Archive for February, 2011

By Paul Bishop, with Jeannie Dortch.

Paul disciples a Cambodian who may face strong anti-Christian sentiment from his family. Photo by Tim Kenney

Life on the mission field has turned out to be much different than we had planned. When we first went to the field in April 1997, we were going to be church planters in a restricted access country in Asia. Our first term, while not without its struggles, was a wonderful time of learning language and culture. However, God radically altered our plans when He allowed us to be kicked out of that country at the end of our first term.

God’s plan became evident when He led us to a neighboring country to work with the same unreached people group. Soon after our arrival, the team leader for that people group left, and Cathleen and I were asked to take over as team leaders. God quickly opened doors to the gospel. When two villages were burned down, our team used disaster relief funds to enter these communities and show the love of Christ. We were able to start a church in each village. It has been a blessing to see these churches start two more churches and outreach groups.

Cathleen works with Mon-Khmer women. Photo by Jade Phan

After our second term, God had more changes prepared for us. Cathleen and I were asked to take on the newly created Strategy Group Leader position for the country of Cambodia. We have been serving in this position since June 2004. Our primary responsibility now is to help each of the teams working among the Mon-Khmer-speaking peoples, the vast majority of whom are Buddhist. We provide direction, encouragement and administrative assistance to the personnel as they establish reproducing church movements. We are truly blessed to work with seven teams, each focused on a different people group. These teams include 32 adults and 38 children. We also work with national partners in most of our area’s people groups.

Both of our children were born on the field. Cambodia, more than any other place, has been their home. Early on, they traveled with us as we were involved in church planting. Now they travel with us as we visit with personnel in various parts of Cambodia and Thailand. Our children also help us to build relationships in our neighborhood. As a family, we work together in prayer to lift up both our co-workers and the unreached peoples of the Mon-Khmer Cluster. Our children have been home schooled for the past several years, but this year we put them in a small international school that uses a British-based curriculum. There they have friends from Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, India, America, and England.

Cathleen and Paul, Isaac and Abby at home in Cambodia. Photo by Laurie Gardner

Our lives are busy, rich, and full of God’s grace and peace. We thankfully and lovingly send greetings to our always faithful First Baptist Church family,

Paul and Cathleen Bishop

Join the Bishops in their work with the Mon-Khmer people through prayer at http://monkhmercluster.wordpress.com.

For more missions prayer requests, visit: http://www.fbcrichmond.org/prayer.

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Anna, a social work student serving wtih CHSVA, coordinated the suitcase drive with Candi Brown, FBC’s Minister to Children. Candi previously worked for CHSVA. Photo by Janet Chase.

The Children’s Home Society of Virginia (CHSVA) works with local social service agencies that provide services for children in foster care. As these children are moved from one facility to another, they often have only trash bags to “pack” their belongings in. FBC’s suitcase drive collected more than 32 suitcases and duffel bags so the kids in our area will have something permanent to use as they transition.

If you are interested in participating in this effort, look in the Sunday Morning News and the Wednesday Night News for information on a drive next fall.

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By David Powers.

Putting God’s love in action sometimes means working inside the church building. That’s what the newly-organized “First Helpers” do.

Warren Pierce and Devon work to repair a hydraulic door closer belonging to one of the main sanctuary doors. Photo by Anthony M. Nesossis.

Last year, when a building maintenance team member left the staff, budget constraints dictated that the vacant position not be filled. But the need for building maintenance continues. So Church Administrator Billy Burford sent out a request for help. More than a dozen helpers responded, volunteering to take assignments from the “Job Jar” and help maintain the church facility.

As maintenance needs arise, work orders are placed in the Job Jar, located in the Park Avenue hallway near the church offices. Periodically, the Support Ministry sends out an email, listing all the jobs. Volunteers arrive on their own schedule, pick up a work order or two, and do the work.

Some of the recent jobs included repairing door hinges, replacing light bulbs, repairing leaks in restrooms, and sharpening/replacing pencils in the sanctuary pew-racks.

The First Helpers Job Jar can be found in the Park Avenue main hallway. Photo by David Powers.

If you’re interested, there’s room for you among the First Helpers. Billy said you don’t have to be a licensed electrician or plumber, “but if you are one, that’s OK.” He adds, “If you have the skills to repair stuff around the home, you qualify. If you have an hour a week or an hour a month, we can use your skills.”

For more information, contact Billy Burford or Bonnie Wilmoth.

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By Bruce Leary. Photos by Win Grant.

As part of the Member Equipping Ministry Team, Bruce Leary greeted participants in the 2011 Ministry Fair on Sunday, February 6.

As part of the Member Equipping Ministry (MEM) Team, I recently found myself immersed in the preparation of the annual FBC Ministry Fair. This involved helping with the planning, setup and staffing for the event which hosted more than 60 ministry opportunities available to our congregation. The purpose is to inform, motivate, encourage, and help direct our church members to a meaningful place of service. After all, we are all called to be ministers.

After months of planning, the day of the Fair had arrived. My mind raced as I crossed the James River that morning. Had we thought of everything that needed to be done so we would be ready to open the doors? Had everyone completed their assigned tasks? Were our directions clear? Were there too many displays? Too few? Would all our effort be worth it?

It was 7:15 when I reached the corner of Sheppard and Maplewood Ave. It was a beautiful winter morning, with blue skies, bright sun, and a crisp nip in the air. As I paused at the stop sign, a figure on the corner caught my eye. She was middle aged although her tattered clothing and unkempt appearance made her look much older. Her hair was graying and the wrinkles in her face told a story of hard times and a tough life with few comforts. The struggles of life on the street had taken their toll. For just a moment we both were motionless, gazing across the street at each other as if we were looking at a photograph, or an image on a screen, each in our own world, I in my car, and she on the street corner, each safe in the familiar wrappings that defined who we were. The street was silent and empty. Then suddenly she motioned me to roll the window down. Didn’t she know that cars have power windows now? Then again, perhaps she didn’t! The silence was broken as she politely asked if I could spare a couple of dollars so she could get some coffee and something to eat. I nodded and waved her over to my car. As I drew a few dollars from my wallet, I turned to find a friendly face framed in the window of my car. Her name was Regina. Yes, her teeth were bad, her hair was a mess, and her black face was weathered and aged. But her eyes told a different story of someone who could love a stranger who was very different from herself, because she was first loved by the one who created us all. Regina took the money and then she took my hand. She thanked me, and then she asked if we could have a prayer. At that moment, God lifted all the barriers! He stripped away all those things that seem so important, but really only separate us from one another. There we were, on a cold winter morning, two of his children on an empty street in Richmond, Virginia – a homeless, penniless, street woman in donated, mismatched clothing, and an established, respected dentist in a three piece suit. Through moist eyes I offered a prayer for comfort, safety, food to eat, and for unmet needs for my new friend, Regina. She smiled, squeezed my hand, and asked God to bless me.

Pulling away from the corner, I quietly uttered another prayer thanking God for Regina and for the opportunity for two believers to come together in prayer and praise to the God who made them both. I glanced in my rear view mirror to see an empty street behind me. Regina had walked out of my life as quickly as she had entered it. I thought of the words of Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (NIV).

As I slowly drove to church, I realized that ministry isn’t about fairs, displays, programs, and funding; it’s about people and relationships, and about sharing the love of God with everyone we meet. Thank you and God bless you, Regina.

Bruce and his wife, Debbie, have been members of FBC for 30 years. They have three children, Jeffrey, a former member of the Lamb’s class, and Allison and Brandon, both active as children and youths in Sunday school and Youth I and II. Bruce serves as a Deacon and as a teacher of the Next Step Sunday School class, and is active in the Walk to Emmaus ministry. He practices general and cosmetic dentistry in Midlothian and enjoys golf and fishing. He and Debbie are avid Florida Gator fans.

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That Still, Small Voice…

By Tamara Witte. Photos by Win Grant.

It is what I love to call a “sacred restlessness.” It is that passion and drive that call us to a purpose greater than we are able to imagine or articulate. We wrestle and struggle, and sometimes we succeed at ignoring it. But we cannot rest until we follow that still, small voice found deep within our souls.

Pam Ash, Charlotte Evans and Margaret LaPierre are three FBC members who have listened to that voice. For each one, God instilled within them new hopes and dreams.


Pam Ash checks out a book in the church library.

