Archive for May, 2016

Story by Bev Carroll. Photos by Susan Brown.

FLO groupGod created us for fellowship with Him. But in His incredible mercy, He gives us fellowship with each other so that we can be encouraged in our relationship with Him. That fellowship can be both a place for us to use our gifts and to be fed as we grow in understanding who He is and who we are. For Ladies Only (FLO) began as a way for our church to concentrate on this fellowship for women.

 “Besides the obvious – study and learning, we fellowship (eat and laugh). One of the biggest benefits for me is I have gotten to know my church better, and I have FUN!” —Gwen Garrett

Bev CarrollThe events and programs FLO sponsors are as unique as the women who organize and attend them, and their reasons for participating are as varied as the ages and stages of life they represent. Shannon Le says: “As a mom to four small children and wife of a former pastor, FLO has been a safe place to share very deep and intimate life experiences with women who loved and encouraged me, without judgment or criticism.”

FLO Bible studyOur goal to provide discipleship and Christian fellowship opportunities led to the formation of intergenerational Bible studies. These were particularly helpful to Evelyn Cronin: “I was at a really low point in my spiritual life when I first came to FLO Monday Bible Study. I value the age range of women in attendance – some older, some younger – as it gives me perspectives so different from my own. I’ve grown as a woman, a mother, a wife, and above all, as a child of God.”

FLO teaIn addition to book clubs, trips to Christian conferences, preparation for the week the CARITAS women spend at FBC every July, there is the annual Christmas Tea, perhaps the most visible of FLO’s events. While the tea requires much work by volunteers, it is an effort of great joy. Debbie Blankenship talked about her experience helping with a tea that closely followed her mother’s death. “I arrived on Friday morning to help prepare the food, overwhelmed with sadness. However, everyone in that kitchen was so kind, and they all wrapped their arms around me, showing me how much they cared. I found out during that weekend how much the women of FLO mean to me!”

Each of us finds a place in FLO that is the most meaningful. For Janet Chase “the Monday morning Bible study made the greatest positive impression on me, both for my emotional and spiritual health, when I was transitioning from job loss a few years ago. I’ll be forever grateful for a safe place to share, grow, and pray with strong Christian women.”

FLO-conferenceMy favorite part of FLO is being able to watch women combine their unique gifts and weaknesses and passion for God in the service of His people. The strengths of all women involved combine into a perfect whole as they serve each other and our church. In them, I see a glimpse of the body of Christ at work in our church and our world.

FLO Crew: Judy Watkins says, “It has been an honor to serve on this team and get to know and work with these lovely Christian ladies!” The following serve with Judy: Anne Ball, Debbie Blankenship, Gail Broughton, Lorna Brown, Susan Brown, Beverly Carroll, Janet Chase, Donna Earley, Pam Franklin, Spencer Huber, Maureen Lipford, Kaky Minter, and Lynn Turner, staff liaison.

Contact: Bev Carroll, 804-387-1154; FBCRichmond.org/FLO

Bev CarrollBev Carroll is a teacher, speaker, and author of two books: He Wants You to Know and God Chooses People Like You. Her passion is to help others see God’s word as absolutely relevant in their daily lives. Bev taught English and Humanities in high school and college. She and her husband Jay have two sons and one perfect dog.

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Story by Eleanor Dodson. Photos by Susan Brown.

God brought something good from a deadly civil war in Liberia – Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, which ministers to hundreds of Liberians and the surrounding community.

Turning the Loss of War into HopeFrancis Tabla, a young minister, his wife, Christine, and their infant son arrived in Richmond in September 1997. Francis’ plan was to earn a Master of Divinity degree at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology and then return to his war-torn country, Liberia, to start a church.

He and Christine joined First Baptist Church in November 1997. They were very active members. Francis served on the church support staff, worked with the after-school program, taught Mission Force (then called Royal Ambassadors) for elementary aged boys, and volunteered with Grace Fellowship. Christine helped with child care, and they became members of the Foundations Sunday School Class.

Turning the Loss of War into HopeDuring this time, the civil war in Liberia made Francis’ return unsafe. When he heard that Liberian victims of the civil war, which had claimed about 30,000 lives, were fleeing to Minneapolis, Minnesota, the vision of Ebenezer Community Church (ECC) was birthed. In 2000, the Tabla family moved to the Minneapolis area and Ebenezer became a church-planting mission to about twenty thousand Liberian immigrants.

Turning the Loss of War into HopeThe church exists to be a body of believers who love God, care for each other, and are on mission at home and abroad. Since its beginnings, God has helped Ebenezer to accomplish her mission through adult ministry, Bible study and prayer meetings, children’s church ministry, counseling (premarital, marriage, family, and crisis), music ministry, prayer ministry, senior adult ministry, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, youth ministry, and other social ministries in the community.

ECC purchased 4.3 acres of land in 2004 in Brooklyn Park, MN, and paid the final mortgage off in 2013. In June 2015, a year-long construction project was begun on the first phase of their building. With 14,000 square feet of space at a cost of $2.8 million, it has a multipurpose gym, a few classrooms, two offices, a kitchen, and storage. A formal dedication service is planned for Sunday, May 22, 2016.

As the membership has grown to more than 500, about 30 members helped start a church plant in the nearby city of Bloomington. The church is called Ebenezer Community Church of Bloomington.

Since moving to Minnesota, Francis has earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul and has served as Executive Director of the Liberian Ministerial Association, while being an active leader in his community. He said, “First Baptist Church has been strongly involved with the founding of Ebenezer Community Church in Minnesota and the partnership we share is one of blessings and success beyond our wildest imagination.”

Author’s note: Many members of FBC have connected with ECC, assisting with Vacation Bible School, participating in short term mission trips, giving, and visiting. These members include Steve and Cynde Becker, Steve Blanchard, Billy Burford, Joyce and Edward Clemmons, Jean Cline, Stu and Eleanor Dodson, Jim and Shirley Flamming, Christie Hartsock, Betsy House, Ray and Mollie Hummel, Carl Johnson, Cynia Katsorelos, Linn Kreckman, Jim Markham, Ann McRee, Andy Pederson, Jim Somerville, Eddie Stratton, and Elizabeth Wells.

Ebenezer has also been blessed financially through its relationships with Virginia. Through its Endowment Fund, FBC has provided several hundred thousand dollars in financial support of ECC. Because it is a Baptist General Association of Virginia church, ECC was able to borrow second mortgage funds from the Virginia Baptist Extension Board, which enabled it to obtain a first mortgage from a MN bank.

Eleanor DodsonEleanor Dodson and her husband, Stewart, joined FBC in 1978. She has been active in children’s work and presently serves on FBC’s Flower Delivery, Food Service, and Greeting Committees. After retirement, Eleanor and Stewart traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada working with refugees. She was on the first team of teachers sent by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to teach English teachers at Tian Teacher’s College in China.


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