Archive for November, 2012

By Deborah Hocutt. Photos by Daniel Hocutt.

It was a Wednesday afternoon when I got the news: “Deborah, you have cervical cancer. We’re so sorry that there’s nothing we can do. Do you have your family nearby because some final decisions will have to be made? You’ll really need their love and support during a time like this.”

calloutA second opinion with a leading cancer specialist confirmed that yes, it was Stage 4 cervical cancer and yes, the prognosis was not good. Not good at all.

There are always these defining moments, aren’t there? Those character-revealing times on our path. Times when we have to go beyond our own abilities. Times when we have to look deep within ourselves to find God’s strength and courage. This was my time.

I knew treatment and surgeries were going to gobble up my remaining days. But I chose, and still choose, to stay positive. I checked into the hospital where I faced radiation, chemotherapy and major surgery – eleven hours of surgery. And my odds of making it through that process were about 10%, even less with post-surgical complications.

That fearful cancer call, that eleven hours of surgery, that chemotherapy and radiation treatment… were over twenty years ago!

I have come to accept that cancer is part of who I am. This acceptance comes only through faith, which acts as my pillow, and through grace, my comforting blanket.

But I didn’t come to this understanding easily or quickly. I have struggled to comprehend disease in God’s world, to stop going through scenarios in my head of “I could have …,” “I should have …”, or “If only I ….” It took years to stop looking for answers to “Why me?” and start coming from a place of “If it be Your will, Lord.”

Through much prayer, I have come to thank and praise God for my cancer. Without walking that journey with Him, I wouldn’t be the mother to two beautiful daughters born in China but placed, by God, into my arms. I wouldn’t know the amazing and rare love of my husband who each day loves me for who I am and who faces the fear, pain and aftermath of cancer as much as I do. I wouldn’t know how to care for and understand those who face serious illness and death. If not for my journey, I wouldn’t appreciate the overwhelming power of God’s grace and ever-present comfort. And even when I face the side effects of cancer, I know that whether in my now-home or my heaven-home, I am in the hands of a loving God, who guides my walk.

Before cancer God had a plan for me, during cancer He had a plan, and now He continues to have a plan for me. So what have I ultimately learned through my walk with cancer? Following God’s plan for my life, whatever that may be, is the most powerful medicine of all.

Deborah HocuttDeborah Hocutt, former literary manager now a full-time mom, is part of the FBC Prodigal Project.

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Teaching kids values

By Stephanie Kim. Photos by Win Grant and Susan Brown.

I have struggled with what values I’m teaching my daughters. Of course I want them to do well, to be successful, to reach their full potential.

But am I emphasizing things that make them think that perfect grades and being the best are what’s most important? That they must have a respectable career or make a lot of money to be successful?

calloutWhile I was born and raised in the U.S., my immigrant parents have heavily influenced me with the Korean culture. Some say Koreans have such a fierce warrior spirit and tenacious drive to achieve because of the history of Koreans continually fighting invaders. In my family, we were always expected to be the best, the brightest, to achieve first place because second place wasn’t acceptable. The American culture also encourages being number one, working your way up the corporate ladder, being all that you can be. Seeking perfection is part of both my cultures.

Kim/Wass extended family

Stephanie with her parents and daughters.
Photo by Win Grant.

I began questioning this when I realized my idea of success would have to change. The day I received a letter from my daughter Maria’s school informing me she was accepted into the Gifted and Talented Program was the same day my younger daughter, Julia, was officially labeled as intellectually disabled. It was no longer about being the smartest, having straight A’s, and achieving a professional career. It made me start thinking about how I could help both of them be successful.

But what is success?

I thought about Maria’s lessons from years of tae kwon do where she has memorized its tenets – indomitable spirit, perseverance, courtesy, integrity, and self-control. And while she’s working her way up the different color belts towards the ultimate goal of being a black belt, she is learning many technical skills along the way. What if she learns all the forms well, knows all of the sparring techniques, memorizes all the terminology, and can do all of the self-defense techniques to earn a black belt, but doesn’t follow the tenets of tae kwon do? Does that make her successful?

Kim/Wass family

Photo by Susan Brown.

What if she makes straight A’s, goes to a good college, lands a great job earning lots of money? Does that mean she is successful?

