FamilyFEST displays a servant heart in Ky.
PADUCAH, Ky. (BP) -- "Many wondered why we, at 69 and 71, would try to keep up with our two 9-year-old grandchildren," FamilyFEST volunteer Irene Murphy said. "Our family has been mission-oriented since the beginning, so we felt this would be a great opportunity to expose them to missions so that they can develop a missions heart."
Murphy, from South Main Street Baptist Church in Greenwood, S.C., was among 155 volunteers from 13 states who poured into Western Kentucky for FamilyFEST in a partnership encompassing national WMU, Kentucky WMU, Mississippi River Ministry, Green Valley and West Union Baptist associations.
From July 13–19 primarily in the Paducah and Henderson, Ky. areas, volunteers served alongside local churches doing a range of community projects including prayerwalking, light construction and repair, food and clothing distribution, health care ministries, block parties, Backyard Bible Clubs and Vacation Bible Schools.
In Henderson, three families from South Carolina with children ranging from ages 6 to 15 helped Airline Baptist Church survey the community and host a block party. When the heat began to bother the younger children, they were able to serve by making cards for and singing to the homebound in the community.
In Paducah, families were involved in a community block party and sports camp and in outreach to nurses, staff and patients at a local hospital and nursing home.
"Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla ... these ingredients were key to a great week of missional service in Paducah, Ky.," said Kathy Thompson, a FamilyFEST volunteer from Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Ky. Thompson, along with her daughter and niece, spent the week in La Center Baptist Church's kitchen baking cupcakes and cookies. "Amazingly, we prepared over 200 cupcakes in one day's time!" she said.
Thompson's daughter Sarah, 9, said her favorite part of the project was seeing the smiles of people who received the goodies.
La Center Baptist Church's sports camp, with the help of volunteers from Friendship Baptist Church in Tallassee, Ala., provided instruction to 19 children from the community in basketball, waffle ball and dodge ball.
In Henderson, along with the sports camp and block party outreach, nurses from Kentucky, Illinois and Louisiana came together to do health fairs. They took blood pressure, did glucose monitoring and gave out health information. They also helped with a revival and Vacation Bible School. The nurses are part of the Baptist Nursing Fellowship, a ministry of Woman's Missionary Union. Dolores Gilmore, associational WMU director for the Green Valley association, said the nurses enjoyed combining their nursing skills with other skills to help the community.
One health fair was a women and children's event that also featured a dental hygienist teaching dental health and beauticians from a local beauty college who gave free haircuts. Volunteers distributed hygiene bags for the women and did games and crafts with the children.
"Not only were we concerned about their health problems," Gilmore said, "we were concerned about their spiritual problems and needs." The nurses aimed to provide a friendly place where community members could ask questions about their health and the nurses could share the love of Jesus.
"The most important task of the volunteers was servant evangelism," said Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky WMU "As the volunteers served, doing a variety of tasks and ministries, they had opportunity to share Jesus and why they had come. Their encouragement to our local churches was vital."
Terri Staines, a volunteer from First Baptist Church in Ray City, Ga., said Paducah and Henderson "will never be the same [and] neither will the 155 volunteers who served during FamilyFEST." In hosting a nightly Vacation Bible School at West End Baptist Church in Paducah, Staines said she and her team "came with a servant heart wanting to be a blessing to others, and all came away with hearts overflowing from the blessings received in return."
"Working with Kentucky WMU, Mississippi River Ministry, the Green Valley and West Union Baptist associations, and local churches has been such a blessing," said Kristy Carr, ministry consultant for the national WMU. "Seeing families serving together to serve others is priceless."
WMU's FamilyFEST is open to volunteers ages 6 and up while its MissionsFEST opportunities are geared to volunteers ages 18 and older. Kentucky has welcomed three MissionFEST events in the past but this was the state's first FamilyFEST. Next year's FamilyFEST opportunities will be in Salt Lake City, June 24–28 and eastern Kentucky, July 19–24. Upcoming MissionsFEST opportunities will be in Atlanta, Oct. 19–25, 2013; Rio Grande, Texas, Nov. 13–17, 2013; and Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 1–5, 2014.
For more information, visit wmu.com/trips.
Bethany Webb, who is serving as an intern on WMU's adult resource team, is a student in communication studies at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).