Greg Hutchinson shares about Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief during Family Missions Day at the Little Rock Zoo. (Mary Alford/ABN)
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Missions Team hosted a day of missions discipleship and fun Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Little Rock Zoo.
More than 400 took part in the team’s Family Missions Day, where participants learned about missions and unreached people groups through a scavenger hunt, prayer cards, and presentations from missionaries. Travis McCormick of the ABSC Missions Team described the event as an opportunity to show attendees “you can be on mission every day, even at the zoo.”
“It’s not an event where we had several hundred people make decisions for Christ. It was an event where 400 people came and learned how to be on mission, which will ultimately multiply and pay dividends,” he said. “It’s just a creative way to teach about missions, being on mission and about the mission.”
Attending with a group from Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot, Susie Dodson said events like the Family Missions Day “whet your appetite to keep with missions.”
“It gives you a little bit of world vision of what’s really going on. You put a face with a name. This person is actually over there. They actually read this language. They actually share Jesus with these people,” she said. “It just broadens your vision of what God is doing.”
The group from Cabot was just one of many church groups to attend the event. A young ladies group, Journey, from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Sardis also came out to learn about missions.
LaNese Mahan, a volunteer with the church, said they wanted to spotlight missions and came across this event on the website.
“I think it’s awesome to raise awareness, especially for youth. A lot of them don’t know the opportunities that there are in the missions world. I think it’s great for them to be able to come and actually talk with people who are working with these ministries,” Mahan said. “I have a heart for missions. I have traveled and done several missions trips and thought this would be a cool event for the girls to come and see.”
Participants throughout the day completed three different activities which earned them a Family Missions Day patch. There was a missions/zoo scavenger hunt, where they had to find five specific animals and learn some interesting facts about them. Participants also had to find four people located throughout the zoo that represented different unreached people groups. The mission project this year was prayer walking for unreached people groups.
Rosita Waite, who represented the Malay people group, said the Family Missions Day was a “positive experience.”
“It is one way to introduce mission to visitors, especially to the young ones. I like the location being at the zoo. It brings God to a public place,” she said.
Additionally, five missionaries were set up at the pavilion, where participants could visit their booths, learn about their mission, and earn a stamp. These missionaries included Greg Hutchison of Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief, Julia Baird of the International Mission Board, Tonya Larmoyeux of Arkansas Baptist Children and Family Ministries, Shadrach Black of the International Mission Board and Woodland Heights Baptist Church Children’s and Outreach Pastor Steve Lasiter.
Larmoyeux said the event “was invaluable for distributing information and communicating their mission to families and churches across Arkansas.”
“I can’t say enough about how well the event was organized. The booklets gave families a tangible item to help organize their day, make sure they stopped by every booth, and have a way to visualize biblical truths and pray for people groups as they encountered animals from that region,” Larmoyeux said.
“Those who registered for the event were eager and hungry to learn about local, state, and international missions. I was also encouraged by the children and families who walked by out of curiosity, because they happened to be at the zoo that day. There were a handful of zoo visitors who came to see God’s creatures and left hearing the Gospel of the One who created them.”
Lasiter said the event was a “great way to combine missions education with a day at the zoo.”
“One example of how this worked was the scavenger hunt and how intentional the kids were to find their ‘unreached, unengaged people group.’ As they visited the missionaries and got their booklets stamped throughout the day, it was clear they had fun while their understanding of missions increased,” he said.
“As an outreach pastor, I’m all about having events at the local church, but it was an awesome thing to watch as God took the church beyond the four walls and directly into the community. I enjoyed sharing ministry ideas with kids and their parents as well as other ministry leaders, but what I loved most was the opportunity to share Jesus with so many kids and adults using the M&M Gospel story. It was a great way to spend the day.”
Family Missions Day at the zoo was made possible through the generous gifts of Arkansas Baptists through the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering and the Cooperative Program.
McCormick said the goal is to have the event every other year.