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Families spread love through labor in Kansas Citycomment (0)

September 11, 2008

Four families packed the church van and headed on summer vacation. While they just drove hours down the road to Kansas City, Kan., this was no ordinary vacation for these Missourians.

This vacation was all about sharing God’s love through missions projects.

“What more can you ask for? You get to have fun and tell people about Jesus at the same time,” 8-year-old Matthew Black said. “It makes you have such a joy in your heart. I’d do it again — any time, any place.”

Black and his family joined more than 100 other volunteers at FamilyFEST, a hands-on missions opportunity for families sponsored by national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), July 21–26.

Participants ranged in age from 4 to 72. The volunteers from 10 different states did everything from painting and construction to servant ministries to backyard Bible clubs.

With rising gas prices, Gena Brown said her family knew they would need to stay close to home this year. So, four families (almost half of her small church in Richland, Mo.) decided to pool their vacation money and do something that would be a part of God’s work.

Brown admits she was not sure how it would work having young kids on a missions trip, with four of eight kids under the age of 6.

“I was afraid they’d get bored or tired,” she said. “But, they’ve loved every second of this. The older kids are already talking about what we can do back home for missions projects in our own community.

“That’s exactly what we had hoped for,” she continued. “We wanted to open the kids’ eyes, as well as our own, to God’s will for us to serve others and share His love.”

Twenty-one members of Osawatomie Baptist Church from the Kansas City area took vacation time as well to cross the river into Missouri to paint and repair Immanuel Baptist Church.

Melissa Cooke said the church decided to participate in FamilyFEST as a way to “give back” what they’ve received.

Almost one year ago, floods flowed through the Kansas town. Soon after, volunteers came to help out.

Cooke said volunteers helped at their church, as well as the church serving as a host site.

“Those volunteers were a good example of service to us. They planted the missions seed in our congregation,” she said. “When FamilyFEST came to our area, we knew it was the perfect opportunity for us to give back. The appeal of this particular missions trip was that it was aimed for families.”

Cooke’s three children worked alongside her and her husband, Brian, throughout the week.

Eleven-year-old Shelby Cooke said one of her favorite parts of the week was working next to her Dad. The two painted hallways and stairwells along with the youth group.

“Dad, I bet the church people are surprised when they see this,” Shelby chattered happily alongside her Dad while rolling red paint on the stairwell. “I think they will feel loved just like we felt loved.”

Many of the FamilyFEST projects centered around fixing old church buildings or giving them a face lift.

Donnie Simpson, director of missions for the Kansas City, Kansas Baptist Association, said projects such as these are vital for small churches.

“Ministering to our churches is vital. There are not a lot of Baptist churches in this area of the States and they can use all of the encouragement they can get,” Simpson explained. “Many of these small churches don’t have the resources or man-power to paint or do door-to-door visitation.

“Just by interacting with church members, FamilyFEST volunteers offered encouragement and blessings. The volunteers did things the churches only dream of being able to do,” Simpson added.

FamilyFEST opportunities in 2009 will be in Miami, Ariz., June 6–12; Natchez, Miss., July 18–23; and Wisconsin Dells, Wis., July 20–24.

MissionsFEST, geared for adult volunteers age 18 and older, will be in Maine, Oct. 12–17, 2009.

For more information and registration materials, call WMU’s Volunteer Connection at 205-991-4097; e-mail volconnection@wmu.org; or visit www.wmu.com/volunteerconnection. (WMU)

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