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Professions of faith part of MissionsFEST lasting impact

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (BP)–MissionsFEST is showing staying power in Prestonsburg, Ky., and surrounding Johnson County.

The Woman’s Missionary Union outreach concluded April 24 “but it has sparked great interest and enthusiasm for community outreach,” said Kathi Sparks, a local resident who was among the 200-plus volunteers participating in the weeklong missions experience jointly sponsored by national WMU, Kentucky WMU, Appalachian Regional Ministry and the local Enterprise Baptist Association.

The MissionsFEST attracted volunteers from Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Throughout the week, 29 ministry sites provided a wide array of evangelistic and service opportunities, including after-school Bible clubs, prayerwalking, multihousing ministry, clowning at retirement homes, construction, landscaping, cleaning and repairs.

“I have prayed to go on a missions trip for years, but God used me right here at home by bringing MissionsFEST to our area,” Sparks said.

Sparks was one of a group of nine volunteers who visited low-income housing developments in Johnson County. Paired with Zeldean Munton, a volunteer from Missouri, Sparks witnessed God at work as they walked from door to door with tracts, copies of the New Testament, and light bulbs in sleeves that proclaim, “Jesus is the light of the world!”

As they approached the first door, Sparks admitted she was terrified. “I was totally out of my comfort zone, but knew I was doing what God wanted me to do. I didn’t have to do anything; God was doing it.”

On the first day, Sparks said they were well-received in the community, but no decisions for Christ were made. On the morning of the second day, very few doors were even opened. During lunch, other volunteers who were working on quilts for girls at Morehead’s Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children inquired how they could pray for Sparks and Munton.

Their request was simple: “Ask God to open doors.” In answer to their prayers, the remainder of the day went quite differently: Many doors indeed opened, including the door a 33-year-old woman’s heart.

“We asked if we could talk with her for a few minutes as she eyed the Bibles in our hands,” Sparks recounted. “She answered, ‘You can talk but I probably won’t listen.’ But the longer we talked, the softer she got. She accepted Christ while we were there and is now visiting my church.”

Later in the week, they led another young woman to Christ who now attends a Wednesday night class for new Christians at First Baptist Church in Paintsville — a class that began as a direct result of MissionsFEST. “She even brought her unsaved sister with her to class, and she accepted Christ also,” Sparks said. “We will see the harvest of this for a long time.”

Jan Dunn, a volunteer from Ohio, also had the privilege of leading a woman to faith in Christ. “I specifically prayed, along with my church family at First Baptist Church [in] Miamisburg, for my first opportunity to lead someone to Christ and God answered our prayers,” she said.

Although she has been a Christian for years, Dunn went on her first missions trip last year at the age of 76. “You are never too old to go on a missions trip!” she exclaimed. “God can use you at any age if you only trust in Him. I’m going on missions trips as long as God enables me. The indescribable joy it brings … it’s just awesome!”

When her husband passed away in 2001 after 53 years of marriage, Dunn was using a walker and suffered from numbness and tingling in her legs. She prayed that God would use her to show His love to others and said He has answered her prayer in amazing ways.

“God healed me through back surgery with better than expected results and He continues to give me the strength to do whatever He calls me to do. While I was prayerwalking and going door to door in Kentucky, God was telling me I can do this back home. I am ready to spread the word, and we already have plans to prayerwalk and distribute copies of the New Testament at home in the Miamisburg (Ohio) area.”

A total of eight professions of faith were recorded during the week and countless lives were changed, including those of the volunteers.

“Volunteers caught a vision and a passion to go out beyond the walls of their respective churches and reach their communities with the love of Christ,” said Tom Biddle, director of missions for the Enterprise Baptist Association. “We saw the mindset [of local volunteers] change from being a missions field to seeing themselves as missionaries. A month later, people are still talking about the impact [of MissionsFEST].”

Also as a result of the week, area residents are visiting church for the first time, pastors and local ministries have been encouraged, volunteers are praying about where God would have them serve next and valuable relationships have been formed.

WMU’s MissionsFEST experiences are open to adults age 18 and older. Remaining MissionsFEST opportunities in 2004 include Pittsburgh, Pa., June 20–26, and Worchester, Mass./Providence, R.I., where volunteers may serve Oct. 3–10 or Oct. 6–10 if a shorter time commitment is desired.

WMU’s FamilyFEST, meanwhile, is open to anyone from first-grade up, offering a unique opportunity for adults to model a missions lifestyle to their children and other young people by side serving others. FamilyFEST opportunities in 2004 will be held in Pittsburgh, Pa., June 23–26, and in Omaha, Neb., July 10–15.

For more information on MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST, contact WMU’s Volunteer Connection at (205) 991-4097 or visit www.wmu.com.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TEAMING UP and FROM DOOR TO DOOR.

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