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Archive for July, 2014

Story and photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Romania sunrise
Yogurt played a substantial role in my life in Romania. I ate it for breakfast quite often, usually while I read from the Bible each morning …ok, MOST mornings. I’m not that perfect!

calloutFor me, yogurt is similar to the word of God. You’re saying, “Did she really just compare the Bible to yogurt?” Yes, I did. It’s rich and sweet and it fills you up. I don’t know about you, but I love yogurt. I like rolling it around on my tongue and slowly munching on bits of fruit. And when I get close to the end, I scrape as much as possible off the sides, around the rim and at the bottom. Shouldn’t it be the same when we read the Bible? We should try to scrape out of a passage every scrap of knowledge we possibly can!

One of my favorite kinds of yogurt is the Greek yogurt that often has the “fruit on the bottom” so you have to dig around to find it and mix it all in. Similarly, you will never get any flavor out of a Bible passage until you’ve dug a little and stirred it around in your mind.

Now, I’m fairly positive that Satan designed the Yoplait yogurt containers. There is this horrible lip at the top that keeps you from getting that last bit of deliciousness. Satan loves to do the same when we read the Bible. He puts this barrier in your mind preventing you from grasping that last, and often times most important, bit of information.

libraryOn several occasions God would show Himself to me through the children I worked with or the women I taught English to. For a while I was struggling with the feeling that I wasn’t making much of a difference. One afternoon a boy in the afterschool program said to me, “I want to be like you!” At first I thought, “How sweet,” but then it hit me: This was God telling me that I was making a difference. Whether or not this boy was referring to my semi-awesome super hero sketching skills, I’ll never know, but God made His point clear.

childrenSome days I taught English at a women’s center. I didn’t have a large group every day; sometimes I would just work one-on-one. This is actually how I prefer to teach, but also these times reminded me of church. We come together as believers to learn from the Bible and from each other, but so often underestimate the importance of one-on-one time with God. We still learn a lot from being in groups, but there are some things that are harder to teach (and learn) in large groups.

My months in Romania filled me up (in more ways than yogurt). They quenched my soul in areas that had been parched for some time. Many people have asked me if I liked Ghana or Romania more. But I can’t compare them, they are so different. I learned many life and spiritual lessons in both places so I guess, in the end, that’s all that matters.

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Story by Carrie Larson. Photos by Mark Larson and Louis Watts.

calloutI am a proud graduate of FBC’s first School of Radical Hospitality. Led by Ralph Starling, Associate Pastor of Invitation, we studied the book Radical Hospitality by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, which is based on the rules of Saint Benedict as observed at Saint Benedict Monastery in Oxford, Michigan.

Hospitality mealThe book’s challenge is to welcome and serve those unlike us, those who have nothing to give but need something from us. It also reminds us to recognize our opportunities. We often believe we have to search for opportunities outside our everyday lives, but radical hospitality is a response to the needs that find us in our everyday lives.

Two groups have now graduated from FBC’s School and are busy practicing this concept:

  • Our inaugural hospitality class was asked to serve ice cream after an RVA United worship service in the summer of 2013. We had so much fun that we committed to every service. Imagine our surprise when, seeing the deserts, one man said: “Now that’s some radical hospitality!” We are grateful for the opportunity to help this group flourish and grow.
  • Sandra Saunders met David Nambu and Samuel Kwasi, Baptist pastors from Ghana, while greeting at the Monument Avenue entrance. As friends, she often brings them to RVA United and surprised David with a birthday cake after one of those services.
  • Louis and Linda Watts met Nazanin, a VCU student from Iran, at a Newcomer’s luncheon. They offered to drive her home after lunch and a relationship was born. They “adopted” her – answering a mother’s prayers that her daughter would be safe and welcomed in America. Louis and Linda have befriended many of the VCU students, opening their home and hearts to all of them.
  • Fran Hudgins and her husband, Wally, serve as greeters at the Monument Avenue door every Sunday. Fran recently sat with a hungry and distraught visitor who showed up for worship but really just needed someone to listen to her. Fran was able to give her something to eat as she had a banana in her purse. Fran said, “It was just a Band-Aid but a Band-Aid helps us heal!”
  • Dorothy Jones joined The Next Step, my Bible study class, several years ago. When she moved into an apartment and needed furniture and other household goods, the class helped her. She has become a valued member of the class and often rides with me to church on Sundays. I have gained a wonderful friend and an amazing prayer partner. When I asked Dorothy if I could mention her in this article, her reply was, “Anything to bring glory to God.”

