Red Bird Mission is a jewel in the highland crown of Kentucky. For the past 81 years the Mission has blossomed at Beverly near the juncture of Cow Fork and Red Bird River in southern Clay County. The water and the people flow from the past through the present to the future—no perfection, but generations are striving for it.
It might be said, the promise of perfection is built on spiritual and humanitarian practice with an abundance of prayer.
“Red Bird Mission, guided by Jesus Christ, empowers individuals and advocates justice by providing spiritual, educational, health, and community outreach ministries.” It goes without saying, any mission statement is hollow without the blood, sweat, and tears of people actively engaged. So it was at Red Bird in the beginning, and so it will be at the last reckoning.
Craig Dial is one of a long line of leaders who’ve addressed the needs and traditions of an area often misread, if read at all. He smiles—a firmly etched smile—laughs at himself—without being a laughingstock—listens without rushing in—no barrage of beliefs or dusty bags of theory.
As director of economic opportunities, Craig Dial breathes the essence of Appalachia. His place on the Red Bird Mission’s organization chart includes Clothing and Household Assistance, Crafts, and Craft Marketing.
“If you learn by what didn’t work, you’ve learned a lot,” says Craig as we sit in rocking chairs at this year’s Kentucky Crafted: The Market at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center in Louisville. Though it’s a good thing to gather once a year on common ground, there’s no substitute for paying homage at the source.
Red Bird Mission is a lively place to visit. Take the Daniel Boone Parkway east from London to Manchester. You’ll begin to see parts of Red Bird River, and you may wish to recall that the stream is named for Chief Red Bird, the Cherokee who was murdered and dumped into the water, a sobering legend to renew a more dedicated interest in the history of Native Americans in Kentucky.
Take Exit 34 and continue southeast on KY 66. By now, you’ll be deep inside the Daniel Boone National Forest. At the juncture of Upper Jack’s Creek and Red Bird River, you’ll soon come upon Red Bird Mission School with its grades K-12. Less than one mile farther, you’ll see Red Bird Mission’s Queendale Center at Beverly. (From the south take KY 66 north from Pineville.)
Drive in. Cross over the bridge.
You’ll see medical and dental clinics, pharmacy, early childhood development center, bookmobile, dormitories, cafeteria, food pantry, community store, and craft shop.
Divisions of Red Bird Mission include: Education, Health and Wellness, Community Outreach, and Community Housing Im-provement. The wellspring is volunteerism, the structure is shared religious belief, and the outcome is fulfilled hope in extending helping hands. The Mission thrives as an institution in the Red Bird Missionary Conference, which is associated with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
Community Outreach includes Elderly/ Low Income Housing, Women and Children Ministries, and Christmas Assistance—350 children had a more joyous Christmas last year because there were ample people who cared enough to make it happen.
In the old Beverly Church on Cow Fork, original site of Red Bird Mission, essential words are written beside the pulpit—the biblical “Fruits of the Spirit:”
As I sit in my rocking chair here on Plum Lick, I tell myself, “Why don’t you pick just one of those and spend some quality time with it?” Gentleness might garner goodwill. The payback of kindness could be joy. And above all, there might be an abundant measure of love.