By Cara Brown
Spartanburg, S.C.– Music fills the air as participants sing and motion along with the lyrics. Later they gather together to listen to a Bible story and then construct a related craft. This may sound like a typical Vacation Bible School for the children in your church, but for the volunteers at Missionsfest in Spartanburg, S.C., this VBS was for a more mature audience: residents of a local nursing home.
Missionsfest, held July 16–20, allowed 85 volunteers age 18 and older to gather from 12 states to spread the gospel throughout Spartanburg through construction, outreach projects, evangelism, acts of kindness, prayerwalking and much more.
Throughout the week, volunteers found unique ways to approach the community for Christ. Residents of White Oak Manor, a 192-bed nursing home, experienced a VBS, complete with decorations, crafts, music, memory verses, and Bible stories.
“It was such a hit!” exclaimed Sandra Tapp, associate executive director of South Carolina WMU and trip co-coordinator. “It also proved to be life-changing for one resident of the facility.”
During the week, two volunteers led a resident to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I wonder, had this man ever had the opportunity to hear the gospel before?” Tapp questioned. “Was this the first time that this individual, living in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the middle of the ‘Bible Belt,’ had someone who took the time to share the life-changing message with him?”
Though Spartanburg can be found in one of the few counties with multiple Southern Baptist associations, many people in the area are still unreached with the gospel. According to Spartanburg County Baptist Network (SCBN), Spartanburg has 102 churches, yet only 23 percent of the county’s population is involved in a church on Sunday mornings.
As local churches focus on ministering to the community’s spiritual needs, they simultaneously face physical and social factors in the community’s health. SCBN estimates more than 25 percent of all children in Spartanburg live in poverty.
National WMU, South Carolina WMU, and SCBN partnered together through Missionsfest to serve those in need and also support the ongoing ministries in the community.
“The needs in Spartanburg are the same as in most cities,” explained Missionsfest volunteer and national WMU president emerita Debby Akerman. “Behind the successful businesses, the colleges and universities, the unique or the chain-type restaurants and the lovely neighborhoods are the underserved and the unappreciated and the unreached for Jesus.”
Akerman led a group of four from Waccamaw Baptist Nursing Fellowship (BNF) in South Carolina’s Waccamaw Baptist Association to Missionsfest to assist with local medical needs and training.
During their time at Miller Place, a 19-bed residential care facility for the elderly and others in need for assistance in a low-income area, the BNF volunteers provided training for the nine-member staff to meet continuing education requirements of the state’s health department. The team covered subjects such as documentation, nutrition, communicable disease, and infection control.
Four other Missionsfest volunteers offered crafts, hymn singing, devotional times, games, and hand and foot care to the residents, which opened doors for gospel conversations. Each resident also received a pillow by a team member’s Women on Mission group, while each staff member received a gift bag.
When Tapp visited this site, she noticed the impact this missions event had on the staff members and residents.
“As I sat and talked with them, they shared with me that no one had ever done anything like that for them before,” she said. “These volunteers were true servants through their actions and words during their days with the loving residents of this facility.”
Volunteers served with eagerness and love throughout the week as they distributed food and hygiene packets with The Salvation Army; baked and delivered cookies to the local 911 dispatch and police department and hosted a block party and conducted health screenings for residents of a local mobile home park. Other ministry sites included Spartanburg Soup Kitchen, Greater Spartanburg Ministries, The Journey Church and Spartanburg Hospitality Interfaith Network.
“The impact these volunteers left here in Spartanburg is immeasurable,” shared the Rev. Paul McKee, local coordinator and SCBN’s missions ministries consultant. “In addition to the two new souls heaven is rejoicing over that made professions of faith this week, countless other seeds were planted in the lives of so many.”
When those in the community asked why volunteers came to help them, McKee was quick to point out it was God working through willing and obedient servants to bring others to Him.
National WMU President Linda Cooper served alongside the volunteers throughout the week and couldn’t agree more.
“Everyone who served was blessed as they were faithful to His call on their lives to serve in His name,” she shared. “God was truly at work in Spartanburg.”
To see updates on upcoming missions opportunities through WMU, visit wmu.com/trips.
Cara Brown serves on the Adult Resource Team at national WMU in Birmingham, Ala.