Archive for April, 2011

By Jim Markham. Photos by Jeannie Dortch.

At Maybeury Elementary School in western Henrico, there is a happening on Monday afternoons that resembles a mini United Nations. Ten to fifteen children, from kindergarten through the fifth grade, meet after school for about an hour to be mentored and receive help with their school work. Before the work begins, there is time for snacks and a chance to chat.

So, where does the U.N. connection come in? These children and their families are new Americans from nine different countries – Brazil, Egypt, Honduras, Iraq, Liberia, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan and Ukraine. In many cases, the children have the best English-speaking skills in their families.

Children's Minister Candi Brown and a group of volunteers from FBCwork with children from international backgrounds at Maybeury Elementary School.

Last fall, Candi Brown, FBC’s Minister to Children, brought together a group of volunteers, mostly from our church, to work at Maybeury. Over the first two months, through trial and error, a system was developed and in December, the school administration took time to review how it was working. In January they decided that the children and their parents were responding well and that the program should be continued.

During a typical Monday afternoon, the enthusiasm of the children is easy to see. When one student was first asked where she was from, she responded that she didn’t know her country’s name in English, but in Spanish it is pronounced “hahn-DUR-us.” The volunteers all understood.

The volunteers spend most of their time tutoring reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also show God's love for the children.

As you might expect, most of the time is spent tutoring reading, writing (alphabet and numbers), and arithmetic. But it’s not all work. Looking around the room, one can see lots of smiles, laughter and an occasional hug – evidence of growth in a Christian environment.

For a first-hand report of what’s going on at Maybeury School on Monday afternoons, ask the volunteers for their impressions: Jeannie Dortch, Becky Goodrich, Lindsey McClintock, Candi Brown, Rachel Boykin, Bonnie Ferguson, Karin Dickerson, Inge Heidecker, and me.

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Reported by Sam Jordan.

Dr. Lowrey Holthaus

Dr. Lowrey Holthaus recently won the Frist Humanitarian Award at Parham Doctors’ Hospital (a campus of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital). This award recognizes contributions to the community.

Lowrey is a radiologist “who serves our patients with care and compassion. Time and time again, our employees and patients comment how he genuinely cares for his patients and takes time to make sure everyone understands any diagnosis he provides,” according to Patrick Farrell, CEO of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

His service to community focuses on Lowrey’s belief that the middle school years are very important. He divides his time between work with a Boy Scout troop and teaching Sunday school at First Baptist to this age group. In both settings, he provides youths with leadership opportunities, allowing them to plan events, to make mistakes in the planning or carrying out, and then to correct those mistakes themselves. His patience with their efforts provides them models for later decision making. FBC also benefits from Lowrey’s involvement in the Church Choir and One Accord, both significant commitments of time.

Having received five separate nominations for the Parham Hospital award, Lowrey has been nominated by the hospital for the National Frist Humanitarian Physician Winner.

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By Susan Beach & David Powers.

The congregation will discuss and vote April 27 on a proposal from the Deacons to change the church’s missions giving plans. A brief synopsis of the proposal and a side-by-side comparison of the plans are available on the church website. Copies are also available on the kiosks in the church hallways.

Carl Johnson: “The goal . . . was that no members would feel they needed to leave First Baptist because they might disagree on where their mission dollars were being sent.”

Missions and giving to missions are basic to the identity of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. According to former Deacon Chair Carl Johnson, when the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) originated, “FBC was an immediate and full participant.”

That participation remained consistent until the early 90s, when some members of the congregation sought an alternative giving plan that would better reflect their views on how to divide the 10% mission portion of the annual budget. A committee gathered input from the congregation, studied the issue, and recommended three giving plans: the Cooperative Program (SBC) plan, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) plan, and an FBC plan. Carl remembers: “The goal of the committee, embraced by the church membership, was that no members would feel they needed to leave First Baptist because they might disagree on where their mission dollars were being sent.”

The Deacon Advisory Council (DAC), consisting of the five previous Deacon Chairs and Vice Chairs, was initially organized by then-pastor James Flamming in the early 90s to review and recommend changes to FBC’s giving plans on a periodic basis. The DAC and the Deacons have recommended, and the congregation has approved, changes in the giving plans twice in the last 20 years.

Lee Stephenson: “The proposal was intended to align our giving options with FBC’s statement of denominational relationships.”

In 2009, at the request of some church members, the DAC again reviewed FBC’s giving. Lee Stephenson, chair of the Board of Deacons then, says: “The specific issue raised was the policies of the NAMB (SBC’s North American Mission Board) with regard to ordained women not being hired for leadership positions and whether it was appropriate to include NAMB in the FBC-tailored plan.”