She was an accountant. It was a perfect career choice for Pam as she found great satisfaction in helping others. But her life was thrown into a tailspin with a diagnosis of breast cancer. The treatments left her with no choice but to slow down, to listen and to wait. After much prayer and struggle she asked God to be with her on her journey. She naturally gravitated towards helping others who were fighting the same battle, and found joy in forming a breast cancer support group in the Northern Neck. Her husband’s job relocated the family to Richmond. It was at this point that God and Pam had an encounter.

On a Sunday morning in July of 2004, she was running late and ended up in the balcony between services. The unexpected occurred: God called her to ministry. If that’s not a reason to be on time (or not) for church, what is! Pam had no doubt of what she had experienced, but naturally wondered how it could possibly come to be a reality.

She is now a seminary graduate, with a Master of Divinity and an emphasis in pastoral care. After a brief sabbatical to rest and reflect, she will begin exploring ministry as an interim pastor. In this way she will be able to assist churches in transition and provide the pastoral care that is crucial to a church as they wait for God’s direction.


Charlotte Evans serves as a deacon at FBC.

Seatmates may appear to be random, but on that particular flight, there was no mistake that there was something larger going on. Charlotte, a vice president for a public relations agency, was in turmoil. A career that once fulfilled her no longer brought joy. There was a drive to learn more about God and to increase her skills to be able to serve more effectively. The sacred restlessness had set in and could not be ignored.

Wrestling with the possibility that God was calling her to a ministry of pastoral care was exhausting, and the ramifications were staggering. She had talked with ministers and seminary professors and students about her experiences. “Call me or leave me alone” became her prayer. At one point in a fit of frustration, Charlotte tossed a seminary catalog into the trash thinking that she would not be called.

Her seatmate on that flight, however, just happened to be on her way to a pastoral care internship after graduating seminary. When they parted, her new friend’s final words of “This was no coincidence” helped to bring closure. The struggle came to an end as she left her 35-year career behind and enrolled in Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Doubts and fears were replaced with excitement and joy. Years ago God planted within Charlotte a desire to give, to counsel, and to love people. Though the changes in Charlotte’s life were radical, the calling was not. It was the most natural thing in the world.


Margaret LaPierre prepares to sing in the church choir.

It was by listening to that still, small voice… praying, journaling and listening some more. These habits were a part of Margaret’s life as she transitioned from twenty years in investment banking to a career as a Licensed Master Aesthetician/Holistic Health Practitioner. How does that happen? It began in a conversation with her husband, Jan, as she came to the realization that her career no longer brought her joy. Sensing she had a greater purpose, and wanting to “give back,” she put the matter in God’s hands and waited. One step at a time, things slowly fell into place. Leaving the security of a successful career was frightening. But as she prayed over each decision, both large and small, she was given the encouragement she needed to forge ahead.

Margaret’s practice as a health professional involves so much more than skin care procedures. The needs of her clients, more often than not, go beyond what is physically apparent. Clients are often riddled with shame, hurt and poor self esteem due to personal misfortunes. In a setting that evokes beauty and grace, Margaret ministers to her clients, giving them hope and caring for them with compassion and understanding.

Listening to that still, small voice will not necessarily result in a career change or a call to ministry. But it will result in change; change that gives birth to unexplainable joy as we discover new ways to be salt and light to a world desperately in need.

Tamara is a third year seminary student at Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond and the Director of Pastoral Care at St. Mary’s Woods, a retirement community. She is a graduate of Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and served in the Air Force as a medic. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching violin to FBC youths, home improvement projects, and swimming and hiking.

Tamara’s story My very first church staff job in 1996 had been a traumatic, horrendous experience. After it was over, I found myself in a position of being disillusioned with God, and the thought of returning to ministry was impossible to imagine. For three years I worked a combination of various part time jobs, one as custodian for a little Bible church in the heart of downtown Louisville, Kentucky. I affectionately (or maybe not so much) referred to myself as a minister of floors. Each Saturday afternoon as I mopped the sanctuary, polished the pews, and set up the seemingly endless amount of folding chairs, I would reflect on my present lot in life. And I wondered how or if I would ever be able to fulfill the call I first sensed as a ten year old. How it eventually came about is nothing short of a miracle. But the journey was filled with wordless prayers, listening and waiting. I claimed Jeremiah’s promise, “You will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” And God came through as God always does.

What’s your story of hearing and responding to that “still, small voice” in your life? Share it below…

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