Archive for January, 2013

By Nancy Mairs. Photos by Susan Brown.

While most folks were looking forward to a day off from school and maybe even work, callouta group from Richmond’s First Baptist Church decided to use that day to help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond Virginia (KOH2RVA). It all started with one member’s question to the administrator of the Anna Julia Cooper School a few months ago. The school, located in Church Hill, is an independent, tuition-free, faith-based middle school for students of limited resources.

Martin Luther King day of serviceMelissa Brooks, a member at First Baptist since 2009, discovered the school through an article in a community newspaper. Wanting to be part of the church-wide effort to bring KOH2RVA, Melissa decided to ask if there was anything she could do for them. As Melissa puts it, “This is a great question to ask when you’re trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, VA, or at least it’s a great place to start.” Melissa began helping out each week at the school. As she explains, “I fell in love with the mission and vision of the school, the kids, their stories, and the faculty.”

Martin Luther King day of serviceAs Melissa was dropping off her son, Sawyer, at his class in the FBC Weekday Preschool, she approached Mary Hiteman, Minister of Weekday School, with the idea of the preschool sponsoring the Anna Julia Cooper School as one of its monthly community mission projects. From this conversation, FBC’s involvement in the Martin Luther King Day of Service Project began.

Martin Luther King day of serviceWhy was Martin Luther King Day selected? Dr. King spoke often about love being the way to overcome the problems of the world. What better way to honor Dr. King’s vision than to help a school that is committed to the academic, social and spiritual development of children who might otherwise live a life unfulfilled and in despair? And as the school’s namesake, Anna Julia Cooper, said, “Jesus believed in the infinite possibilities of an individual soul.” 

Mary Hiteman facilitated the FBC Staff’s involvement. Others heard about the project and by the third Monday in January, not only had most of the First Baptist ministers agreed to participate, but other members of the church and several of the families of children who attend the FBC preschool had joined in. Their work started in the morning at the Anna Julia Cooper School with painting; putting up bulletin boards where more than 500 photographs were displayed; sanitizing tables, chairs, and door knobs; and even climbing up on the roof to sweep out the gutters.

Martin Luther King day of serviceThe group then traveled to the Essex Village Apartments, a public housing project in the East End of Richmond, for the second part of their King Day Service Project. Through an invitation from FBC member Len Morrow, a special guest provided a dramatic portrayal of Dr. King. This guest, Rev. James D. Daniely, a dynamic and inspirational speaker who is also the Director of the Pace Center for Campus Ministry at VCU, helped bring Dr. King to life for the children.

Martin Luther King day of serviceAs Mary Hiteman explained, “Most of the children do not know why they have the day off – our intent was to change that through Dr. Daniely, and then follow-up with art activities and, of course, birthday cake to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.” The final activity of the day was picking up trash throughout the area.

And how does Melissa, whose question started this project day at First Baptist, sum up the activities? “My hope is always to continue to shine the bright light of Jesus to our community so that others will see good and glorify God. It’s not a ‘me’ thing or a ‘First Baptist Church thing’ or even a ‘Martin Luther King Day thing’. This is a God thing. All we have to do is show up!”

Watch a video about the project. Produced by David Powers.

Nancy MairsNancy Mairs joined Richmond’s First Baptist Church more than 20 years ago and is a member of the WebClass. She works in the Regulatory Affairs group at Dominion Virginia Power, and enjoys hiking, canoeing, traveling, and spending time with her husband, Jim, and son, Jack.

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By Ruth Bass, Kim Long, Mary Massie, and Gwen Smith. Photos by Ruth Bass, Kim Long and Mary Massie.

Callout-crayolasEditor’s Note: In August 2012, Ruth Bass from Edenton Baptist Church in Edenton, NC, and Kim Long, Mary Massie and Gwen Smith from Richmond’s First Baptist Church volunteered in Johannesburg and in Emmaus, a small town in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa.

