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FamilyFest: Vacation with a purpose

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Four families packed the church van for a vacation. Although they drove only a few hours down the road to Kansas City, Kan., this was no ordinary summertime venture.

“What more can you ask for? You get to have fun and tell people about Jesus at the same time,” 8-year-old Matthew Black said of the FamilyFEST hands-on missions outreach sponsored by the Woman’s Missionary Union.

“It makes you have such a joy in your heart. I’d do it again — anytime, any place,” Black said.

Black and his family joined more than 100 other volunteers from 10 different, ranging in age from 4 to 72, who did everything from painting and construction to servant ministries and backyard Bible clubs.

With rising gas prices, Gena Brown said her family knew they would need to stay close to home this year. So, four families (almost half of her small church in Richland, Mo.) decided to pool their vacation money and do something that would be a part of God’s work.

Brown hadn’t been sure how it would work having young kids on a missions trip, with four of eight kids under the age of 6. “I was afraid they’d get bored or tired,” she said. “But they’ve loved every second of this. The older kids are already talking about what we can do back home for mission projects in our own community.

“That’s exactly what we had hoped for,” Brown said. “We wanted to open the kids’ eyes, as well as our own, to God’s will for us to serve others and share His love.”

Twenty-one members of Osawatomie Baptist Church from the Kansas City area took vacation time as well to cross the river into Missouri to paint and repair Immanuel Baptist Church the week of July 21–26. Melissa Cooke said her church decided to participate in FamilyFEST as a way to “give back” what they’ve received.

Nearly a year ago, floods flowed through their Kansas community. Soon after, volunteers came to help out. Cooke said volunteers helped at their church, as well as the church serving as a host site.

“Those volunteers were a good example of service to us. They planted the missions seed in our congregation,” Cooke said. “When FamilyFEST came to our area, we knew it was the perfect opportunity for us to give back. The appeal of this particular missions trip was that it was aimed for families.”

Cooke’s three children worked alongside her and her husband Brian throughout the week. Eleven-year-old Shelby Cooke said one of her favorite parts of the week was working next to her dad. The two painted hallways and stairwells along with the youth group.

“Dad, I bet the church people are surprised when they see this,” Shelby chattered happily alongside her father while rolling red paint on a stairwell at Immanuel Baptist. “I think they will feel loved just like we felt loved.”

Many of the FamilyFEST projects centered around fixing old church buildings or giving them a face lift. Donnie Simpson, director of missions for the Kansas City Kansas Baptist Association, said projects such as these are vital for small churches.

“Ministering to our churches is vital. There are not a lot of Baptist churches in this area of the States, and they can use all of the encouragement they can get,” Simpson said. “Many of these small churches don’t have the resources or manpower to paint or do door-to-door visitation.

“Just by interacting with church members, FamilyFEST volunteers offered encouragement and blessings,” Simpson added. “The volunteers did things the churches only dream of being able to do.”
Sue Sprenkle writes for Woman’s Missionary Union. For more information, visit www.wmu.com/volunteerconnection. FamilyFEST opportunities in 2009 will be in Miami, Ariz., June 6–12; Natchez, Miss., July 18–23; and Wisconsin Dells, Wis., July 20–24. MissionsFEST, geared for adult volunteers age 18 and older, will be in Maine Oct. 12–17.