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Archive for January, 2016

Story by Beth Bayless.

For many of us, an image of our life may be a path that goes to unexpected places as God nudges us in directions we had not planned. I believe this aptly describes Buddy Burgess’ road to ministry.

Buddy Burgess - A Life Responding to God's NudgesIn August, Buddy was preparing to retire as pastor of FBC’s Deaf Mission. I asked him “When you first started out, did you have any indication this is where you would end up?”

Buddy smiled and told me the story of being led by God to this place and this time. During much of the journey he did not see God’s specific plans until he arrived at his destination. But it was apparent that he trusted God along the way.

Buddy Burgess - A Life Responding to God's NudgesBuddy grew up on a farm near Spartanburg, SC. As a teen, one of his proudest moments was when his football team won its conference championship. Buddy had no plans for further education, and after graduation, began working in a cotton mill.

When he became involved in Pony League baseball (for boys 13 to 15 years old), he realized he wanted to be a coach. After two years at the mill, he enrolled in Spartanburg Junior College, a Methodist school. A required religion class made two lasting impressions on him. First, he used the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which was much clearer than the King James Version he was used to. Second, the class required service in the community.

Buddy Burgess - A Life Responding to God's NudgesDuring his years at Spartanburg, a chance encounter led Buddy to the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, where he was hired as an assistant to do hearing tests in the audiology department and provide training.

Buddy Burgess - A Life Responding to God's NudgesBy the time Buddy completed Spartanburg, he realized he needed a bachelor’s degree. He was accepted at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) in Wilson, NC. At ACC, Buddy majored in physical education. Later he changed his major to education of the deaf and finally settled on religion and philosophy as God’s plans for his life became clearer.

Buddy Burgess - A Life Responding to God's NudgesBuddy, who worked his way through college, jokes that he completed four years of college in only nine years. He often had two or three part-time jobs – working in a warehouse and as a teletype operator, audiologist assistant, and physical therapy assistant. At times he had to drop out for a quarter to earn enough money to continue. But even there God was working. A member of his home church offered both spiritual support and financial help with food and lodging. Then someone in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes provided a grant-in-aid for him. It was enough for Buddy to complete college.

Buddy Burgess - A Life Responding to God's NudgesDuring his years at ACC, Buddy realized God was nudging him toward the ministry. After graduation, he decided to work for a year before entering seminary. He became a full-time physical therapy assistant at the local hospital, where he met and soon married Ann Boswell.

During his last year at Southeastern Theological Seminary, the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention encouraged Buddy to consider a job as a minister to the deaf. This was not in Buddy’s plan but after he and Ann prayed for direction, he completed the application. Following graduation, Buddy was called as the first minister for the deaf at First Baptist Church, Memphis, TN.

Buddy Burgess - A Life Responding to God's NudgesLooking back, Buddy sees many instances where God nudged his choices of part-time jobs, schools and the people he met. Now as he looks forward to the next part of his walk with God, Buddy anticipates more time with his grandchildren, opportunities to travel including a 50th reunion with his high school football team, and a possible mission trip to Korea to lead a sports camp. He also anticipates more nudges and direction adjustments.

Watch a video about Buddy Burgess produced by Sean Cook and Allen Cumbia.

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Story by Stephanie Kim. Photos by Stephanie Kim and Allison Maxwell.

My parents came to the United States from Korea in the early 1960s to further their education. We moved often in my early years as we followed their places of study and employment. While living in inner city Chicago in the early 1970s, it was rare to see Asians. Even though I spoke English fluently, I remember being teased often in elementary school and being stared at by strangers as if I were from another planet because I looked different.

A few years later in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee, it was a very different population, but no better. I clearly recall being teased with Chinese chants even by adults at my elementary school as I passed in the hallway, mumbling under my breath that I was Korean, not Chinese. Thankfully, despite these racist remarks, I always managed to find classmates and neighbors who were willing to take the time to get to know me and to realize that we actually had much in common.

I dreaded my final elementary school move to Virginia Beach, thinking about again being judged and teased because of who I was, isolated because of my ethnicity, discriminated against because of my looks. Much to my surprise, about half of my classmates were Asians. I easily found a place to belong.

To BelongMy earlier childhood experience is not much different from what many kids still experience today, including my own daughter who is intellectually disabled. Though she has no outward appearance of a disability, she has been segregated from her peers at school, teased for not being able to keep up, stared at by people who don’t understand her behavioral outbursts, and isolated for not understanding the rules of play. She is a stranger in her own neighborhood playground because she is bussed to another school in the county.