Working with them

Group arrives at Johannesburg airport.
(L-R) Ruth Bass, Kim Long, Mary Massie, airport employee, Gwen Smith

SAF-Crafts-kids“Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom shall I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Lord, I’ll go! Send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8, New Living Translation)

Reaching the village of Emmaus, South Africa, is an adventure. The road, either dusty or muddy, but always long, includes the Prayer Bridge – a prayer being needed to cross it safely.

SAFteaching-kidsThe adventure continues in Emmaus Church, one small room used for literally everything – worship, weekday preschool, Women’s Bible Study, and all other activities. Here, for ten days, our mission team taught Bible school, prayed, sang, danced to the Lord, studied scriptures, gave testimony, enjoyed fellowship, ate wonderful Zulu food, laughed, and felt God’s presence.

Mary Massie remembers: “The thing that touched my heart was the feeling I had upon seeing the children. My apprehension faded when I saw their sweet faces. For me, I was home.” The children were apprehensive too, and at first were frightened by the new white faces. But they soon responded, as all children do, to the universal language of smiles, love, good will, CrayolasTM, and soccer balls.

SAFEnjoying-Tootsie-PopsOur team’s focus was not on what we could do for the children and adult members of Emmaus Church, but on what we could do with them. We helped with Vacation Bible School, supplied resources to teachers, participated in Women’s Bible Study, visited in homes, and provided 10 fruit trees to be planted in the village. Gwen Smith found “spending time with the women in the church and building relationships with them was a gift.”

We were also gifted with coworkers Mark and Sara Williams, field personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. (Sara is Gwen’s daughter.) Their assignment in South Africa includes working with community leaders in Emmaus to start kitchen gardens, build storage houses, and dig a well for safe drinking water.

SAFbabiesSara uses her social work training in the care of abandoned babies and children. This work touched Kim Long deeply: “My highlight was visiting the Door of Hope Baby Houses in Johannesburg where I was able to hold, feed and love the abandoned babies.” These babies also felt the love of hand-knitted hats and scarves from the SKEINS group of Richmond’s First Baptist Church [See related story, “SKEINS knits for South African children”], the Prayer Shawl Ministry of Edenton (North Carolina) United Methodist Church, and Rosemary Baptist Church (Roanoke Rapids, NC).

Loving children, becoming friends with other Christian women, sharing work to make a town better – these are the essentials of mission trips. These and the joy Ruth Bass describes – “joyful praise in song and dance and learning a praise song in Zulu!”

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By Gwen Smith. Photos by Mary Massie.

SKEINS-hatsThe winter of 2011 was colder than usual in South Africa. Sara and Mark Williams, who serve in South Africa with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, sent out a plea to friends in Virginia, Illinois and North Carolina for warm, knitted hats for children. At First Baptist, SKEINS (Sewers, Knitters & Embroiderers Involved in Needlework & Service) responded enthusiastically, as did some of FBC’s youths.

SAFkids-in-hatsSara’s parents (FBC members and former missionaries Gwen and Truman Smith) got calls to pick up bags of hats at the church library and at the Mulberry Avenue reception desk. They found more bags of hats hanging on their front door. There were beautiful hats of purple, white, green, yellow, blue, brown, and pink. They eventually sent more than 100 to the children that Mark and Sara work with at the preschool in Emmaus and the Door of Hope in Johannesburg [See related story, “Working with them”].

SAFChildren-TeachersSKEINS and other groups continue to knit hats for the children of Emmaus and The Door of Hope. Gwen and other members of the FBC South African mission team delivered another 100 hats in the summer of 2012.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, NIV).

For information on SKEINS contact Linn Kreckman, 804-355-4551.

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By Sally Ann Smith. Photos by Paul Bickford.

Callout-tv-crewAs worship fills the sanctuary each Sunday, there is a discreet and dedicated team of volunteers capturing the joy and message of Sunday morning and delivering it to the living rooms, hospital beds, hotel rooms, and prison cells of those who cannot physically attend First Baptist.