Radical Hospitality group
Hospitality mealSee a need, meet a need, maybe even discover a passion in the process. It really is that simple to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond. Some needs find us, others we seek out, but in the process, we may provide a temporary Band-Aid or a lifeline. We may never see the person again or we may develop a lasting relationship. Whatever the outcome, people I once considered unlike me – whether ethnically, culturally, economically, or any other category – have become friends and neighbors. My world is so much richer for having met them. So, I encourage you to “throw open the windows, swing wide the doors, crank up the music of our lives and our congregations. Amazing things will happen if we stop protecting ourselves and become available to others, radically available.”*

*Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, 2nd Edition by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan

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By Jeannie Dortch.

Since its beginning in 1991, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) has enjoyed a rich relationship with Richmond’s First Baptist Church. FBC’s convenient location has provided many BTSR Master of Divinity candidates the perfect environment for their required off-campus supervised training (15 hours per week for one year).

Washburn-150px

David Washburn

This year, BTSR has 36 students serving internships in Richmond, other US cities, overseas, and in other denominations. “Over 600 BTSR students have experienced this opportunity,” commented Tracy Hartman, professor of Homiletics and Practical Theology, “a requirement recently identified by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) as one of the strengths of the school and the strongest program of its kind in the country.”

The earliest BTSR intern on record is David Washburn, new Treasurer of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board (VBMB). David interned at FBC in 1996-1997. He remembers, “Being able to go behind FBC’s ‘curtain’ to examine the inner workings of how church administration operates was invaluable.”

Bob Lee

Bob Lee

Bob Lee (1997-1998) is Senior Pastor at New Highland Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, VA. “If it weren’t for FBC, I would not be NHBC’s pastor. When I applied for the position, my resume was being overlooked because I had no pastoral experience. One member of the search committee noticed that I had interned at FBC, and encouraged the others to give my resume a second look saying, ‘FBC doesn’t hire junk!’ That led to an interview, then to being called right out of seminary. I have been here since 1998!”

Steve Blanchard

Steve Blanchard

Steve Blanchard, Associate Pastor for the Ministry of Christian Compassion, started as an intern at FBC in 1995-1996. Though a student at Union Theological Seminary, he was attending FBC at the time, and it seemed the most logical place to complete his internship requirement. During his 17 years at FBC, Steve has supervised BTSR interns serving in the US and abroad.

McClintock family

McClintock family

Lindsey McClintock is one who interned under him in 2008-2009. Lindsey, her husband, and their 2-year-old son, now live outside of Munich, Germany where she serves as the part-time Youth Ministries Pastor/Coordinator. Lindsey wrote, “My team works with 7-27 year olds, organizing retreats, events, camps, and leadership trainings. We also support other local churches with their children, youth and young-adult ministries. I love it!”

Lindsey continued, “While internships are part of BTSR’s MDiv (Master of Divinity) degree program, their Ministry Residency program is designed for recent seminary graduates. These are intense, two-year paid ministry positions. Residencies help curtail a trend that found struggling ministers leaving pastorates after their first five years.”

Hanna Zhu

Hanna Zhu

Lindsey and Hanna Zhu (FBC intern 2011-2012) are FBC’s first to serve through residencies. Lindsey ended her residency in early 2012. Hanna completed her 2-years on June 30, 2014.

Joplin family

Joplin family

Justin Joplin (intern 2006-2007) served as Senior Pastor for Westover Baptist Church (WBC) in Richmond since his BTSR graduation. He recently accepted a position as Senior Pastor with Lorne Park Baptist Church in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. “Having worked with FBC’s staff during Dr. Flamming’s retirement years was invaluable,” said Justin as he prepares his WBC staff for their transition.

Jay McNeal

Jay McNeal

Jay McNeal, 2013 BTSR intern, is unique as the only FBC intern ever supervised by FBC’s Senior Pastor. “Dr. Somerville allowed me to explore uncharted areas with him. I now serve part-time as FBC’s Microchurch Pastor, working with the people to whom we broadcast on television and internet. We have a Facebook page, a blog, and a recently formed Microchurch Team. FBC wants to grow, not just in numbers but in faith and service in the 21st century. As the Microchurch Pastor, I can see the very real potential of First Baptist microchurches cropping up around the world!”

BTSRstudentsTracy Hartman shared that, “When students graduate from BTSR, they are asked to rank the three most influential pieces of their educational experience at the school, and the internship is always in the top three.”

FBC members give thanks for the interns excellent service and for the opportunity to encourage them at the beginning of their journeys.

Author’s note on other FBC interns: Pam Ash (2009-2010) was recently ordained and is on sabbatical managing family responsibilities. In May 2014 Walter Morton (2010-2011) earned a Master of Theological Studies degree and Don Price (2012-2013) and Tamara Witte (Fall 2013), their Master of Divinity degrees. Tamara now serves as Minister of Congregational Care at River Road Presbyterian Church in Richmond. Michael Gerace (Spring 2014) serves as volunteer chaplain at the Richmond City Jail, under the supervision of Steve Blanchard.

Read related story: First Baptist Church Equips Emerging Leaders

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