ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Kevin and Casey Kilgore had what most would consider normal lives. Kevin had served as an associate pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Tifton, Georgia, for 14 years. They had four daughters—all in public schools, a mortgage—and a cat.
The Kilgores imagined spending the rest of their lives serving the Tifton community.
But then God said go.
So, the family of six sold their home, their vehicles and most of their possessions. They bought a fifth-wheel RV in August 2021 and took off across North America, encouraging church planters in the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) send cities. As they’ve visited church planters, they’ve grown more and more excited about how God is using Southern Baptists throughout North America.
“We love what God is doing through Southern Baptists in North America,” Kevin Kilgore said. “We want to be a mouthpiece and to share with churches what NAMB is doing and how they can be a part of it.”
Less than 18 months later, the Kilgores have visited 42 of 50 U.S. states. They have been to 27 of NAMB’s send cities, and they aren’t finished yet. They’ve encouraged more than 125 church planters.
Like many others, 2020 shook up the lives of the Kilgore family. On top of all the changes everyone experienced that year, the family’s beloved pastor, Northside’s Fred Evers, passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer. They were heartbroken at the loss of their pastor, and they also knew that the church would experience a profound season of change. So, the family began asking, what’s next?
Through his ministry at Northside, Kevin had frequently worked with Send Network church planters through NAMB. One day, while perusing the NAMB website, some statistics caught his eye, particularly about how challenging church planting can be for planter families.
“It was clear that discouragement is a big part of that picture,” said Kevin, who considers encouragement one of his spiritual gifts. “I just really became burdened for the church planters, and I asked God, ‘Well, yes, I have this burden, but what can I do about it? What can we as a family do about that particular issue?’”
That’s when God began to give Kevin a vision for Through the Eyes of Our Tribe, the ministry the family created to encourage North American church planters. Casey sensed the same call.
In each city they visit, the Kilgores connect with church planters beforehand. Always looking for tangible ways to serve church planters, they often take a planter’s family out for a meal. They pray for them. Sometimes, they participate in ministry activities to support the church plant. A few times, God has led them to meet specific needs in the planting family’s life or in the life of their church.
For example, a church planter told the family last October that he’d like to be able to pass out full-sized candy bars with information about the church to trick or treaters in the neighborhood. The Kilgores created an Amazon wish list of candy bars, shared it through social media, and they met the need. The family did something similar last summer to help a church plant with a backpack outreach prior to the start of the school year.
“Encouragement for us looks different in each situation,” Casey said. “I think the bottom line is just spending the time with the planter and his family, getting to know them. Then out of that, we get all kinds of different opportunities for connection.”
The family also visits a church plant each Sunday. Sometimes, they take the pastor out for lunch afterwards. The experience has opened their eyes to the many unique expressions of church among Southern Baptist church plants.
“It has been very interesting to see the experiences of people in other parts of our country. The way church is done in South Georgia where I’m from is so different from the way church is done in Utah, California or New York,” said 16-year-old Chloe Kilgore. “However, there is one thing that is constant everywhere we have been; God is working.”
The Kilgores said they’ve had a number of highlights in the past 16 months. They’ve particularly enjoyed opportunities when they have been able to work together as a family to serve church planters and their communities. They specifically mentioned their older daughters babysitting for church planters in Pittsburgh so the parents could have a much-needed night out. They have also served together at a fall festival in New York City and helped paint a church and build its staircase in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
After spending the holidays in Georgia in 2022, the Kilgore family had the chance to travel to Alpharetta in early January 2023 and meet NAMB personnel, including president Kevin Ezell.
“I was so glad to recently hear firsthand about the Kilgore family’s travels throughout North America to visit our missionaries,” said Ezell. “Kevin and Casey are a remarkable couple, and what they are doing has meant so much to our church planters and their families. Their story reminds all of us of the sacrifices our missionaries are making and how important it is for us to remember them, pray for them and find ways to encourage them.”
Kevin Kilgore said the past 16 months have taught him much about his relationship with God, most importantly about how God provides when you step out in faith.
“Oftentimes, you don’t know where things are going long-term. You don’t know exactly where the support is going to come from,” Kevin said. “But as you take steps, and God confirms that call, God shows up. It just builds that faith more and more as you go along. That’s been a recurring theme, as we’ve been on the road and God has provided and made a way for us to do the ministry that he’s called us to do.”
To follow the ministry of the Kilgore family and to find more information about how individuals and churches can support their ministry, visit throughtheeyesofourtribe.com.
Published January 17, 2023