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FamilyFEST draws 61 vols to Baltimore

BALTIMORE, Md. (BP)–More than 60 volunteers, from ages 5 to 77, traveled from seven states to do ministry in Baltimore during this summer’s FamilyFEST, a hands-on missions opportunity for families sponsored by the Woman’s Missionary Union.

Several people, including one family with seven children, participated in light construction and beautification projects, Vacation Bible schools, block parties, and prayerwalking throughout the metro Baltimore area June 21-24 Melanie Hart of Pittsburgh, Pa., was WMU’s onsite coordinator and Maria Sigmon from Embrace Baltimore coordinated the mission sites.

Dave and Alison Bode of Nanjemoy, Md., brought their seven children to do missions work in Baltimore. They helped to clear out a basement in Seventh Baptist Church’s rowhome, which Pastor Ryan Palmer soon hopes to dedicate as the “Annie Armstrong House” for missionaries. Armstrong was baptized at Seventh Baptist around 1870 at the age of 20.

The family removed old pews and personal items and handed out postcard invitations to “CitiFest,” a block party sponsored by Seventh Baptist Church June 28. They also participated in church services at Seventh and Salem Gospel Church and at VBS sites at New Christian Bible Baptist Church and Riverside Baptist Church.

“I am a country girl at heart, but I understand that most of the people live in the cities,” Alison said, “so we wanted to come meet them here.”

Five-year-old Brynna understood the point of the whole trip. “We have to tell people about Jesus,” she said. “That’s what one does on a mission trip.”

This was the first family mission trip for Kevin and Gretchen Smith of Bardstown, Ky., and their children, Spencer, 15, and Riley, 13. They also assisted in preparing Seventh’s missions house.

“Growing up as a Baptist, I heard of Annie Armstrong my entire life,” Gretchen said. “It was very meaningful to be in the church where she learned about Christ and was baptized.”

For Spencer, the missions experience heightened his awareness of ministry.

“At home, we have so many things to do. Everyday life is not 100 percent missions work, but here it is,” he said. “But then we realize that we should be like this at home, too.”

Nelda Taylor, former WMU president in Texas, was part of a team who won a FamilyFEST trip during a drawing at the 2007 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio.

She and her team ministered at City Springs Elementary School, where they mopped and cleaned and prayed over the school’s students and teachers.

Cleaning a sink full of scum and dirt, Taylor realized how every person has sin that stains their lives. “We all need the ‘SOS (Savior of our Souls)’ to clean our lives,” she said.

At Hazelwood Baptist Church, 12 women from South Carolina and a couple from Louisiana completed 28 of 30 beautification projects on Pastor Ed Reese’s list. Joining them were four young men from Missouri who were visiting Baltimore on a baseball stadium tour, heard about the missions opportunity, and decided to join in. One of the men, Nolen West, said, “Baseball is great but a chance to do missions is the ultimate.”

“They all did work with such joy and humility,” Reese said. “But it wasn’t the work that I appreciated so much. It was getting to know them.”

Tony Rivers, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Wilson, N.C., led his team at Catonsville Baptist Church, where 142 people came to a block party, complete with a puppet show, carnival games, food and a moon bounce.

Forty-four adults and children raised their hands to accept Christ, said Bob Lilly, Catonville’s pastor.

Rivers said he is convinced that families going on mission trips is ideal. Noting the positive pressure on parents, he said, “As Southern Baptists, we have raised a generation of people who are mission-minded; now we need to raise a generation of missionaries.”

He added, “I looked at WMU for their history of thoroughness and track record for careful planning. WMU has it all right there for you. It’s so easy.”

David Lee, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, commended parents for involving their children in missions. “There is no way to measure that impact,” he said, crediting early family mission trips for both of his sons’ current involvement in ministry.

Gayla Parker, missions innovator for WMU and Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware missionary for missions customization, agreed with Lee. For two years, she has prayed for FamilyFEST to be in Baltimore.

“It was awesome to finally see the faces of the people I had been praying for,” she said. “Even more incredible was seeing how God used them to bring over 50 people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, plant hundreds of seeds for others to one day harvest, and encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ who serve here daily.”

FamilyFEST in Baltimore was a partnership between Embrace Baltimore, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, Maryland/Delaware WMU and national WMU. For more information, visit online at www.wmu.com/VolunteerConnection.
Shannon Baker is the national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker
    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United. Read All by Shannon Baker ›