Archive for December, 2016

Story by Terry Whipple.

We’ve been making Christmas wish lists since we were children. Although it’s more blessed to give than to receive, we all like to receive…at least a little bit. After celebrating Jesus’ birth and praising that amazing gift of gifts, eventually we’re around the tree and we’re at the parties.

Our Christmas wish lists have more grown-up toys now than when we were young. We want a David Yurman bracelet, or a new bathrobe (please!), or some tulip bulbs from Holland (because December isn’t too late to plant them, is it?). Or maybe we want tickets to the Richmond ballet or the Redskins, a new shotgun, a recliner chair for the TV room. Our lists include things we’ve thought about and  really want.

eating-christmas325pxBut what is not on our Christmas wish lists? We don’t list chocolate covered cherries or a gift certificate to a French bakery or a bottle of champagne. Why? We must not really want them. So, if we don’t really want them, why do we consume them with such gusto at the Christmas parties? They aren’t at all healthy. In fact, they’re actually unhealthy.

New Year’s is coming soon, a time when our resolutions inevitably include something about losing weight or getting fit. It might be easier to keep those resolutions if we didn’t allow such excess during the Christmas season. So, let’s think about what’s on our Christmas wish lists and enjoy those things we really want.

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Story and photos by Jeannie Dortch.

First Baptist Preschool (FBP), a ministry of Richmond’s First Baptist Church, is celebrating its 70th year as one of the city’s best known and most highly respected preschools. It is so respected that its reputation has spread beyond Richmond’s borders.

Ralph Starling, Associate Pastor of Christian Invitation, referring to America’s influx of internationals, but specifically of those from VCU, commented, “The world has come to Richmond and I think the church should look like the world.”


Zhu family and Alex Hamp

Alex Hamp, FBP’s administrator, commented that “For years, there was not much diversity here, but Ralph Starling has been instrumental in his outreach, and now we are one of the few preschools in the vicinity that is not only multi-cultural but also offers scholarships. More diversity here provides a more welcoming environment, and it’s good for the children.”

“In the past we have enrolled a few bi-racial children, but our program has evolved to include children from seven countries and four continents. The multicultural environment here is healthy because, though it may be unconscious, the children notice that not everyone is the same. The beauty is that as the children accept that we look different on the outside, we are all the same inside.”


Dingh family

Thang and Thao Dingh are from Viet Nam. After earning a scholarship to study in America, Thang earned his PhD in Computer Science at the University of Florida before moving to Virginia to be an assistant professor of Computer Science in the School of Engineering at VCU. Their daughter, Thu, attends preschool while Thao stays home with Thu’s little brother. Thu loves learning her letters and colors. She finds preschool so interesting that she even wants to come on the weekends!

Seventy-three percent of Viet Nam’s population identifies as non-religious, but, when possible, the Dinghs visit a Buddhist pagoda. They are happy, however, for Thu to be exposed to the Christian faith in preschool because they believe that the moral structure of their own upbringing is similar. Acceptance, kindness and love are universal, and Thu feels all three from her teachers and friends in preschool.


Daryos family

Maysam Daryos and Wisam Toma emigrated from Iraq where they were members of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Wisam is a veterinarian working on his PhD in pharmacology at MCV/VCU. Maysam has a Master’s in veterinary medicine and taught in Iraq. They were pushed out of Iraq by ISIS because of their faith and fear returning for that reason. Their daughter Mariam, born in America, is looking forward to her second year in FBC preschool because she loves her teachers and friends, and learning at school.

Maysam assists in the baby class while Mariam is in school. She and Wisam are very comfortable with FBP’s traditions: “All we want is to share peace, help others, and teach our children to accept everyone despite their religion.”


Hemeda family

Ahmed and Ayatullah Hemeda are from Egypt. Ahmed is working on his PhD as a research assistant in VCU’s Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department. They have a son who attends school in Chesterfield County while daughter Lily is enrolled in FBC’s preschool. As Muslims, they have the opportunity to practice their religion in one of the mosques located in the counties that surround Richmond. Ahmed finds the people in America very welcoming: “The culture here cultivates acceptance and the schools teach children to be polite.”

Other countries represented in the preschool are Ghana, India, China, and St. Vincent and The Grenadines. Ralph Starling summed up how the FBC family feels about our growing multi-cultural community, “I love it when the church reaches out and opens its doors to everybody and I love the ministries we have that seek to love all God’s children because everybody is created in the image of God. We are at our best when we’re open to loving others.”

Author’s note: For more information, visit the First Baptist Preschool website.

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