The DAC presented a proposal to the Deacons, which they approved in February 2011. Lee says the proposal was intended to align our giving options with FBC’s statement of denominational relationships: “First Baptist Church relates to the Richmond Baptist Association, the Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Baptist World Alliance, and supports missionaries through the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.”

Each person who gives to the church may choose a plan to allocate his or her denominational partnership giving. If a giver does not indicate a choice, the allocation is currently made according to the FBC Plan (the Shared Plan under the new proposal). In 2010, 233 giving units chose the First Baptist Plan; 56, the CBF Plan; 17, the SBC Plan; 1,063 units did not choose a plan and their gifts were allocated according to the FBC Plan.

While there are significant differences in the three proposed giving plans, what is identical in all three are the first two items, 65% directed to the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) and 2.8% to FBC Community Missions. While the BGAV was included in all the previous plans, the percentages vary slightly from the previous amounts. In the previous plans, FBC Community Missions was part of only the FBC Plan.

Other changes reflect the uniqueness of each plan. NAMB is no longer included in the Shared Plan, but is still in the SBC Plan. Convention operations of SBC and CBF are no longer part of the Shared Plan, but continue to be included in their two giving plans. Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) was originally only included in the FBC Plan; it is now also in the CBF Plan because it is affiliated with the CBF.

Continuing as part of the Shared Plan and the CBF Plan are the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, important to Virginia Baptists for its support of separation of church and state; the Associated Baptist Press, a significant source for information on mission work outside the state; and the Baptist World Alliance, as listed in our denominational relationship statement. None of these is part of the SBC Plan because they are not SBC entities.

Lee Hilbert: “The change in the Shared Partnership Plan is balanced . . . not showing favoritism to one philosophy versus the other.”

The Shared Plan expresses the view that each mission organization is valued equally for what it does, not for the numbers of its personnel. According to Lee Hilbert, Chairman of the Deacons from 2004 through 2006, “the DAC saw the First Baptist Plan as disproportionately weighted toward SBC. So the change in the Shared Partnership Plan is balanced . . . not showing favoritism to one philosophy versus the other. The principle of supporting the groups we say we are aligned with makes sense to me.”

The previous FBC Plan allocated 18% to the International Mission Board of the SBC and 6% to CBF; the proposed change will give 12.5% to each of them. NAMB, which previously received 3% in this plan, is not included in the proposed Shared Plan.

Lewis Myers has a different view of how the allocation should be divided.

Lewis has been a member of FBC since 1977 and a life-long supporter of SBC missions. His education at Baptist schools, his service as a missionary in Vietnam and then on staff at the International Mission Board exemplify his commitment to what God is doing through the SBC.

He looks at the 10,109 missionaries supported through the SBC compared to the 160 supported through CBF and sees the even division of dollars to SBC and CBF illogical. “In any reasonable business plan, money would be allocated on the size and budget needs of the whole. I can’t conceive of any business being run where each component part, large or small, receives equal resource allocation.”

Through the SBC, NAMB supports 5,096 missionaries at work in North America, 1,616 of which are self-funded Mission Service Corps missionaries. The IMB supports 5,013 missionaries overseas. All CBF missionaries, whether serving in the U.S. or internationally, are counted together as Global Missions personnel.

Although Lewis would have chosen different percentages, he supports the new SBC plan because all SBC structures are included. He is glad to have FBC Community Missions brought into all the giving plans; however, he notes that its inclusion has caused an effective reduction of the 10% the church has committed to missions outside of the church. Lewis also supports FBC’s denominational relationship statement, saying it “fits my perception of my relationship with the SBC.”

Lewis Myers: “All (plans) reflect concern for global needs . . . The passion of my heart is that ‘to the ends of the earth’ be taken seriously, which is one of the marks of a missional church.”

But Lewis regrets that support for NAMB has been removed from the Shared Plan. While he disagrees with NAMB’s decision to not appoint ordained women, he “cannot turn (his) back on those 5,000 missionaries who are laboring their hearts out all over this country.”

Lee Stephenson states that removing NAMB does not mean that we are abandoning missionaries serving in North America. Of the 5,096 NAMB missionaries 3,480 are operating under various levels of cooperative funding with state conventions and local associations. She points out that we continue to support missionaries serving in Richmond through our contributions to the Richmond Baptist Association.

Lee Hilbert says that “our church is not trying to decide for everyone how to spend their missions dollars. If NAMB is important to people, they can show that by choosing the SBC plan” which includes it at 7.34%.

