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WMU FamilyFEST teams boost Baptist witness in Cincinnati


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Volunteers from as far away as Utah and Idaho -ranging in age from 6 to 74 — joined together for the FamilyFEST outreach June 28-July 3 in Cincinnati.

A ministry through Woman’s Missionary Union Volunteer Connection, the intergenerational missions experience included Backyard Bible Clubs, Vacation Bible School, servant evangelism ministry projects, prayerwalking, light construction and painting and repair work.

A total of 150 volunteers from 13 states — also including Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska — worked at 13 ministry sites.

Shirley Henderson, president of Ohio WMU, said the Cincinnati FamilyFEST “generated a renewed awareness of the ongoing diligence and commitment we need to have in reaching our city for Christ.” Although she has participated in missions since her first trip at the age of 7, Henderson said she never anticipated the personal blessing she received in helping host such an opportunity.

“It was so exciting to see the Lord’s hand in every aspect of the volunteers’ work as He placed them exactly where they were needed to serve,” Henderson said.

Dennis Holmes, a North American Mission Board missionary serving in the church and community evangelism with the Baptist Association of Greater Cincinnati, helped connected teams with the ministry projects. “Partnering with WMU’s Volunteer Connection gave us a big boost in our efforts in Cincinnati,” Holmes said. “After a year and a half of preparation and prayer for FamilyFEST, it was very encouraging to see God at work answering those prayers through the volunteers He brought to our city.”

The weeklong missions opportunity was a partnership between national WMU, Ohio WMU, the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, the Cincinnati Baptist association and area churches, 13 of which, including three new church starts, planned the ministry projects to enable participants to plug into the needs of the community.

There are just 30 Southern Baptist-related churches and nine missions in Cincinnati, a city with a population of 1.5 million, Holmes noted. “Ohio is still pretty much a new work state,” he said. “We are keenly aware of the importance of following up on all the work that went on during FamilyFEST and are excited about many of the new connections we now have in church and community missions.”

Both Henderson and Holmes lauded FamilyFEST as a great encouragement to Baptist pastors and churches in the area. Additionally, they said it was exciting to see so many youth participate in the week’s activities. In Cincinnati, 46 volunteers were under the age of 18.

“Many parents and grandparents choose to participate in FamilyFEST specifically because it is an excellent opportunity for them to work side by side and model missions to their children and grandchildren,” said Kristy Carr, WMU’s Volunteer Connection specialist. “Many related that it was a real blessing to see their children openly share their faith.”

In addition to families, 27 members of a youth group from First Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C., gave of their time and talents working with a multihousing ministry through Liberty Heights Baptist Church in Cincinnati. Laura Tyndall, a 16-year-old member of the group, said she “had a great time meeting new friends and sharing Christ’s love,” while Jennifer Johnson, 14, said she “had a blast working with young children and seeing their desire to learn more about Christ.”

Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky WMU, volunteered at FamilyFEST with a group from Shelbyville, Ky. She said they enjoyed helping another congregation and, in the process, began thinking of new ministries they could do in their own community. “Sometimes getting away and helping someone else provides new insights into the place you live,” Bolton said.

Once first-time volunteers participate in a FamilyFEST or MissionsFEST experience, Carr noted, they realize that God has indeed equipped them for missions. She always encourages volunteers to seek out needs in their area when they return home and to do what they can to be on mission wherever God calls them.

FamilyFEST sites in 2004 include Pittsburgh, Pa., June 22-25, and Omaha, Neb., July 10-15. For adult volunteers 18 and older, MissionsFEST sites for 2004 are eastern Kentucky, April 18-24; Pittsburgh, June 20-25; and New England, where participants may choose either Oct. 3-10 or Oct. 6-10. For more information on WMU’s Volunteer Connection and MissionsFEST or FamilyFEST events, visit www.wmu.com or call (205) 991-4097.
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