BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — More than 220 missions volunteers from children to senior adults gathered to serve in eastern Kentucky during WMU’s Familyfest. Participants represented churches, groups and families from Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“Familyfest is a wonderful opportunity for individuals, churches and associations to be directly involved in hands-on ministry opportunities that will impact communities for Christ,” said Todd Rader, pastor of Ephesus Baptist Church in Winchester, Ky., and chairman for the missions development committee of Boone’s Creek Baptist Association.
“As families serve together during Familyfest, the experience away from home and from other distractions allows for special bonding time,” Joy Bolton, executive director for Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union, said. “Both parents and children see one another in a new light as they serve side by side.”
In eastern Kentucky, volunteers were able to relate to those they met through block parties, door-to-door evangelism, or backyard Bible clubs.
“I was blessed to watch so many of our children loving on the Kentucky community at Choo Choo Park,” said Tammy Glad of Turning Point at Calvary Church in St. Augustine, Fla., who served with her husband and daughter. “Watching our children living out God’s Word was amazing.”
Debbie Woolsey, a missions volunteer from First Southern Baptist Church of Clarksville, Ind., agreed. “Familyfest was a wonderful experience for our family. It was great to serve alongside our teen daughter and others from our church. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us. It was a privilege to lead a woman to Jesus, and share His love with others.”
David Allen, a 14-year-old volunteer from Graceview Baptist Church in Tomball, Texas, served with his grandparents during Familyfest.
“Age should have no limit in serving, helping and sharing God with others,” he said. “This might be my first but not my last mission trip. And sharing it with my grandparents is the best!”
This Familyfest, held July 19-24, was a partnership between national WMU, Kentucky WMU, Boone’s Creek Baptist Association and Appalachian Regional Ministry. Appalachia, a cultural region that stretches from New York to Mississippi, is known for its extreme poverty having 37 of the 100 poorest counties in the US. According to the North American Mission Board’s website, while religion is important in Appalachia, more than 70 percent of the region is unchurched with some counties as high as 90 percent unchurched.
Familyfest volunteers worked in Appalachian communities in eastern Kentucky in partnership with a variety of churches, schools, local ministries and non-profits. They led backyard Bible clubs and evangelism ministries, prayerwalked, prepared classrooms for the new school year, made blankets for senior adult shut-ins, and participated in light construction and painting.
Suzanne Reece, national WMU ministry consultant and onsite coordinator of Familyfest, said when the volunteers were serving at a local school, the principal continued to thank her for bringing volunteers and said, “People just don’t do this.”
Bringing it home
“This is our prayer,” Bolton, executive director for Kentucky WMU, said, “that people will go home and see their own communities in a new way by seeing needs and opportunities they’ve never taken note of before.”
Reece agreed and said it was exciting to hear many participants say during a time of sharing, “There is nothing we’ve done here that we can’t do at home.”
Some local volunteers said they became more aware of the lostness in their own state. One shared that Familyfest was a time “to rethink how we ‘do church’ and reach out” when their team encountered person after person who used to attend church, but had stopped going.
“As a participant in Familyfest from both the volunteer and host points of view,” Rader said, “I would highly recommend it. I have returned amazed at what God can do when we place ourselves in positions of service for His kingdom. Familyfest may just be the spark that you are searching for to personally become more involved in missions and to jumpstart your church to engage your community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
National WMU offers Familyfest opportunities for all volunteers age 6 and up and Missionsfest for volunteers age 18 and up. Future opportunities include Missionsfest in Toledo, Ohio, Oct. 1–5, 2014; and Familyfest in Indianapolis, July 18–22, 2015. For more information, visit wmu.com/trips.
This story was submitted by the Woman’s Missionary Union Communications team. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress ), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp ).