Archive for October, 2013

By Nancy Mairs

“Lights, camera, action!” wasn’t exactly the phrase David Powers expected to come to mind as he sat in a restaurant having breakfast during his sabbatical in January 2010. In fact, he was more focused on wondering calloutwhat was next, and planned to use his sabbatical to seek God’s direction. For some time David had been reflecting on how the media ministry at First Baptist had grown, and David found himself praying, “Is this all, God? Are we doing everything you want us to with all the media resources you’ve provided for us?”

During the sabbatical, and continuing over the next few months, David’s thoughts began to formulate into an idea for a movie that would communicate the gospel in a fresh way. A film that would speak of Jesus’ love, especially to 20-30-year-olds who were not involved in church. David was drawn to Luke 15 where Jesus told three parables: the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. It was the story of the prodigal son that drew his attention.

The Return of the Prodigal Son

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

“If you think about it, the parable of the prodigal son speaks to all of us. You have the younger son who completely turns his back on his father and his father’s way of life, just like so many of us have done with our heavenly Father.

Then you have the other son, who lives his life by the rules, being careful to do everything exactly as required, which is much like the religious folks of Jesus’ day who were only concerned with the external rule-keeping. Not so much different from the way many folks outside of the church perceive those who are church-goers.

And, throughout the parable, Jesus teaches that God loves both – they are His children.” He decided to take the parable, with the theme of unconditional love and God’s grace, and put it into a modern setting.

In early 2012, Deb Hocutt and Matthew Brown, both members of First Baptist, joined David to begin writing a script. By mid-summer, the script had developed to the point that they began sending it to folks to read and review. The comments that they received weren’t exactly what they expected. “The consensus was that we had written a typical Christian movie. Not necessarily that it was bad, but it was completely predictable. Lots of drama, characters listen to a moving sermon, someone walks down the aisle, and everything works out fine.

But we knew that a movie like this would never appeal to a person who wasn’t already involved in a church,” David explained. “And, we were looking for something that was full of spiritual truth and depth, and would appeal to those folks who would have the tendency to not give a ‘typical’ Christian movie a second thought.”

It wasn’t long before they began to realize that the movie needed to be a different genre. It was during a conversation with Jim Somerville that the idea of a comedy started taking shape, and they began rewriting in earnest. By late 2012, the script had developed to the point they needed to get an objective, professional “script doctor” to review it. Through a series of contacts David describes as “a God-thing,” they found such a person in Greg Womble of Birmingham, Alabama. Greg joined the writing team and led the drafting of the final script.

The script is now finished and the team has moved into the next phase: raising production money. “We need $750,000, but the value of the production is much larger since so many of the people are working without compensation and many of the goods and services are being donated or deeply discounted,” David explained. “If we had to pay for everything, the value of this film would most likely far exceed $2 million.”

The church’s Communication Team initiated the establishment of an independent production company, Belltower Pictures, to produce and distribute the film, Shooting the Prodigal. This company is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit entity, enabling the acceptance of tax-deductible gifts. Already, they have gathered 72% of their needed production budget which includes gifts from the FBC Endowment Fund and several individuals, both within and beyond the FBC family.

David Powers

David Powers

Along the way, David has gained an amazing knowledge of all the hard work it takes to write a script, get funding, and start work on the actual process of filming. “And,” David said, “I know the story of the Prodigal Son in a more intimate way than I ever imagined. It’s an amazing story of God’s love and a story the whole world needs to hear.”

Editor’s Note: There are many ways to be involved in the production, including prayer support, participating as a member of the cast or crew, helping with the production office, providing goods and services, and making a financial contribution. Visit www.Belltowerpictures.com for details. You may also follow David’s blog for updates on the film.

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By Mike Gill. Photos by Todd Martin and Mark Larson.

Can a boy described by some as a “lost cause” become an Eagle Scout? He can and did, says Cub Scout Pack leader Mark Larson.

calloutA young scout’s difficult home situation made fitting in with the other boys hard. Mark worked with the Scout Master of another troop to provide the structure this boy needed. The lost cause went on to be the senior patrol leader, an Eagle Scout, and an exceptional young man. Scouting has rules that everyone has to follow, but it serves individual needs as well.