He believes the Shared Plan best expresses who the majority of FBC’s members are: “We’re diverse but tend to lean to the middle. One of the unique things about First Baptist is that we are able to bring together a wide array of Baptist philosophies. We have a culture (that is) able to support lots of different views as long as our core values are the same.”

Martin Law has given through the CBF plan since he joined FBC in 1992 because, he says, “it has provided additional choices for people who want to support quality missions and higher education institutions with moderate evangelical perspectives.” He feels this option reflects changes in our congregation’s understanding of the range of Baptist mission efforts.

“Ben and Leonora Newell are excellent examples of the holistic witness provided to some of the most poverty stricken and deprived people in our nation,” Martin states. The Newells have served as CBF missionaries in Helena, Arkansas since 2002. Martin believes this kind of witness to the people Jesus had the most compassion for is where CBF excels. Because FBC has sent numerous volunteer groups to work with Ben and Leonora, “our church has learned more about the full meaning of Jesus’ command to witness,” says Martin.

Martin Law: The Shared Plan’s increase in giving to BWA is reflective of FBC’s part in a “more complex Baptist community.”

Martin supports the proposed changes to the Shared Plan because they “will provide crucial additional financial support to CBF missions activities at a time when virtually all missions organizations are struggling to maintain adequate funding.” He also appreciates the increase in BWA giving because “it is one of our primary relationships. Even though the increase is not huge, it still is a six-fold increase from 0.4 to 2.4%.” He sees this change as reflective of FBC’s part in a “more complex Baptist community. FBC’s very close relationship with the BGAV has also been an important part of this change” as it has partnered with diverse missions organizations.

Lewis sees the giving plans as a good thing: “All (plans) reflect concern for global needs . . . The passion of my heart is that ‘to the ends of the earth’ be taken seriously, which is one of the marks of a missional church. I think by and large these plans reflect that intent.”

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By Truman Smith. Photos by Win Grant.

Paul Bickford’s beginnings at FBC included volunteering to assist David Powers with the Television Ministry. Growing up with no church involvement, how unlikely to begin working with the minister who would become his spiritual mentor. This had not been in Paul’s plans or dreams for his future. His University of Miami studies included double majors, Film and Computer Science. He could not have guessed that an opportunity to learn television directing was evolving. But Paul says: “Unbeknownst to me, God planted a passion for visual story telling in me that He would use later.” Paul started out doing anything that David asked him to do. When he was offered opportunity for hands on learning, Paul was ready for this new role. He is now one of the directors, often in the control room on Sunday morning.

Paul came to FBC in 1997 after his girlfriend let him know that church was a vital part of her life. Paul shares that she “was always inviting me to come to church with her. Finally, our relationship matured to a point where she had to clearly lay out the path she was taking versus the path I was taking.” He took the hint and showed up without telling her. Engagement to Alexa followed, and they were married in 1999. It could be said that the rest is history, but there is more to Paul’s story.

Paul Bickford directing Sunday morning worship services.

Work in the TV ministry opened to Paul new ways of thinking about life and what is really important. He became aware of a new spiritual dimension that had been missing. Friendships, worship and ministry all came together with clearer purpose. In late 2001 and January 2002 Paul made concrete what had been growing in his heart and spirit. The music and Dr. Flamming’s preaching on sacrifice and tithing helped him realize it was time to make public the commitment of his life to Christ. His assignments with the TV ministry now became, “Here I am Lord.” The Sunday morning TV congregation is very important to him. He knows that many depend on the televised service for their worship, comfort and spiritual nurture, “helping to provide this is my calling,” he says.

During the week Paul works for Apex Systems, Inc. He has been with them since 1999 and is now their Director of Enterprise Systems. In his office he has a calendar with a spiritual thought for the day that often gives the right word to guide and focus him on what is truly important. While giving time and energy to doing his job well, his life as husband, father and God’s servant is the core of who he is. In March of 2010 Paul joined the Ministry Planning Team, a group that receives ideas to help the FBC family find new ways of bringing heaven to earth.

The Bickfords, Paul, Alexa and their three sons, are part of the Kingdom on earth, still growing into what God intends.

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By Richie Hilbert. Photos by Anthony M. Nesossis.

Michael West assists in the Clothing Closet of Monday morning ministry.

Paul instructs Timothy, “The first thing I want you to do is to pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know” (1 Timothy 2:1, The Message). I assume Paul would not object to my adding “…and even for those you don’t know, when you hear of a need.” First Baptist Church’s Ministry of Compassion, under the leadership of Steve Blanchard, has plenty of such needs, both locally and globally. That is why we covet your prayer support.

Jesus’ heart was saturated with care and concern for the downtrodden and the disenfranchised. Following Jesus’ example and in His name, FBC’s local missions outreach serves the poor, the homeless, those imprisoned, and refugees seeking a better, safer life here in Richmond.

