This summer, volunteers joined with local Christians in a highly concentrated effort to support ongoing missions projects. MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST, ministries of the Woman’s Missionary Union in conjunction with state WMUs and local Baptist associations, has provided a volunteer missions opportunity for hundreds of adults and families from across the country. The most recent FEST’s were held late June of this year in Pittsburgh, Pa., and most recently mid-July in Omaha, Neb., respectively. The last MissionsFest of 2004 is slated for Oct. 3-10 and will be held in New England.
Melanie Hart, a Mission Service Corps volunteers with the North American Mission Board, said it was exciting and encouraging to see how God used volunteers in Pittsburgh during the June 20-26 outreach that gathered 165 volunteers, including 27 families, from 12 different states.
"We have had ongoing outreach efforts and prayerwalking in this area for years, but until this weekend, there seemed to be little progress," she said. "MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST have been incredible."
Hart added that the opportunity also helped increase awareness of "how challenging it is to reach people for Christ up here."
Melanie Ward, a volunteer from Prattville, Alabama commented, "We feel it's very important to teach our children about missions, about giving their lives to serve others and to serve our Lord."
"There's no better way to do that than to model missions to them, to show them by example how to minister to others and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. We are just carrying out what the Lord has asked us to do," Ward added. "Children need to see their mom and dad setting an example of helping and serving others. As parents, that's what we are here for ... to teach our children to live out their purpose in life, to love others and see others through Christ's eyes.
"This is the legacy we want to pass along."
Penny Ellis, who serves as the African American coordinator for Georgia WMU commented, "It was great for our kids to see how needed and appreciated they were. FamilyFEST was a wonderful time with my daughters of bonding, teamwork and increased awareness of missions instead of just hearing about it and praying for missions."
And Carla Lahey, a USC-2 volunteer with NAMB who works with Duke in the association, stated, "MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST were a real encouragement to many churches in our area because it was the first time they had volunteers, especially out-of-state volunteers."
Lahey added, "Several of these churches, like Zion Hills Full Gospel, which was one of the ministry sites, are just recently affiliated with Southern Baptists and were shocked that people would actually come to help them."
MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST in Pittsburgh were a partnership between national WMU, Pennsylvania/South Jersey WMU, Appalachian Regional Ministry and the Baptist Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Sites for next year’s FamilyFEST include San Diego/Tijuana, Mexico, June 26-July 1; Salt Lake City, July 12-16; and the North Carolina Triad, comprised of Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem, July 19-22.
For adult volunteers 18 and older, registration is still open for the last MissionsFEST of 2004 in New England, where participants may choose to serve Oct. 3-10 or Oct. 6-10. MissionsFEST sites in 2005 include New York City, April 9-16; Salt Lake City, July 9-16; the North Carolina Triad, July 16-22; the Appalachia region, specifically western Maryland and Clarksburg, W.Va., Sept. 17-24.