Around 200 volunteers from 15 states converged on Memphis to lead backyard Bible studies, distribute gospel tracts, home-baked cookies and hygiene kits, clean yards, sort clothing for donation, feed the homeless and offer Christ's salvation, ministering at 11 sites.
National WMU President Debby Akerman said the event painted a picture of the Apostle Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to do "'immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.'... It is Paul's prayer for God's work through us for His glory."
FamilyFEST allows biological and church families to participate in stateside mission outreaches that allow children as young as 6 to participate in modeling Christ's love. WMU held FamilyFEST July 7-13, with support from the Tennessee WMU, the Mississippi River Ministry and the Mid-South Baptist Association.
"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.
Maria Chattin-Carter of Chattanooga, Tenn., said FamilyFEST helped her family grow closer and gave her children a lesson in evangelistic outreach.
"There can't be any greater feeling than watching one of your children present the Gospel to the world," Chattin-Carter wrote on her blog.
She and her family helped lead a backyard Bible club and participated in other outreaches with volunteers from Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.
Cathy Chinn, MRM regional coordinator, said it was "exciting to see various groups sharing God's love in so many ways.
"It was such a wonderful week, seeing people from all over, working side by side, and serving God's people in Memphis," Chinn said. "It is a very unchurched area, and we are looking for creative ways to share the Gospel."
FamilyFEST was a tremendous boost for several ministry sites in the Memphis area, said MRM's Randy Pool, including established ministries and new church plants such as Fayette Baptist Church.
Todd Rader, a volunteer from Ephesus Baptist Church in Kentucky, said his group helped publicize Fayette.
"We were asked to take information about the church and gospel tracts door to door for most of the week," Rader said. "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."
Bonnie Draper, youth director at Landover Hills Baptist Church in Landover Hills, Md., said she knew of at least four salvations through at block parties.
"Some of the children thought they had to pay for popcorn and snow cones at the block parties," Draper said. "We were able to tell them the food was free, but more importantly shared the free gift of Jesus Christ coming into their lives."
"FamilyFEST not only had an impact on the community but on the volunteers as well," Bronaugh said. "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."
Brook Lovett, associate pastor of children and evangelism at Concord Baptist Church in Calera, Ala., said the missions trip benefitted volunteers from Concord Baptist.
"FamilyFEST created a passion in our church for the work we need to do in Calera," he said. "It made our church family and the families in our church healthier and stronger."
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler, with reporting from national WMU's Corporate Communications intern Kristin Easterling. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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