LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–While many parents and grandparents were packing up the kids and heading to the beaches, mountains or favorite getaway spots this summer, a host of Southern Baptist families recently gathered their youngsters and went on mission to share the good news of Christ.
Ministering side-by-side, these mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and grandparents and grandchildren united in Central Arkansas to take part in FamilyFEST 2001.
FamilyFEST is a national project of Woman’s Missionary Union that brings families together to work with local volunteers in a highly concentrated effort to support ongoing missions projects.
The June 20-23 event, held in Little Rock, drew more than 100 volunteers to this first-time family missions event. Similar FamilyFEST projects are planned for 2002 in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Chicago, Ill.
The following week, another 72 adult volunteers spent June 24-30 in Little Rock taking part in MissionsFEST. This was the third MissionsFEST project sponsored by WMU, SBC. Two others are scheduled in October in Philadelphia, Pa.
During FamilyFEST, the families, representing 11 states, participated in various outreach and witnessing projects in several Little Rock metro areas. The missions activities, which assisted area church ministries, included backyard Bible clubs, prayerwalking, light construction, block parties, reading clubs and hunger ministries. Other ministry projects targeted nursing homes and needy residents.
Among the volunteers was WMU national president Janet Hoffman. She was joined by her daughter, Shelda, of Dallas, and her son, Bill, and his family, wife, Terri and daughter, Lauren, all of Shreveport, La.
The Hoffman family ministered at the Little Rock Rice Depot where they and several other volunteers helped label thousands of canned goods, as well as packaged chicken products. These food items will eventually be distributed to food pantries statewide and will help feed thousands of hungry Arkansans.
Janet Hoffman called this family affair an opportunity to “participate in hands-on missions.” She said her family has always put a high priority on missions, but FamilyFEST was the first time she and her children had joined in a volunteer project out of state.
“Now that my children are adults, it is such a blessing to see them living a missions lifestyle before their own children,” shared Hoffman. “The thrill of three generations of our family working side-by-side on mission for God is fulfilling and bonding beyond description.”
In southwest Little Rock, several families joined members of Life Line and Promiseland churches in their efforts to reach out to the local neighborhoods. At these sites, volunteers canvassed the area where they prayed for the lost, invited residents to local block parties and helped children with reading skills.
Life Line pastor Don Chancellor said the FamilyFEST volunteers aided his church in kicking off a ministry at a local apartment complex and helped them minister to a growing African-American community.
“They [volunteers] have helped us reach out to the community, 90 percent which are probably lost and don’t go to church anywhere,” shared Chancellor. “We are seen by many as the big church on the corner, and the volunteers have helped us break down barriers … and build bridges for the gospel.”
Expressing her gratitude to the families and others who gave up their time to minister in the Natural State, Arkansas WMU executive director Julia Ketner said the missions teams have aided the ministry of local churches, as well as planted seeds for the gospel.
“These volunteers have been extra strength for ministries that are ongoing here in Little Rock,” said Ketner. “Many local churches do not have sufficient people to staff these ministries, and these volunteers have helped these churches meet needs … because they were willing to come here to Arkansas.”
Ketner said she hopes the Arkansas missions project will motivate families to seek out similar missions needs in their communities. “We are trusting they will return to their homes and start new ministries or get involved in ones like they were involved in here.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FamilyFEST.