Today I came to work ready for a crazy day! Wednesdays can be quite tiring, and this particular Wednesday we were getting ourselves and our pumpkin patch ready for a free neighborhood carnival!

Oh, yes, you read that right. During the entire month of October, my church hosts an annual pumpkin patch . . . and since the proceeds go to benefit the youth ministry (as well as children’s and building ministries) I am in charge of volunteer scheduling/answering all pumpkin-related questions. This is our sixth year to run the patch, and it has become an integral part of many Athenians’ fall tradition. The pumpkin patch is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. We give tours of our church, take pictures of families, and just meet our neighbors! So today started by updating all of the volunteer schedules/sign ups and responding to various community organizations, schools, restaurants, and media who had all called with questions regarding our beloved pumpkin patch!

Next, it was off to staff meeting amidst the mounds of Carnival games/candy that were slowly accumulating around the building. We have recently hired Claire Kermitz, a first-year McAfee student to be our part-time interim children’s minister, so we were helping her get acquainted with congregational life by throwing her into a huge event right away! She handled everything like a champ, and we spent the rest of the morning running errands and making our lists for the upcoming carnival.

In the middle of setting up outside, a local woman found me and wanted to talk to a minister about how she’s trying to help bring a little cheer and laughter to a low-income family. She and I had a good conversation about how often it’s the little things in life that can make a huge difference . . .  like giving those kids a small pumpkin to brighten their day–which we did!

The pumpkin patch carnival was a huge success. We partnered with the fire department and police department to have fire trucks and police cars there for kids to look at. We raised over $200 for Food2Kids (a local food charity) by selling tickets to our dunk tank for a chance to Dunk-A-Deacon ( I just know that this is going to catch on at other Baptist churches)! We charged even more for chances to dunk the senior pastor!  The youth were responsible for creating the spooky bus ride . . . a favorite among young kids! We black out the windows of the church bus, string a lot of lights and cobwebs and pumpkin lanterns, and go for a ride around the block. Yours truly is the bus driver . . . this year I was dressed up as Princess Belle! The entire carnival is free to the community, and today it was so neat to see that roughly 300 people came out for a fun, family-oriented night. The costumes were so fun, our church members were great and into the spirit of the evening, and the community was just so floored that we would offer all this for free.  We even had gold medalist, Allison Schmitt, come buy a pumpkin . . . and of course take a picture with me, an Olympic fanatic! (see below)

To me, these are the days that while I go home exhausted, I am spiritually rejuvenated that my church cares about and is willing to invest in being a part of the local community. I saw God today through all of the willing volunteers who came to get dunked, paint faces, serve cotton candy, ride on a bus with screaming children, introduce neighbors to each other, and simply be the hands and feet of Christ to the Athens community.

Kristy Bay is Associate Pastor of Youth and Education, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, Georgia.