I try my best to make sure that she’s included in school and extra-curricular activities and that others understand her disability. I don’t want people to be afraid to talk with her or play with her just because she can’t do everything they do or may not act the way they expect. I don’t want her to be teased or feel isolated or excluded. I am so grateful to the friends she has made over the past few years that genuinely care for her and help her and give her a sense of belonging, which is what we all want—to belong.

To BelongJust like other parents, I have hopes and dreams for my child. After a year of advocating, she is finally being included in the general education class alongside her peers. I want her to learn from her classmates how to work hard, how to be a good friend, and how to be respectful of others. I want her to become an active and contributing member of her community. I want her to know she’s special, but no more special than any other child.

My real hope is not just that she would learn, but that she would also teach. I hope she will teach others not to be afraid of those different from them, but to embrace the differences. I hope she brings out the creativity in teachers to find exceptional teaching methods. My greatest hope is that she would teach a generation of students at her school to be patient with those who can’t think or do as quickly, to be more compassionate with those who struggle, to be accepting of others who may not look or act like them, and to be more understanding of those with a different perspective.

Much like Martin Luther King Jr., I have a dream that my child will one day live in a nation where she will not be judged by her disability, but by the content of her character.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in The Richmond Times Dispatch on November 30, 2014.

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By Susan Beach.
visioningSome visions are received, without even asking for them. They startle us and change our plans. Mary knew that kind of vision.

But visions can also be sought. While we can be active in pursuing them, these visions may still surprise us and change our plans.

Richmond’s First Baptist Church is about that intentional visioning process now. We are seeking God’s vision for our church at this time and in this place.

So how does that happen?

Jim Somerville, FBC’s Senior Pastor, explains how we began this process: “We first discussed the idea of long-range planning because of concern about attendance and giving at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Although our giving is up over last year and our membership is actually increasing, our Sunday morning worship attendance has been in decline. The Deacon Advisory Council suggested that we do some long-range planning to address that issue and to energize the church around a shared vision for the future.”

To initiate this vision-seeking, Jim and Deacon Chair Richard Szucs invited Bill Wilson, Director of the Center for Healthy Churches (CHC), to speak via FaceTime video to the deacons in May 2015. He talked about nationwide trends in church attendance and giving and reassured us that even though the church in America is experiencing decline, those churches that are clear about their mission and identity can prosper.

The deacons responded well to Bill’s presentation. Richard said they especially resonated with his explanation that “people give their time and money to churches where people are doing things that matter and where they can be a part of something worthwhile.” This session led to a discussion of seeking a visioning process for our church.

The Center for Healthy Churches was selected as FBC’s guide for that process. CHC builds on a church’s strengths so they can be used as the foundation for future direction. Also core to this process is CHC’s emphasis on the input of the entire congregation: God’s vision will be realized as the work of discerning is shared by staff and laity alike.

To begin this work a lay leadership team has been identified. Mark Larson and Clint Smith will co-chair the team of Allen Brown, Virginia Darnell, Anne Keo, Shawnae Lacy, Michael Lipford, Jim Norvelle, Julie Pierce, Lee Stephenson, Charles Tilley, and Lisa Tuck. This Visioning Team will facilitate the work of the congregation in determining FBC’s goals for the next three to five years.

40 Days of PrayerIn January the Visioning Team will begin its orientation. During Lent, the congregation will be invited to meet in small groups in members’ homes, using 40 Days of Prayer: Preparing Ourselves for God’s Calling. This study guide and the Journey to the Cross series on Wednesday nights will combine in a Lenten emphasis, “Praying with Eyes Wide Open,” to prepare us for the next stage of our visioning process.

In that stage the entire congregation will work through the Appreciative Inquiry process – highlighting what we have done well in the past and what we are doing well in the present – in order to determine our direction for the future. These meetings will most likely be held in April and May.

Seeking a vision is work. If you want to know God’s plans for you, you must ask. And you must ask in a way that prepares you to hear – putting aside your plans and listening for His. You must do this repeatedly until you are really listening. If we want to know God’s plans for FBC, the entire church family needs to ask in a way that prepares us to hear Him.

Author’s note: On Sunday, January 17, Adult Bible Fellowships will meet in Flamming Hall at 9:45 a.m. for study and prayer around discernment and the practice of spiritual disciplines. This session, led by Lynn Turner and Susan Beach, will prepare the congregation for the Lenten “Praying with Eyes Wide Open” and the Appreciative Inquiry stages of seeking God’s vision for our church.

Visit related web pages:
Lent: Praying with Eyes Wide Open
2020 Vision

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