Archive for January, 2012

By Matthew Brown. Photos by Allen Cumbia.

You might not realize it, but your eyes have seen some amazing things.

You might not be aware yet that you have heard something wonderful.

Costa Rica 2011You might not know it but your hands have touched the people of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

On November 5, 2011 a handful of First Baptist Church members, Jeanne and Ed Hechler, Allen and Elise Cumbia, and I set out to be your ears, your eyes and your hands on the mission field. Our contact in Costa Rica is Ruth Clowater, a missionary serving through SIGA (Servants in Grace Abounding) Ministry Partners. The six of us have each contributed a perspective of our mission, so that you realize the difference you made as you were out there with us.

Jeanne Hechler:

Costa Rica 2011Life in Arbolitos, a small town of 180 people, is a challenge:
• The town has had electricity for only about eight years. There are no paved roads yet.
• Women wash their clothes at the riverbank.
• There is no hot water to wash dishes or take a shower, nor air conditioning to escape from the heat.
• Dinner most likely will be cooked on an open fire or a small hot plate.
• Bats and lizards come into the house at night to catch the mosquitoes. Chickens wander throughout the town.
• There are no stores – only two small snack/convenience counters. The nearest town with a grocery store and a hospital is two hours down river.
• With only one or two exceptions, there are no TVs. The school has the only satellite-internet connection.

One of my jobs was to help the women make a craft. It was obvious they were enjoying the break from their daily chores and were so glad that Ruth had arranged something special for them. Meeting them gave me a good perspective to better pray for their future.

Ed Hechler:

Costa Rica 2011There was so much that I could share about our trip to Costa Rica, but I want to focus on what I consider to be a very important part of mission endeavors – our mission team. All mission projects have tasks that they wish to accomplish. However, without a cohesive, compatible, and well-prepared group, success in meeting these objectives would be difficult if not impossible. It was most interesting to see how our team grew together during our week. The team members lived together in a small four room guesthouse. We transitioned from being merely a team to almost a family. We shared meals, took care of housekeeping chores, laughed and prayed together – just like a family would. Actually there was one more in that guesthouse: God was surely among us.

Allen Cumbia:

Costa Rica 2011Many times those who go on mission trips feel they’ve received more blessing than they’ve given. Such was the experience that I had in Costa Rica, and such is the paradox of service to others. Our team in many ways had a physically demanding trip – few of the everyday conveniences that we take for granted; heat, humidity and insects to contend with; isolation from the rest of the world. We went with only a general idea of how we would serve, open to the reality that plans would likely change. That forced me to live into the moment and not get upset if things didn’t go according to plan. What I found in letting go of my personal agenda was a restfulness and peace. There was such a simple joy in living that way, really a peace that passes understanding. Our Costa Rican friends told us that we had an impact and made a difference to those we worked with. I pray that we did; however I do know that I came back changed, more at peace with my circumstances and myself and ready to more unconditionally love others.

Elise Cumbia:

Costa Rica 2011This was my second mission trip and I always learn something new about the language or culture of the people around me. This trip to Costa Rica helped me to see how people in other parts of the world live. We all really take things for granted so much; we don’t realize how other people are suffering. I know that if we all help, we can make a difference anywhere we go, whether at home or thousands of miles away from home, with God’s help. Take the time every day to pray for the people of Costa Rica and around the world and pray that they would know God and trust in Him.

Matthew Brown:

I took a deep breath and said yes. This was my first mission trip as the leader.

I had prayed about it, so I knew that is what I would say to Steve Blanchard. After I told him yes, I really had to start praying in earnest. Steve had a leader for his Costa Rica mission, but I had no mission team!

I knew that God would provide. I prayed for each member of our team, even though I had no idea who they would be. I kept praying for each member of our team, and all of those around us, each day. I still pray and praise God for each member of our team. I was truly blessed by each one and I believe we truly were a blessing.

Ruth Clowater:

Costa Rica 2011Ministry can be difficult at times. Not just on the mission field, of course. Just ask pastors and other ministry leaders. Sometimes, when in His divine wisdom God realizes we need a little extra encouragement, He sends some of His angels our way. I am not saying that Allen, Elise, Jeanne, Ed, and Matthew are angels, but they were a big encouragement. In the things we did, the places we went, and even in the plans that fell through, we could see God’s involvement in it all. A school group suddenly canceled, which left the door open for a very special time of fellowship with the women of Arbolitos. Armed soldiers questioned us at every turn on our trip to worship and fellowship with our friends, the Rama Indians. God’s hand was in all this. I believe that this simple, compassionate act of solidarity will someday yield spiritual fruits.

We are one body. Thank you for allowing us to be your eyes, ears and hands.