Scouting at First Baptist Church

Boy Scouts have been meeting almost steadily at First Baptist Church since 1932, just a few decades after being organized in the United States.

Troup 443’s 18 youths, ages 11 to 17, participate in at least one adventure activity every month, ranging from hiking to canoeing. Assistant Scout Master Paul Kreckman describes them as a “high adventure troop.” Their annual trip to Camp T. Brady Saunders in Goochland County allows them to share their adventures with other scouts from the area.

Scouting at First Baptist ChurchMore than 30 first- through fifth-grade Cub Scouts experience outdoor fun with two organized camping trips per year. Just as the older scouts, they hone their leadership skills at regular meetings and eagerly anticipate annual events: the Pinewood Derby and the Blue and Gold Banquet.

The troop and pack are committed to giving back to the community, mainly concentrating its efforts on Northside and The Fan areas of Richmond, where most of the scouts live. In addition to those efforts, in 2012, their annual “Scouting for Food” event resulted in their collecting approximately 4,000 pounds of food for those in need throughout the city.

Scouting at First Baptist ChurchJohn Farmer serves as the Chartered Organizational Representative for the scouts, liaising between the troop and pack leaders and FBC. John has been involved in scouting since the 1940s. For him the most fulfilling thing about scouting is watching “the development of boys…some (participating) from age six to eighteen.” Last year an impressive six scouts in Troop 443 earned the prestigious distinction of Eagle Scout, the highest rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America. John went on to explain that while some Scouting activities are timeless, such as swimming and forestry, “Scouting does an outstanding job of changing with the times,” remaining relevant for boys whatever the decade, or century.

Scouting at First Baptist ChurchSo, how can FBC members support Troop 443? Although supplies that the scouts use have very exact specifications, monetary donations to help procure those supplies are always greatly appreciated. Mark says that the Cub Scouts have a continuous need for adult leadership. While the youths in Boy Scouts largely run their activities themselves, the Cub Scouts always need volunteers to help with meetings or trips, as well as other events.

Another century of scouting would be a wonderful investment for FBC and Richmond!

Editor’s notes: Scout leaders Mark Larson, Paul Kreckman and John Farmer are FBC members.
Boy Scouts meet every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in Suite 230. Cub Scouts meet at 6:30 p.m. in Suites 210 and 250 on the first and second Tuesdays and in the Dining Room on the fourth Tuesdays. Both groups meet from September through June. To make a monetary contribution or to serve as a volunteer, contact Paul Kreckman, Mark Larson or John Farmer.

Mike GillMike Gill and his wife, Sherry, have attended First since 1999. They have two children, Lane and Lindsey. Mike is Director of Middle Schools for Chesterfield County.

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By Stephanie Kim.

There are times when unrelated thoughts and experiences from my daily life intermingle in my mind and end up linked together. One week, I had a Bible study lesson on Ephesians 4, reviewed my homeowner’s insurance policy, and heard an explanation on why we go to church. Thinking on these topics brought to mind my faith family – the people that I worship, pray and study the Bible with each Sunday and fellowship with throughout the week. Some might call that a church family, but it’s not really about the church building, being Christian, or even the denomination. It’s the family that I see regularly and with whom I live out my faith, in times that are good and bad, simple and complex.

Faith Family

Stephanie is a member of Sojourners Bible study class.

My Sunday morning Bible study class helps me learn God’s Word and grow in faith. While studying Ephesians 4, I read verse 16: “Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (NLT). In this small group, we encourage and strengthen each other, we share our burdens, and we try to love as God loves.

Much like my homeowner’s insurance policy, I know my faith family is there for me when disaster strikes. They have been there to assist me in grief and loss, to help me back onto my feet when I didn’t have the strength to do it on my own. They have worked alongside me in putting the pieces back together and have assisted me with recovery and moving on. And better than insurance, they have celebrated with me in my successes.

Our pastor reminded us at the end of a sermon about why we go to church. It is the place of refuge after a tough week where we can find strength and encouragement, where we can worship and pray together. And worship provides the opportunity to refuel after a draining week and to regroup to face the challenges of the coming week.

Faith Family

Stephanie (far right) with friends

Belonging to a church is also about connecting and belonging to a family. It’s where I and my faith family are challenged to grow, to serve, to love. It’s where we experience God’s love in a world of disasters and disappointments. Even though we come from very different backgrounds and may not always agree, it is the best place for us all to grow and mature in faith.

