By Sue Sprenkle
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (ABP) — Four families packed a church van and headed out on summer vacation. Although they only drove a few hours to Kansas City, Kan., this was no ordinary vacation for these Missourians.
This vacation was about sharing God’s love through mission 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 Woman’s Missionary Union July 21-26.
The volunteers, ranging in age from 4 to 72 and representing 10 states, did everything from painting and construction to servant ministries to backyard Bible clubs in the Kansas City area.
With rising gas prices, Gena Brown said her family knew they would need to stay close to home this year. So, four families from First Baptist Church, Swedeborg — representing almost half of their small church — decided to pool their vacation money and do something as part of God’s work.
Brown admits that she was not sure how taking young kids would work on a mission trip.
“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 mission 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 (Kan.) Baptist Church took vacation time as well to cross the state line into Missouri and repair a church. Melissa Cooke, an Osawatomie member, said her congregation decided to participate in FamilyFEST as a way to “give back” what they’ve received.
Almost a year ago, floods flowed through the Kansas town. Soon after, volunteers came to assist. Cooke said volunteers helped at the church, and the church served 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 and her dad joined the youth group to paint hallways and stairwells.
“Dad, I bet the church people are surprised when they see this,” Shelby said, while painting the stairwell a vibrant red. “I think they will feel loved just like we felt loved.”
Many FamilyFEST projects centered around fixing old church buildings or giving them a facelift. Donnie Simpson, director of missions for Kansas City (Kan.) 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 … and they can use all of the encouragement they can get,” Simpson explained. “Many of these small churches don’t have the resources or manpower 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.
Above: (top) Kristi Oliba, Zane Paulk and Austin Oliba work on projects for the Backyard Bible Club they helped with during WMU’s FamilyFEST in Kansas City, Kan.; (bottom) Brian and Shelby Cooke work together to paint stairwell walls at a church.