Holding containers of frozen casseroles, Cindy Walker climbed the steps of the homeless shelter, excited to see God using home-cooked meals to nourish and bless the residents. While she unpacked her car, a young man in his 30s, wearing clean, but worn, clothes and a backpack, parked his bike and offered to help.
With this suggestion, God was offering Walker another way to serve during WMU’s MissionsFEST in Portland, Maine, Sept. 9-16. In obedience and anticipation, Walker accepted both.
While the man unloaded the car, he confided in Walker about the hard times in his life due to some poor choices he’s made, which led him to the homeless shelter. For the rest of the evening, he talked about the Lord and life while Walker listened.
Before she left the shelter, he said, “Thank you for listening. Most people don’t look at me when I talk, and I don’t know why. But I see Jesus in your eyes.”
As a teacher and counselor, Walker knows the importance of listening, but she said it served as a reminder. “He reminded me that he needed to see Jesus by knowing that someone was willing to shut out everything else, concentrate on him and listen with ‘Jesus eyes.’”?
Just as the young man noticed Walker’s “Jesus eyes,” she also recognized them in her own group from Louisiana. “I saw the eyes of my fellow team members, none of whom had been a part of a mission trip before, opened to Southern Baptist life away from the Bible belt,” Walker said.
?Approximately 90 other volunteers from 17 states also participated in missions away from home as they partnered with seven churches within the Portland area. Each day they contributed to the community through various ministries such as prayerwalking, block parties, light construction, yard work, day camps, door-to-door ministry, and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
Working with Little River Baptist Church, Dottie Eastman from Arlington, Tex., enjoyed visiting houses in the community as she gave out popcorn and invited them to “pop in” to church anytime. She even received a letter of thanks from a family who said they wanted to visit the church.
As Eastman’s group delivered brownies to the police and fire stations on Sept. 11, led a women’s Bible study, hosted a fall festival, and organized the church library, she began to realize the importance of these random acts of kindness.
According to the Maine Baptist Association, a fellowship of 18 churches, Maine is one of the least churched states in the United States.
“I believe MissionsFEST opened our eyes to this mission field – just 18 Baptist churches in the entire state, compared to 400 in our local association,” Eastman said.
However, the trip also opened her eyes to the work of local Christians as they daily strive to revolutionize Maine for Christ. “It was encouraging to work alongside Mainers as we joined with brothers and sisters in Christ in their ministry,” Eastman said.
Not only were the volunteers inspired by working with their Maine brothers and sisters, but Ann Lawrence, WMU executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, who has since retired, said the locals were just as inspired by the volunteers. “Many of our pastors and churches were encouraged by volunteers coming to walk with them for awhile,” Lawrence said. “The volunteers certainly impacted our area, and they also showed our churches and pastors the value of a life dedicated to missions.”
For more opportunities about MissionsFEST, call (205) 991-4097.