Archive for July, 2011

By Allie Osborne. Photos and video by Allen Cumbia.

A week of summer vacation doing manual labor doesn’t sound very appealing, but to First Baptist’s Youth Two it means everything.

Nashville, Tennessee, experienced a disastrous flood in May 2010. With downtown Nashville under ten feet of water, many homes and businesses were destroyed. A year later, most of Nashville is back in working order. But some small, yet very important things still needed the attention of willing volunteers.

What Matters

About 80 students and leaders dig up rocks to make way for a community garden.

What Matters

Youths clean up community garden.

About 80 students and leaders spent the week digging up rocks – very tedious work, but in the long run, beneficial to many. Clearing these rocks made way for a garden where fresh vegetables can be grown for people in need. Smaller groups helped with Vacation Bible School, unloaded furniture, pealed paint, and cleaned up a community garden.

What Matters

A group of youths help with Vacation Bible School.

There was the usual whining and complaining about the hot temperature, the grueling work, and the unexpected thunderstorms that popped up nearly every afternoon. But what really makes the group great is their persistence. No matter how hot it got, no matter how hard it rained, and no matter how much sleep-deprived bodies just wanted to crawl back into bed, their persistence never failed.

What Matters

Youths pack up materials and prepare to head home.

Packing up the job site on Friday afternoon and seeing all that has been accomplished in just a week is what makes mission trip possible. It’s why FBC’s Youth Two look forward to this week all year. Teenagers like to have a good time with friends, but they also really make a difference. And that’s what matters.

Allie is a member of the Youth Two group.

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Story and photos by Ann Carter.

Until the Tears Roll

Youths volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity worksite outside of Charlotte, NC.

When you ask people to define what heaven on earth would be like for them, I doubt that many would include spending a week with middle schoolers. But I beg to differ. I just spent a week with 27 middle schoolers, and it was indeed heavenly. Don’t believe me? Well, read on.

This was Youth 1’s 7th year participating in Passport Camp at Wingate University outside of Charlotte, NC. During the week I watched kids and adult leaders experience heaven in many ways.

They honed their talents and then used them to lead 300 students in worship.

They prayed for each other.

They worked side by side at three Habitat for Humanity worksites, never once having to be asked to focus, get back to work, or stop slacking in the shade.

They learned to trust and communicate with each other through games and then helped the rest of the camp to trust each other by teaching and leading those games.

They were motivated to be careful in how they use the earth’s resources and were excited about doing that.

Until the Tears Roll

This was Youth 1’s 7th year participating in Passport Camp at Wingate University outside of Charlotte, NC.

Girls and guys, 6th graders and 7th graders, new kids and kids who were friends since birth, working, playing, learning, and travelling together in unity – not perfect unity, but in loving acceptance of each other.

They took their talents to a weekday program in a housing project, performing skits, teaching games and engaging kids who have little hope in their lives.

They explored how they are uniquely created and gifted by God and were challenged to use those gifts to serve God.

They dealt with another youth group with love and grace even while being treated unfairly and unkindly – and ended up being friends with them by the end of the week.

They worshiped side by side every night.

The adult leaders (who gave up a week of their vacation to participate) encouraged and directed the kids like loving parents.

Until the Tears Roll

Youth 1 teens having a good time!

A youth intern who attended Passport Camp as a 7th grader chaperoned and led like a seasoned youth minister.

They competed against each other in recreation, danced together at a party, enjoyed being together in the beauty of God’s creation, played volleyball together against high school teams, and supported each other in the talent show.

And they laughed. They laughed a lot. Perhaps nothing is closer to heaven than laughing until tears roll down your cheeks!

Ann CarterAnn Whitfield Carter is sometimes known as the crazy person who loves middle schoolers. In 2002, she became the temporary Youth Associate for Middle School. Nine years later, she hopes it is permanent! Ann joined First Baptist in 1992 and met her husband, David, in the church choir. They have been singing together ever since. Their three children, Ellie (15), Claire (12) and Mary Wise (6), are active in First Baptist’s children and youth ministries. When Ann is not working, she is managing her kid’s busy lives, singing with the Richmond Symphony Chorus, or drinking coffee to fuel her for whatever is next on her calendar.

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By Darvin E. Satterwhite. Photos by Janet Chase.

In July, 2008, I attended FBC for the first time, not really knowing what to expect. My family and I had been members of a small rural church for many years and I had my apprehensions about attending a much larger church in the “Big City.”

For several Sundays, we came solely to the worship service and found that FBC welcomed newcomers with open arms. But this was more than a “feel-good” experience. Something greater was at work here.

On the way to worship service, my wife and I would discuss some of the everyday issues and frustrations that sometimes confront us as Christians, only to be presented with a message from Jim Somerville tailored to the very same concerns that we had been discussing. It happened so frequently that we knew God’s hand was truly at work in FBC’s ministry to us.

Darvin Satterwhite

Members of the Footprints Class during Sunday morning Bible study.

Encouraged by this reception, we considered doing something that we had not done in years – we started to look for a Sunday school class to attend. FBC’s website listed numerous options in ages and study formats, and we decided to try the Mustard Seed Class. One visit was all that it took for us to feel right at home.

I wondered if my family’s reception by FBC was typical. Nate Varnier, a friend, started attending FBC several months ago. I asked him what his experience had been like, and he offered the following insights:

Visiting First Baptist Church my (now) wife, Julie, and I were overtaken by a welcoming spirit from both the staff and members. People turned in their seats to greet us, people stopped as they walked down the aisle to say hello, and the ministers caught us as we left the service to just say how much they enjoyed having us. For such a large congregation I was surprised to see the one-on-one attention given to the visitors of the church. I’ve consistently told others that First Baptist is a big church with a small church atmosphere.