I have others in my extended faith family that don’t attend my church and are not part of my immediate faith family, but nonetheless are an important part of my growth. They provide extra protection like an “insurance rider.” Although I don’t get to see or talk to these faith-filled friends frequently, they are as close as a call or email.

Connecting to a faith family gives the help we need in the daily routine and in times of disaster. It also gives us the chance and the challenge to provide coverage to those without insurance in their times of need.

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Story and photos by Allen Cumbia.

During 2013 and 2014 we will publish a series of articles written by Skyler Cumbia as she reports on her mission experiences in Ghana, Romania and Haiti. She is currently serving as a Venturer (long-term mission volunteer) with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. The first article however, is being written by her father, Allen Cumbia, as he reflects on the beginning of Skyler’s year abroad.

Letting Go?Last night we embraced, a few tears were shed, and then she was gone. Today I am alone. I’ve just finished some coffee, the plane is cruising at 35,000 feet somewhere over central Africa, and I’m returning home without her.

As a young girl she used to say “I want to be a missionary,” but that talk faded as she blossomed into a teen. As the time grew near to complete high school, she struggled with what she wanted to do next. College was definitely something she was interested in, but what to study? Talented, smart and hard working, she could do anything she put her mind to, but what? How was God calling her? The idea of a gap year between high school and college became a possibility: a time to do some volunteer work or an internship, and in the process see a little clearer what it was she is called to do and be; a discerning time to grow some more, see the world with new eyes, and better understand herself and her passion in life.

So now, as Ghana recedes in the distance, I sit here and ponder how I have just let her go. She was such a precious little girl – quiet, observant and stoic. Hers was a tough shell to penetrate, yet underneath we could glimpse signs of the comic, the musician, the wit, and the artist. She has a compassionate and tender heart, a love for animals and a perceptive eye that saw what most missed. So many little things that add up to a wonderful mosaic, all wrapped into a tall and lanky body.

Letting Go?Leaving her as a young woman by herself in West Africa has been hard. She is not the first of our daughters to leave the nest. Two preceded her, but they were still relatively close. We could see them some weekends, get a package to them and just feel connected. But a small town in northern Ghana? That’s not so close! How can I still be a dad to her? How can I hold her and do for her the things that I want to do?

We knew when she was born that our job was to raise her up for a day such as this, yet how did it get here so quickly? A first tooth and then a step, that first day of school, a two wheeler at last, and all of a sudden – a drivers license. In each of these steps and more, we were slowly releasing her, allowing her to become independent, to become the woman that God has planned for her to be.

Letting Go?And now she’s gone, she’s beyond my embrace. It hurts, but also somehow it is right. I don’t want to hold her back, and really I can’t hold her back. Now is the time for this delicate bud to blossom into the beautiful and fragrant flower that she was created to be. To hold too tight now would be to crush and destroy that unique and precious creation that God has given to us. So here I sit, having released her less than 24 hours ago. But have I really released her? Physically we are going to be separated by more than 5,100 miles. In just about every other aspect we are as close as ever, perhaps closer.

I journeyed with her to Ghana for a variety of reasons. Of course as a dad I had some big reservations about her going off by herself and wanted to be with her and help her navigate a strange and distant land as she settled in. But more than that, this trip was a time to share some condensed one-on-one time. I had taken individual mission trips with my other three girls to foreign lands, but this was the first one for just the two of us. In making this trip we shared some unique experiences that bonded us closer than ever. I now understand so much better the daily things she will be doing, the people she will be with, and the physical environment in which she will be living. Now I know better than most how to pray for and support her.

Last night I gave her a last caress across her hair, a last squeeze of the hand and then I let go, but in the process of letting go she has in fact been embraced. Embraced by the new roommate she will have, embraced by the people with whom she will be working, and most importantly, embraced by the One who created such a lovely and fragrant flower of a child in the first place. She was ours to hold for a short while, and we will continue to do so on occasion, but now we give her to God and to the world in which she will work and serve and love … and at least in my mind, that is a good way of letting go.

Editor’s note: Check out Skyler’s blog, Skyler’s Scribbles.

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