Since November of 1986, FBC’s TV Crew Ministry has extended God’s love beyond the church walls. As David Powers, Associate Pastor of Communication, notes, the response has been overwhelming: “Every week we hear from someone who says, in effect, ‘Thank you for being a lifeline for me – providing a way to worship right where I am.’ Heaven comes a little closer to earth every Sunday morning at 11 am as those folks gather in front of their TV or computer to worship with us.”

media team

Camera operator’s view of WebClass

The FBC TV Crew is a team of about thirty who are devoted to this ministry’s success. Generally, each volunteer works about half the weeks of a two-month schedule, but there are many who are geared up and excited to serve almost every week.

MediaTeam4Amy Kane was drawn to this ministry because, “It is a ministry of faith, and it allows me to serve without my ‘self’ getting in the way.” Amy reiterates that often it is the team’s prayer to remain “transparent” as they do their work during the worship service. “I think this does happen, because when I meet new people at church, they sometimes say that I look familiar, but they can’t place me.”

While the team works hard to stay invisible as they perform their jobs, they are responsible for making our Church’s message and mission the most visible.

MediaTeam5In recent years, the ministry has extended ways to broadcast the Sunday service beyond just television. Now, the service is also streamed over the Internet and shared via podcasts, allowing members and seekers to access and participate in FBC’s service from literally any part of the world.

Janet Chase, who has served on the crew for over a decade, notes, “I regularly hear kudos from family who ‘attend’ FBC on TV when they can’t get to their own church. My in-laws even tune in online when they are weathered-out of their local services in far Southwest Virginia.”

MediaTeamWhile away on vacation, members like John and Shirley Seibert still start Sunday with their church family on their iPad.

In October 2011, the Ministry launched a WebClass Bible study. It is streamed live from a studio on the second floor of the FBC building Sunday mornings at 10:00. Shelia Dixon, who manages the questions and comments that come via email during the WebClass, shares that what she loves most about this ministry is getting to know the hearts of the people our church wouldn’t be able to connect with otherwise: a teen with cerebral palsy, a physically ailing woman in Tulsa, and many local seekers. They are “very inquisitive with tons of questions,” she says, and because of our Church’s use of technology and willing volunteers like Shelia and her husband, Charlie, these people can interact and continue a spiritual dialogue within the class from their homes.

MediaTeam2Many long-distance attendees never have the opportunity to come inside FBC’s real walls. But for others this technology provides a future member’s first introduction to First Baptist – a safe, loving and worshipful setting in their homes transitions into their home church.

TV Crew members: Bill Bandy, Chuck Batteau, Kevin Beale, Paul Bickford, Matthew Brown, Keith Carroll, Janet and Mark Chase, Susie Coomer, Elise and Skyler Cumbia, Charlie and Sheila Dixon, Win Grant, Rick Henshaw, Bill Hodge, Amy Kane, James Kyle, Bob Linkous, Jim Mairs, Scott Medina, Mark and Trevor Norton, Benjamin Oliver, Jack and John Pettigrew, Dwight Ross, David Storey, Brenda Street, John and Richard Ward, Ollie Wells, Stephen West, Tom Wright.

To get involved in this powerful and vital ministry, contact David Powers at 358-5458, ext. 117. A current need is for volunteers to serve as stage managers, camera operators, and crew members for the WebClass. As with most of God’s work, the only experience needed is a willing heart; the team will provide plenty of training.

Sally Ann Smith Sally Ann teaches 8th grade English at St. Catherine’s School. She serves on the Ministry Consultation Committee for Hanna Zhu, contributes devotionals to Appointment with God, and is an active member of the young couples class with her husband, Clint. Sally Ann and Clint reside in the Near West End and are proud parents of their daughter, Bellamy, who will be two in February, and are excitedly expecting a son at the end of January.

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