanted to see firsthand the work God can do through their simple gifts.
For more information, contact the Kilpatricks at email@example.com, (713) 472-6571 or (832) 652-4457. For additional information about how to pack buckets or where they are collected, or to purchase already-packaged buckets, click here. For a list of stories and photos related to the program, visit the bucket project Facebook page.