Matthew BrownMatthew met his wife Candi at First Baptist Church, where she is the Children’s Minister. They have three children, Madison (12), in Youth One, Adam (10), in 4th grade, and Jonathan (7), in 2nd grade. Matthew has taught 1st and 2nd grade Missions Force four years, served as a deacon, volunteered with the Television Ministry since 2002, and attends New Beginnings Sunday school class. He works as a paralegal. In his free time Matthew enjoys cooking for his friends and family, photography, and playing with his growing children.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

Congregational growth is welcome and healthy to be sure, but when church membership grows, renovation is inevitable. By 1941, First Baptist Church had not only extended the Sanctuary, but had also enlarged the Memorial Chapel in order to seat 160. Used for small weddings and funerals, it was located in what is now the FBC bookstore and library. The original ceiling decoration and art glass windows still remain.

A small but inspirational stained glass window, “Christ in Gethsemane,” was designed by the Willet Studio in Philadelphia to be the Chapel’s focal point. It told the story of Christ beseeching God’s will for Himself, His beloved Jerusalem and His disciples.

Christ in Gethsemane window

"Christ in Gethsemane" window in the Chapel chancel.

It was widely believed that these architectural advances would be sufficient to maintain congregational growth throughout the next quarter century. By 1953, however, overflow crowds in the newly renovated Sanctuary had to be ushered into the Chapel for the 11:00 a.m. service, and parking was creating problems for the city. In 1964, the Sanctuary was extended again to seat 1,100 and an addition was added to the Mulberry Street side of the building that would house a new chapel capable of seating 340.

Unable to enlarge “Christ in Gethsemane,” but needing to install the window on a much larger wall behind the new chapel pulpit, the Willet Studio designed a stained glass border replete with symbolism related to prayer. The broad frame was rendered using a technique that incorporated 23 karat gold on lead to divide the figures, producing a brilliant effect, be it night or day. Along the top and the bottom of the border are Old Testament giants of prayer: Moses, Samuel, David, and Isaiah. The side panels are reserved for various symbols of the words and images from the Lord’s Prayer.

Today, the Chapel is used for the deaf ministry, for prayer and healing services, and remains a popular venue for intimate weddings and small funeral services.

Editor’s note:  To learn more about the stained glass windows in the Sanctuary and the Chapel, visit the FBC library to check out a copy of Memorial Windows by Theodore F. Adams.

Jeannie DortchJeannie Dortch joined FBC in 1974 after being lovingly mentored by the members of Buddy Hamilton’s Sunday school class. A grandmother of four, Jeannie has served as a deacon, taught in our children’s, youth, international, and adult Sunday school departments, but attends the WebClass presently. Recently retired from 16 years of teaching at Rudlin Torah Academy, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, tutoring New American students at Maybeury Elementary, and writing articles for FTF.

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Reported by Mickey Woodward. Photos by Skyler Cumbia.

volunteers preparing for meal distribution

FBC volunteers prepare for meal distribution.

FBC members put God’s love into action through service in many community organizations not directly under the First Baptist Church umbrella of ministries. Meals on Wheels is one such organization that benefits from the contributions of hundreds of service hours by many FBC members.

delivery preparationEvery second Friday, fourteen volunteers deliver approximately 180 food packages to Richmond’s elderly and homebound on fixed incomes. The deliveries include weekend boxes, as Meals on Wheels operates only on weekdays. Seven volunteers drive their own vehicles and seven assist with the route directions and deliveries all over the city.

Meals on Wheels is part of FeedMore, an umbrella organization that includes the Central Virginia Food Bank. It serves 31 counties and five cities in central Virginia. Meals on Wheels serves more than 1,800 seniors, children, those needing temporary assistance due to job loss, and those recuperating from surgeries.

volunteers sort and pack mealsThe Richmond community supports Meals on Wheels in several ways. This year Richmond’s Restaurant Week raised more than $50,000 in support of FeedMore. If you dined at a participating restaurant, a portion of the cost of your meal helped provide food for those in need. Donations of food or money to Central Virginia Food Bank also aid Meals on Wheels. Of course, volunteers are the core support needed for this program to continue.

While some couples volunteer, most are individuals who are willing to give two to three hours every month. Ten substitute volunteers currently fill in when regulars are unavailable, but more would be welcomed.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Mickey Woodward (804-353-5168) or staff liaison Steve Blanchard (Blanchard@FBCRichmond.org).

Mickey Woodward

Mickey Woodward

Mickey, an FBC member since 1961, is a VMI graduate, a retired Army colonel, and a retired structural engineer with VDOT. He is a member of the Adams-Fellowship class and serves on the Tellers Team.

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