BALTIMORE – More than 60 volunteers, from ages 5 to 77, traveled from seven states to do ministry in 10 churches and four ministries in Baltimore during this summer’s FamilyFEST, a hands-on missions opportunity for families sponsored by the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).
On June 21-24, several people, including one family with seven children, participated in light construction and beautification projects, Vacation Bible Schools (VBS), block parties, and prayerwalking throughout the metro Baltimore area. Melanie Hart of Pittsburgh, Pa., was WMU’s onsite coordinator and Maria Sigmon from Embrace Baltimore coordinated the mission sites.
Tony Rivers, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Wilson, led his team of seven adults and seven youth at Catonsville Church, where 142 people came to a block party, complete with a puppet show, carnival games, food and a moon bounce. Even more spectacular was a double rainbow that hovered over the night’s events.
Forty-four adults and children raised their hands to accept Christ, said Bob Lilly, Catonville’s pastor. Rivers described the experience as “phenomenal.”
He is convinced that families going on mission trips is ideal. Noting the positive pressure on parents, he shared, “As Southern Baptists, we have raised a generation of people who are mission-minded; now we need to raise a generation of missionaries.”
He credits the WMU for the right missions opportunity. “I looked at WMU for their history of thoroughness and track record for careful planning. WMU has it all right there for you. It’s so easy.”
The careful planning took “a lot of headache out of it” for him, Rivers said.
“This is a lot better than a vacation,” said Katie Lucas, who brought along her 11-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. They handed out free water bottles and information from Grace Life Church in the Inner Harbor and participated in a Patterson Park Church-sponsored “Dog Party,” handing out free dog biscuits to pet owners.
“Here, we’re praying, and we are surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ. And we came here for a purpose,” she added, smiling at her normally shy daughter. “She went up to people she didn’t even know. I’m so proud of her!”
In their second family mission trip, Dave and Alison Bode of Nanjemoy, Md., brought their seven children to do missions work in Baltimore. They helped to clear out a basement in Seventh Baptist Church’s rowhome, which Pastor Ryan Palmer soon hopes to dedicate as the “Annie Armstrong House” for missionaries.
The family removed old pews and personal items and later handed out postcard invitations to “CitiFest,” a block party sponsored by Seventh Church on June 28. They also participated in church services at Seventh and Salem Gospel Church and at VBS sites at New Christian Bible Baptist Church and Riverside Baptist Church.
“I am a country girl at heart, but I understand that most of the people live in the cities,” said Alison, “so we wanted to come meet them here.”