Couple starts their own outdoor children’s ministry

Published 9:15 pm Thursday, January 12, 2017

God has created a beautiful world for everyone to see, and Michael and Kristy Smith want to make sure that all children of Lincoln County and surrounding areas are able to see it.

The Smiths are the owners of Briar Ridge Children’s Ministry, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children or those of single parent homes explore God’s creations.

The Briar Ridge Children’s Ministry opened its doors Sept. 24, and the Smiths have been active all deer season with children from all over Brookhaven and surrounding areas. This statewide ministry has invited children from out of Mississippi to attend as well. Their first out of state group will be from Tennessee this weekend, Kristy Smith said.

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The kids are taught how to hunt, camp and fish with the help of an assigned mentor or church leader to assist each child individually. Mentors are chosen after they complete the Briar Ridge application process to make sure their beliefs and missions corresponds with Briar Ridge’s which is to “introduce youth to Christ through his wonderful creation.”

Along with the mentors, there is a staff of cooks and board members ready to assist children ages 7 to 15 years old free of charge. Everyone is expected to commit 100 percent to Briarwood with the goal of fulfilling God’s purpose on earth to serve others.

Michael has been dreaming of this ministry for years now, and he and his wife found the perfect place last June at 1081 Seale Road in Roxie. The previous building owner, James Edward, allowed them to have their camp-outs free of charge. “The Lord’s been awesome… beyond my imagination,” Michael said.

Since then, they have invited children from churches and different families to come experience a weekend filled with worship and outdoor activities. They had their biggest group of 17 kids last week, but they can hold up to 40 children at a time with individual beds for each child.

Michael is a father of four who understands the importance of having adults in a child’s life. He knows what can happen to children without the proper guidance. “The Lord laid it on me to help kids who just don’t have fathers in their lives,” he said.

As God broadened his vision, he also saw the need to help kids without mothers, underprivileged families and churches, which benefit from children participating in their ministry. Parents are also invited to come with their children to learn more about God while strengthening their family bonds.

James Earl Hunsucker, of Brookhaven, serves as one of the Briar Ridge board members. He has experienced remarkable things since the ministry started last year. He agrees with the ministry’s mission to get the spiritual elements first, but he loves seeing the children enjoy life outdoors. “I have seen children come and have experience in killing their first deer… that’s just exciting for me,” he said.

The ministry also invites speakers and pastors to come give inspirational words to the children. They have seen kids commit their lives to God while attending the ministry. “We had one child, Jonathan Mohon, give his heart to God last week,” Kristy said.

The Briar Ridge team is planning for its first summer camp. To donate or volunteer, please visit or follow them on Facebook at Briar Ridge Children’s Ministries Inc.