By TOBIN PERRY, North American Mission Board
MONTREAL — Numbers aren’t enough to describe the last two years of Kevin and Casey Kilgore and their family, but it’s a start. In just over 24 months, the Kilgores have logged more than 70,000 miles on their RV. They visited and encouraged 265 pastors and missionaries. They were in 48 of 50 US states.
And since the family’s visit to Montreal on September 16, they have encouraged church planters in all of Send Network’s 32 Send cities. Ask what they learned about North American missions over the course of this epic journey, and Kevin Kilgore doesn’t hesitate.
No matter the size of the congregation or the region of the continent they visit, Kevin sees the need for new, gospel-centered churches to address lostness across North America.
“Church planters are rock stars,” Kevin said. “In our eyes they are our heroes. You are doing something that is very, very difficult. Planting new churches is not easy. This is why NAMB talks about churches planting churches. The denomination doesn’t. Individuals don’t do it. But when churches can support church planting, that’s when we’ve seen the most success.”
God began leading the Kilgores on this mission adventure not long after a tumultuous 2020. In addition to all the turmoil everyone has faced this year, the Kilgores lost their beloved pastor, Fred Evers of Northside Baptist Church in Tifton, Georgia. Kevin served as associate pastor of the church for 14 years. God then led the family to sell their home, pull stakes, and travel throughout North America visiting NAMB missionaries in the continent’s most strategic cities.
At every stop, in towns large and small, the Kilgores have both served and served alongside church planters. Whether it is providing an evening for the church planter and his family, providing practical help for his ministry, or simply being an encouragement, the family tries to do what they can together.
The Kilgore girls – ages 17, 15, 13 and 11 – embraced the adventure and enjoyed serving in various locations across North America. Two years ago they all attended public schools. Today they are homeschooled and serve in ministry with their families throughout the week.
“What always stands out to me is the opportunities we have had to serve together,” Casey said. “We had a few opportunities to do that this year, which was great.”
Casey specifically points to week-long mission experiences in South Dakota and participation in Send Relief’s Serve Tour event in Chicago.
In 2023, they had several opportunities to revisit church planters they met along the way, sometimes for the third time. This allowed the family to develop longer-term relationships with some of the mission families they served.
For example, the Kilgores have visited church planter Joshua Page and his family three times in the past two years while traveling through Pittsburgh. Page founded the church on Mon River about 18 months ago. He says he gets regular messages from Kevin saying he’s praying for him. On the Kilgores’ second trip to Pittsburgh, the Pages had just lost a child to a miscarriage.
“It was a really difficult time for us,” Page said. “They came with the mindset of just being a blessing and an encouragement. Her girls babysat our little boys, invited us to dinner and just loved us, cried with us and encouraged us. It was just a really, really nice time.”
Page points out that starting a church in the Northeast isn’t easy. The support and encouragement of Southern Baptists like the Kilgores helped them keep going whenever they felt discouraged.
“Their encouragement in our lives has truly been tremendous,” Page said. “They just came through Pittsburgh again, like two weeks ago, and we went out to dinner with them. My wife is pregnant again and we had an ultrasound. Because of what has happened in the past, this is a really triggering time for us. And they very quickly said, “Hey, how can we help?” And so they took care of our youngest so that I could go to the ultrasound with my wife. It’s just crazy because here are these random people from Georgia who love our family like they’re an aunt and uncle to our kids.”
Once the Kilgores leave Montreal, they plan to visit church planters in New York, Boston and Washington DC before returning to Georgia for the holiday season.
The Kilgores aren’t sure what’s next for their family in 2024, but they’re determined to follow God no matter what. In the two years he has been trusting God for their next step, he has never failed to give them direction and care for them.
“Once we know where he’s taking us, we’ll go in that direction,” Kevin said. “If things continue exactly the way we are doing, he will find a way to make it happen.”