Nate’s experience sounds very similar to my own.

There are many reasons the strong sense of Christian fellowship seems to exude from the members of FBC. The worship service, the music, the various ministries – all enhance our spiritual experience as Christians and contribute to cementing the bonds that make us the body of Christ. But I have found that one of the significant blessings in attending FBC comes from the variety of small group studies that are available, particularly those offered in our Sunday school classes. I think Lewis Myers expresses the strength of these studies best when he tells us:

Bible study is the core of who we are as Baptists and really defines us. I am passionate about believers immersing themselves in the Word of God, and small groups are effective in this. Fellowship is a by-product of mutual commitment to a common task. Functioning, productive small groups are absolutely essential in a large church such as ours. They launch us into ministries more extensive than in the small group, but remain the home base where we are restored.

A place “where we are restored” – that may best capture the essence of FBC’s small group studies. It is in Sunday school classes where each person can express among Christian brothers and sisters his or her hopes and doubts, praises and frustrations. And, in so doing, we realize that the Holy Spirit is truly at work to bring Christian restoration in a world that is too often spiritually draining.

Darvin Satterwhite

Darvin Satterwhite teaches in the Footprints Sunday morning Bible study class.

For two and a half years, I eagerly anticipated Sunday mornings in Bible study and worship. Then, I was asked to do something that, a few years back, I would have never considered. An opening for a teaching position became available in the Footprints Class, and I was offered a temporary teaching assignment. After much prayer and encouragement from church members, I decided to give it a try.

Six months later, I am still teaching in Footprints – teaching but also learning quite a bit from class members. I have found Christian fellowship and blessings as everyone in the class has made me feel like a long-time member: I was a stranger and they took me in (paraphrase, Matthew 25:35c).

Darvin SatterwhiteDarvin, his wife, Flo, and daughter, Emily, began attending First Baptist in July 2008 and joined in late 2010. He and Flo have been married nearly 26 years and have three children: John (who works in Richmond), Darcy (an upcoming senior at Virginia Tech), and Emily (an upcoming freshman at Christopher Newport). Darvin teaches the Footprints class and has a predominantly civil law practice in Goochland County where they reside.

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By Theresa Norton. Photos by Win Grant.

Journey class

Members of the Journey Sunday morning Bible study (Jeff Dortch, Jane Powell, Sandra Morton, and Betty Ann Dillon) assemble the compilation of news and stories from FBC's website.

Most of us didn’t feel any impact when the Ministry of Communication decided to move from print to online publication of First Things First. However, staff and volunteers within that ministry area know there are those in our church family who aren’t able to utilize the internet, email or social media. In response, Charles Luger gathered a group to discuss how we could keep these folks informed and connected to our church family. What resulted is a news packet (Mailpak) mailed to roughly 100 who are not typically able to attend church in person. The Mailpak includes a compilation of news similar to Wednesday Night News and Sunday Morning News, as well as highlights of articles and updates that appear on www.fbcrichmond.org.

According to Charles, the end result is a win/win. “Eliminating the printed publication was one change that allowed the Ministry of Communication to make needed budget cuts without compromising the effectiveness of our ministry since we now have something that is mailed more frequently, at a lower cost.”

Much like our overall church family, Mailpak recipients’ households are spread across a large geographic area. Most live alone, whether in their own homes or in retirement communities. Mailpak recipient Ethel Kyle said she appreciates the updates and sees the importance since over the years she has been one to call on and write fellow members in “ordinary time” and in times of need. Ethel described the broader need of staying connected to her church so well, as she shared what may seem insignificant to those of us at church regularly: having a friend bring her a church bulletin so she can use it as she watches the service on television the following week or receiving minutes from Deacons’ meetings or flowers from the sanctuary.

Minister of Community Lynn Turner affirms Ethel’s sentiment that the Mailpak is a good additional step in the community process. “As we consider how to bring together and maintain the family of First Baptist, it is important that those who are no longer able to attend our church on a regular basis feel they are still informed of what is going on in the life of the church and that they remain a vital part of our congregation. This new ministry of sending out information is so helpful. It complements the personal visits made by staff and congregational care volunteers, and serves an important purpose in the process of keeping these members connected.”

Betty Jane Hagan and Jeannie Dortch

Betty Jane Hagan and Jeannie Dortch gather the completed MailPacks for Monday's mailing to nearly 100 of FBC's family.

The Mailpak also gives our members a chance to serve one another. Volunteers of all ages, including childrens’ Sunday morning Bible study groups and youth and adult small groups, assemble and prepare the Mailpaks for mailing. Ongoing support of this effort is needed. Volunteers pick up the materials in the TV control room on 2nd Sunday mornings. They collate, stuff and label these items and return them for mailing on Monday. Full details and instructions can be found at http://teamlogistics.net/mailpak.htm. If you know someone who would benefit from receiving the Mailpak, please contact Charles Luger at charlesluger@gmail.com or 804-360-897.

For Ethel, and others no longer able to attend FBC, the Mailpak is a touch point that reminds her she has a church home and family whether or not she gets to the church building.

Theresa NortonTheresa and her husband, Mark, have two sons, Trevor and Ryan. She has an M.S. in Gerontology from VCU and was a Senior Living Consultant at Covenant Woods and The Hermitage. Currently she is a stay-at-home mom, doing part-time gerontological research. Theresa serves FBC as a Deacon, is in the Disciples Sunday school class, and works with the women’s ministry. Her mission involvement focuses on poverty-related issues through Together for Hope Business as Mission and WMU’s Mary & Elizabeth Project for the Pregnancy Resource Center.

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