Archive for April, 2017

Story by Mimi Bennett

Who would imagine that Deuteronomy 29:29 (The secret things belong to the Lord but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever…) could have been written as the vision statement of the FBC Scholarship Fund Team? Do you know who they are? Or what they do? It is an amazing and gratifying story.

calloutThe FBC Scholarship Fund has been in existence since the 1930s but the details of its inception have been lost to history. Yet, since that time, college bound FBC students have been awarded scholarships year in and year out. All the funds have come from FBC members, some unrestricted and some with specific stipulations. Carl Johnson, President of the Endowment Fund, which manages the investment of the scholarship funds, reports that they currently stand at about two million dollars. This comprises approximately 10% of the church’s total endowment. Each year an amount equivalent to 5% of the Scholarship Fund is awarded to students. In 2017, this will be a little more than $100,000.

FBC's Best Kept Secret

Chaired by Jim Markham, the dedicated members of this standing committee are Sue Atkins, Susan Hughes, Bart Dalton, Jim Norvelle, Martha Selden, and Richard Szucs. They have worked together for many years and annually review all applications submitted and determine the amount of each award.  Amounts vary according to a point system and are confidential, but virtually everyone receives something. As the team works through their process, they consider such things as active FBC involvement, church membership, GPA, family income, how many other college students may be in a family, and the applicant’s year in college. Extra points are awarded if the student will be a college freshman and bonus points are awarded to those who are in seminary. Students must submit an application annually to be considered for continuing funds.

The work of this ministry begins in mid-December when high school seniors are sent a letter inviting them to apply for a scholarship. In January, an informational meeting for students and their families is held to clarify the process and answer any questions. Information and deadlines are available on the FBC website under the Communities tab and are published in the Sunday bulletin and First Family News. Applications are submitted online and the deadline must be adhered to strictly. No application will be looked at that is submitted after the published deadline. This year that date is May 1.

The work of the FBC Scholarship Fund Team begins in earnest once the deadline passes. Through the spring, all the information is prayerfully and carefully reviewed and decisions reached by unanimous consent. Hope Cumbia is the lynchpin here. She assembles all the applications and organizes them for team members to use as they determine each scholarship. Once students are notified about their awards, Hope coordinates sending the checks directly to the individual colleges and schools. In the past 18 years, $1,400,000 has been awarded to 840 FBC students. This is a remarkable achievement.

FBC’s steadfast commitment to provide financial assistance toward the education of its students is not truly a secret. The Scholarship Fund Team, however, operates below the radar for many. Now that this ministry has been revealed to us all, it belongs to us all and to our children forever. The opportunity to contribute to the future is compelling.

Editor’s note: For more information contact Jim Markham (804-261-5527) or any other team member.

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Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Jeannie Dortch and Sean Cook.

Author Alexandre Dumas immortalized three heroic musketeers who served their French king with unflagging devotion and courage. Currently First Baptist Church members are encountering three young men, all working in service to their King, the Lord Jesus. Unlike the musketeers, however, they work under different staff members and in unrelated capacities.

In Service to Our King

Brett Holmes, Scott Biggers and Justin Pierson

Justin Pierson, 24, is from Roanoke and a first-year student at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. As second cousin to Steve Blanchard’s wife, Susan, Justin lived with the Blanchards when first in Richmond. This led to conversations about part-time work in FBC’s Compassion Ministry. While earning his MDiv degree at BTSR, he spends 18 hours a week as a Compassion Assistant, reporting only to Steve. Operation Christmas Child and CARITAS have been two responsibilities, along with attendance at Grace Fellowship and weekly participation in FBC’s Community Missions. Justin has been impressed with how well volunteers in the Compassion Ministry interact with people in need in the community: “When they perceive a need, they brainstorm to determine how to reach out to help in the best way possible.” Justin’s call to ministry is strong, and he feels fortunate to be able to work in such a large church with so many opportunities for growth.

Scott Biggers, 25, from Harrisburg, NC, is in his 3rd year at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. After much soul searching and study of the differences in Presbyterian and Baptist theology, Scott discerned that he longed to live out his call as a Baptist pastor. That is how he made his way to FBC; he joined in October 2015 and was baptized in January 2016. Last summer, Scott fulfilled an internship as a chaplain at MCV, and this year he is serving as an intern to Jim Somerville, whom Scott will shadow until June 2017. He also has secured a part-time preaching position at a church in Keysville, VA. Scott remarked about his experience at FBC: “Because so much ministry and mission is done at this church, I am beginning to see and know what I like best. In this way, my internship is helping me shape my pastoral identity. My impression so far has been that everybody who comes here wants to be here. They love their church. “A common question I hear is ‘What will the church look like in the future?’ To me, FBC is a good example of what church should be (like in the future).”

In Service to Our King

Brett Holmes, 29 and a Mississippi native, is a graduate of Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, TX. As FBC’s current pastoral resident, he is being mentored and supervised by Steve Booth until the summer 2018. While working as a bank teller after college, Brett volunteered at a local Baptist church, working with youth and college groups. Encouraged by the experience, he enrolled in a hybrid program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that allowed him to work, take online classes, and attend in person once a month. Brett’s desire, however, was to attend seminary full time. Learning that Truett offered a student loan program, Brett visited, applied, was accepted, quit his job, and moved to Waco. While there he evolved from wanting to teach and talk about theology in a university setting to wanting to teach, preach and discuss theology within a church setting. The shift came when he recognized that inside church is where theology happens, and theology had become Brett’s passion. One of his friends at Truett, Nick Deere (former pastoral resident), encouraged Brett to apply to FBC for their two-year residency program.

As FBC’s new pastoral resident, Brett is a paid employee on FBC’s staff for two years. Brett’s first year is spent working in each ministry area with each staff minister learning how to do ministry applicable to that area. In his second year, he will focus on what comes after his residency while maintaining an active presence within the congregation and in worship.

Brett shared, “What most impresses me is how healthy the staff is. In a church this large, it is rare to avoid conflict and yet, here, everyone works well together. It is good to see a model of what a healthy staff can be. That bleeds down into the congregation, providing safety and a place to feel comfortable.”

The motto of the three musketeers was, “All for one and one for all!” Though Justin, Scott and Brett do not hold the same position, their motives reflect the same purpose—to glorify God and bring honor to Him in their joint service to God’s people at FBC.

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