Jesus teaches in Mark 9:35 “Anyone who wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (NLT). This has always been hard for me to digest being in direct conflict with the culture I grew up in. I also read in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “…if I knew  all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, … And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody” (NLT).

I’m beginning to think that there are more important values to teach my kids than the drive to achieve. Not that I don’t want my kids to use the talents God has given them to their fullest, but I’m also trying not to push them so hard toward achievement that they think that is the measure of success.

There are many “successful” people in this world – in respectable careers or with tremendous wealth or fame. But many have achieved these at the cost of relationships with family and friends. They’re still searching for happiness and peace, and wondering what is missing from their lives.

I want to teach my children to love God so wholeheartedly that they will put their complete faith and trust in Him, and then share with others the sacrificial love they have received from Christ. I can’t guarantee an easy life, a good job, wealth, or fame, but I know with that kind of love and faith they can endure any hardship, persevere through the most difficult challenges, and live a life filled with overflowing love, genuine peace, and abundant joy. That’s what I call success.

Editor’s note: Previously published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, June 9, 2012.

Stephanie KimStephanie Kim is Director of Finance for the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. She is an active member of Richmond’s First Baptist Church and often participates in worship services as flutist. She resides in Mechanicsville. She can be reached at flute2tr@comcast.net.

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This afternoon I’m headed to Roanoke for the annual meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia—our state convention. It’s going to be an interesting meeting, and I’m sure I’ll have something to blog about tomorrow and the next day, but I’m not leaving until this afternoon and it’s because I’m having lunch with these guys.

These are some of the religious leaders in the interfaith group I meet with from time to time. In the top photograph you see Nathan Elmore (left), a Baptist campus minister at VCU; next to him is Imam Ammar Amonette, from the Islamic Center of Virginia; and on the right is Imad Damaj, President and founder of the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs. In the bottom photo you can see Rabbi Ben Romer on the left, from Congregation Or Ami; Wallace Adams-Riley in the middle, Rector of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church; and on…

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By Mary Sage Earley. Photo by Ruth Szucs.

In September 2011, the Junior Sunday School Class began looking for a project we could complete in a year. From our many different options, we decided to raise money for the Water Fund of Baptist Global Response. (The specific project we worked with provides water filters to more than 500 Myanmar households whose water sources have been compromised by flooding.)

We are a strong, united class of about 12 and excited to be the first in the youth group to do this kind of project. Our class planned and ran the project, with advice from our parents and Sunday school teachers.

We sold baked goods at FBC’s Christkindlmarkt and on Sundays, and sold KOH2RVA bumper stickers. By September 2012 we raised more than $2,000 to help make clean water accessible in five villages in Myanmar.

Editor’s note: Baptist Global Response is a disaster relief and community development organization that works with the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as other partners.

Class raises money for clean water.Mary Sage Earley grew up at FBC and is active in the youth group. A senior at the Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, she is captain of the swim team. She is also on the River City Crew Team which won the Head of the James Regatta in October 2012. Mary Sage is looking forward to studying engineering next year.

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By Susan Beach. Photos by Ruth Szucs and Ellie Carter.

When Ruth Szucs, Music Associate at FBC, looked for her place in KOH2RVA, she decided to become a catalyst for missions. She’s chosen a project for each month and is enlisting different people to help each time.

October’s project was teacher appreciation for Glen Lea Elementary School in Henrico County. FBC staff contributed items and Ruth provided baking supplies. Three 11th graders baked and made signs. Ruth, her husband, Richard, and Steve Blanchard, Minister of Compassion, delivered the box of treats.

In November Ruth is getting help from the Carol Choir with a toy drive; in December she’s asking her neighborhood to help supply blankets for those in need. Her ideas of what to do and who can help continue through the year. And when next October comes around? She’s going to start all over again.

Click here for ideas on projects you can start.


photos by Ruth Szucs

photos by Ruth Szucs (left) and Ellie Carter (right)

Susan BeachSusan Beach volunteers as editor of First Things First. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech. Susan and her husband, David, have been members of First Baptist Church since 1981. She is a Deacon, a member of the Endowment Fund Board and a member of the Prayer Ministry Team. The Beaches have two married children, Kendra and Justin, both of whom grew up in the FBC youth ministry.

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