Family festival to share message of hope


JASPER — Local churches will gather this weekend to offer help and hope to the community — regardless of race or religion — in the second annual Family Festival/Festival de la Familia.

Churches hosted the festival for the first time last year under the leadership of Maria Lopez, pastor at Iglesia Nueva Vida, a nondenominational Spanish-speaking church in Jasper. Lopez got the idea for the festival after she saw people enjoying the myriad festivals around Dubois County and wondered why there wasn’t a festival celebrating God. And while this year’s festival will have faith at its center, the mission is more about connecting anyone in need with resources in the community.

“Sometimes I feel like you just need to hear that someone does care and wants to help you even when you’re not at your best,” said Josseline Carr, Lopez’s daughter and one of the festival organizers.

The festival will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Schroeder Sports Complex in Jasper and will feature entertainment from local churches and worship bands, several booths and a kids area with games and inflatables. Booths will include food, local companies looking for employees, banks and financial planners to help people with finances and local social services such as Crisis Connection and Tri-Cap. An immigration attorney will also be on site to aid local immigrants, and a prayer booth will be staffed all day by local church leaders for anyone who needs support.

That’s just some of the booths that will be at the festival, Carr said. There are many more organizations that will be present, making this year’s festival much larger than last year.

“I feel that’s one of the biggest improvements over last year,” Carr said of the increased community involvement.

A main entertainment event will be a friendly soccer game between local police officers and firefighters, followed by a surprise for the first responders the festival planners came up with as a way to show their appreciation for the work of emergency personnel. Several local businesses donated to help make the surprise happen, and Lopez and Carr want to thank them, as well as the businesses and churches that sponsored the festival.

The Family Festival/Festival de la Familia has a three-part mission: honoring God, uniting area churches under one mission and bringing the Hispanic and Anglo — or Caucasian — populations together. The idea is based on Lopez’s core beliefs that local churches should work together to bring people closer to God, and that to do the work successfully, churchgoers must reach beyond their churches’ walls.

“It’s a day to celebrate God,” Lopez said.

Although faith is at the core of the festival, Carr and Lopez stressed that it’s not a church festival. It’s a community festival meant to spread help and hope to anyone who needs it in a fun atmosphere.

“You hear so much going on now, so much negativity,” Carr said. “But there’s never really a message of hope.”

Carr and Lopez hope the festival can provide that message of hope. And if you don’t think faith is for you, Carr said, that’s OK. Festival organizers still want to see you there and to offer any service they can.

“Can we help you with food?” Carr said. “Can we help you with finances? ... If there’s something that appeals to you, come check it out.”

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