Global missions are just as varied. Called “Partnership Missions,” there are seven areas of focus outside Richmond – poverty, refugee camps, education, medical needs, spiritual formation, community development, and disaster relief. Commitment by FBC to any project is one to five years.

For our ministries to be all they can be, we need abundant prayer cover and willing servants. If our initiatives are going to be those God desires, prayer is where we must begin. If they are going to change lives with God’s love, prayerful hearts will empower you and me to be the arms and legs of Jesus on earth.

Hal Borland, in his Book of Days, suggests there are two impulses distinctive to human beings. The first is the urge to create, improve, perpetuate, “not for oneself alone or for now, but for others unborn, for tomorrow.” The second is the emotion of compassion. In a spiritual sense, prayer embodies both of these. It combines confidence in a hopeful future with concern for others; action is often the result.

We petition your prayers for our programs listed below, and for the clients themselves, even if you don’t know them. Then, if God leads you, come join us as a volunteer.


Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday morning ministry – provides food, clothing, showers, employment counsel, and prayer for those in need, primarily the homeless. Saturday is showers only. Contact Brenda Andrews (Andrews@FBCRichmond.org).

Mobile ministry – on Saturday mornings, takes supplies and provides fellowship and compassion to those in need in downtown Richmond. Contact Charlie Ball (cwbo1@aol.com).

Grace Fellowship – on Thursday evenings, provides a meal, Bible study, and fellowship for those in need, primarily the homeless. Contact Vicky Nicholau (enicholau@aol.com).

Prison ministry – supports those in prison with visitation and Bible study. Contact Steve Blanchard (Blanchard@FBCRichmond.org).

New American (refugee) ministry – lends spiritual and practical assistance and support to refugees as they adjust to a strange culture and language. Contact Lindsay McClintock (McClintock@FBCRichmond.org).

Partnership missions – arranges mission trips and projects around the world with an emphasis on bringing God’s love wherever possible. Contact Steve Blanchard (Blanchard@FBCRichmond.org).

How do you pray for those you don’t know?

Here’s an example.

Kind and loving Lord,

Some in this world have food, shelter, clothing; some do not.

Some have a taste of freedom; some do not.

Some feel they belong; some do not.

Some have a homeland; some do not.

Some know You; some do not.

I pray for all those in need, and for all who serve them. You are the Great Provider. Thank You for hearing me.

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By Mary Hiteman, Minister of Weekday School.

Dr. Len Morrow helps the Weekday Preschool children use the mobile gardening cart.

When was the last time you played in the dirt and made mud pies? Let me introduce you to Mud Pie Annie, who does this delightfully in Mud Pie Annie-God’s Recipe for Doing Your Best by Sue Buchanan and Dana Shafer. Annie makes the most creative, non-edible treats with dirt and other ingredients. And she sings of her inspiration: “No matter what I do in life, I’ll do my very best. I’ll work at it with all my heart, and that’s how I’ll be blessed. Whether I make mud pies or great dishes for a queen, I’ll put my ‘ALL’ into it, for there is no in between. And as I work with all my might-as everyone knows-GOD sees what is in my heart, not the mud between my toes.”

Len Morrow (also known as Dr. Potato Head) and Jeff Dortch share Mud Pie Annie’s inspiration to do their best. Len attended a workshop for Master Gardeners in James City County last fall. He learned about plans for a mobile gardening cart that could be wheeled indoors and out, was at a height children could reach, and was self-contained with tool storage included. It seemed like a great idea for our First STEP Preschool-a partnership with FBC and ASK-Making Life Better for Children with Cancer. When Jeff found the plans inadequate, he created his own and built the cart. Len says of him: “He has the tools, the skills and my admiration.”

On March 11 six children and their teachers learned about soil from Dr. Potato Head and scattered seeds in three trays that fit perfectly in the top of the cart. A week later, lettuce and radish seeds sprouted, as well as garden peas. The children were delighted! They check on their garden each Friday with the goal of eating lettuce, radishes and peas before the school year ends on May 20. All of this gardening takes place in their classroom because of Dr. Potato Head and Jeff (who can think of an appropriate nick name for him?).

Mud Pie Annie’s favorite Bible verse fits everyone involved in this gardening project: “Work at everything you do with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23, NIrV).

For more information about First STEP Preschool, contact Mary Hiteman (Hiteman@FBCRichmond.org).

For more information about the mobile gardening cart, go to http://jccwmg.org/index.html and click on Healing Thru Gardening presentations.

Editor’s Note: see related gardening video

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