“There can’t be any greater feeling than watching one of your children present the gospel to the world,” Maria Chattin-Carter shared on her blog as her favorite memory from FamilyFEST in Memphis, Tenn., July 7–13. FamilyFEST, a ministry of national WMU, was an opportunity for her family to grow closer and to teach her children how to tell others about Jesus.
Chattin-Carter and her family of Chattanooga, Tenn., helped lead a backyard Bible club throughout the week and served with around 200 volunteers from 15 states who ministered at 11 different project sites. States represented by volunteers were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
FamilyFEST in Memphis was a partnership between national WMU, Tennessee WMU, Mississippi River Ministry (MRM), and the Mid-South Baptist Association.
“It was such a wonderful week, seeing people from all over, working side-by-side, and serving God’s people in Memphis,” reflected Cathy Chinn, regional coordinator for MRM. “It is a very unchurched area, and we are looking for creative ways to share the gospel.
“FamilyFEST was a week of people doing just that,” Chinn continued. “It was exciting to see various groups sharing God’s love in so many ways!”
Randy Pool of MRM of Tennessee added that FamilyFEST was a tremendous boost for several ministry sites in the Memphis area. According to Pool, some established works were enhanced by the presence of the volunteers while others were new church plants trying to make an impact in their community.
For example, Fayette Baptist Church is a new church plant in Memphis. The church was not yet open to the public during FamilyFEST, but FamilyFEST volunteers from the Boones Creek Baptist Association in Kentucky helped Fayette Baptist get their ministry started.
“We were asked to take information about the church and gospel tracts door-to-door for most of the week,” shared Todd Rader, a volunteer from Ephesus Baptist Church in Kentucky. “Two of our ladies baked over 300 cookies and we distributed them to local businesses. One morning we volunteered at a local thrift store. There have already been several individuals and families that have expressed interest in the church as a result of our outreach efforts.”
National WMU President Debby Akerman of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was among the volunteers and said, “The thought that comes to my mind and heart as I reflect on my week at FamilyFEST is ‘immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.’ More than a thought, it is Paul’s prayer for God’s work through us for His glory.”
Akerman said it was a joy to serve alongside many of the volunteers delivering cookies, pulling weeds, sorting clothes, and packing lunches for the homeless, among other ministries. Her afternoons were filled with “serving during block parties and backyard Bible clubs, all clearly presenting the love of Christ and the plan of salvation.”
Bonnie Draper, FamilyFEST volunteer and youth director at Landover Hills Baptist Church in Landover Hills, Md., said, “Some of the children thought they had to pay for popcorn and snow cones at the block parties. We were able to tell them the food was free, but more importantly shared the free gift of Jesus Christ coming into their lives. We know of four that prayed to receive Christ and others were open to listening.”
During the week, teams also assembled and distributed more than 1,000 hygiene kits in the Memphis area.
FamilyFEST volunteers came to be blessing to the community, but were blessed themselves as the prayers of the coordinators were answered, and then some.
“FamilyFEST not only had an impact on the community but on the volunteers as well,” said Denise Bronaugh, adult ministry and communication specialist for Tennessee WMU. “That was evidenced at the celebration dinner that was held on the last night of our week. From the 70-year-old man who confessed that this was his first missions trip to the 6-year-old who was excited she got to tell someone about Jesus, you could sense that their lives had been changed as well. Most volunteers said they wanted to go home and make an impact in their own community with what they learned at FamilyFEST.”
“God honored the fact that families came together to work in different neighborhoods of Memphis to share Jesus Christ,” said Sherry Hall, director of the Mid-South Baptist Association WMU. Since FamilyFEST ended, Hall said four groups of volunteers have already made plans to return in the spring and summer of 2013.
“Every church should be involved in a family-oriented mission trip,” said Brook Lovett, associate pastor of children and evangelism at Concord Baptist Church in Calera, Ala. “FamilyFEST created a passion in our church for the work we need to do [at home] in Calera. It made our church family and the families in our church healthier and stronger.”
Kristin Easterling is a senior at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. She is serving as an intern this summer at national WMU on the Corporate Communications Team.