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WMU volunteers from 11 states meet in New Orleans to minister

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Nearly 150 volunteers from 11 states gathered in New Orleans for a weeklong MissionsFEST as part of the Volunteer Connection of Woman’s Missionary Union.

MissionsFEST experiences provide volunteers an opportunity to partner with local Christians in a concentrated effort to support ongoing missions projects and use their individual gifts to reach out, help others and share the love of Christ.

Volunteers for the April 6-12 outreach in New Orleans ranged in age from 22 to 82. Among the volunteers were 10 Louisiana missionaries who serve through the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board; some worked as participants and some were recipients of help in their local ministry.

“MissionsFEST in New Orleans affirmed my confidence in what God can do through dedicated and surrendered Christians as they commit their ways unto the Lord,” said Cindy Townsend, executive director of Louisiana WMU. “New Orleans is certainly a city of diversity, and it was so wonderful to see WMU gather volunteers from all over the country to participate in the many diverse missions opportunities that took place.”

Pam Lockwood, associate of ministries and adult missions education for Louisiana WMU, added that MissionsFEST was a “great encouragement” to pastors and church members in the area. “We were excited and so thankful that people came to our state to offer their time and talents,” Lockwood said. “It’s wonderful to know that people around our nation care about the people of New Orleans and were committed and dedicated to God’s calling to share the love of Jesus with them.”

Teams of volunteers tutored elementary students, prayerwalked, ministered at homeless shelters, cleaned and did repair work at local Baptist centers, helped with the construction of a new church and participated in various other activities. There were 18 ministry sites in New Orleans, including six elementary schools and four Baptist centers.

MissionsFEST volunteers also hosted a block party in the parking lot of Lake Forest Mall, where more than 400 area residents enjoyed midway games, clowns, puppets, live music, face painting, blood pressure screenings, jambalaya, soft drinks and more, all free of charge.

The WMU Volunteer Connection outreach “was a great success because it was customized to really meet the needs of local churches,” said Loy Seal, director of church growth and development for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. “We appreciate national WMU providing us with the opportunity to identify the local churches and ministries in our area with the greatest needs, and we are grateful for our relationship with WMU.”

The New Orleans MissionsFEST was a partnership between national WMU, Louisiana WMU, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s MissionLab. States represented with volunteers were Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Planning and implementing each MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST experience is truly a team effort, said Kristy Carr, Volunteer Connection specialist for national WMU.

“It was my privilege to work with our local partners in Louisiana,” Carr said. “I am so thankful for the volunteers who gave of their time, talents and resources to be on mission in New Orleans. We may never know all the lives that were impacted as a result of MissionsFEST, but we do know that we saw God at work in all of the ministries in which we were a part. It is so incredible to see how God puts His people where He needs them at just the right time.”

While MissionsFEST experiences are open to adults 18 years and older, WMU also provides opportunities for entire families to do missions work together through FamilyFEST, which is tailored for families with children in the first grade and up. It provides an opportunity for children to learn missions by watching their parents do missions and by working along side them.

Remaining MissionsFEST opportunities for 2003 include trips to Rochester, N.Y., where volunteers may choose the weeks of July 7-13 or July 10-13; San Antonio, Texas, June 8-12; and Cincinnati, June 28-July 3. The San Antonio and Cincinnati sites are combined MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST events.

For more information on Volunteer Connection and MissionsFEST or FamilyFEST events, visit www.wmu.com, or call (205) 991-4097.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: BRUSHING UP, ONE ON ONE and CENTER OF MINISTRY.