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Archive for May, 2017

Story and photos by Candi Brown

Poverty in ParadisePoverty in ParadiseMission trips happen in many destinations for a variety of purposes. “How do you go about choosing a mission trip like St. Lucia?” is a question that Steve Blanchard was asked in a recent meeting. Although he went into greater detail, the answer is simple. We were asked by a Caribbean missionary, Pastor John Gilbert, from St. Croix to partner with Gospel Baptist Church, a church that cares deeply about its community and might benefit from the help of a ministry partner. Pastor Gilbert knew Richmond’s First Baptist Church and its congregation and felt that our church could assist them with resources and volunteers in many different types of ministry opportunities.

Poverty in ParadiseOur first experience nearly four years ago in St. Lucia was a simple one. We went there to build. We went to build relationships and help tear down an old fence and build a new one. Most people identify mission trips with humanitarian aid or traveling to countries where spreading the gospel message is a challenge. Our initial request was neither of these. It is a partnership mission. We went to begin a relationship of support which we hoped would help to better equip and empower Gospel Baptist to carry out the mission that God has called them to do in their community, which includes serving and loving their neighbors and sharing the love of Christ and the gospel message.

Poverty in ParadisePoverty in ParadiseAlthough none of us knew exactly what to expect, by laboring together for a week and worshiping together on Sunday, friendships grew. We fell in love with this beautiful island and its warm, hospitable people. Our conversations turned from fences and construction to other opportunities to partner together in the future. The following summer we returned to help with Vacation Bible School, the church’s largest outreach activity. We traveled with suitcases full of craft supplies, puppets, small prizes for children, and teaching materials. Our team performed puppet shows every day and assisted with preschool and elementary age classes. With an invitation from their leaders, we decided to return again for a second year of VBS. We increased our level of leadership and responsibilities. On our most recent trip in February 2017, a team of five volunteers assisted with construction of a new roof for the church. We also began a new outreach ministry at the local orphanage, where we spent an afternoon visiting staff and children and delivering three suitcases of supplies. We hope to continue to assist the orphanage on future trips.

Poverty in ParadiseThrough our partnership work, many FBC volunteers have developed deep friendships within the Gospel Baptist family. One of the unexpected blessings of this mission is the relationships built with the community in Rodney Bay where our team stays. Sustainable mission partnerships provide opportunities to do extended community outreach. Many faith conversations have taken place with people who work at the hotel, local restaurants, beach and shops due to our mission work and recurring stays within the community. Friendships that developed throughout the community have opened many doors for us to share our faith.

As a church family, you can partner with us as we continue to explore ways to reach St. Lucia and work with Gospel Baptist in Babonneau. We hope to continue our support for their VBS and outreach to children in their community and the orphanage. Their church leaders have asked us to consider providing a much-needed health clinic and eye exam clinic, in addition to leadership training for their church teachers and leaders. We look forward to seeing what God has planned for us over the next few years. You can provide support through prayer, becoming a team member, donating money or supplies and providing referrals for possible health professionals to assist in a future trip.

Yes, St. Lucia is a beautiful island in a paradise setting for mission work. But beyond the tourist areas are communities of people living in poverty. It is a blessing to work alongside Christian friends as they fulfill God’s calling to reach out in love to their community, sharing their faith and love of Christ.

Poverty in Paradise2017 Team members: Candi Brown, Team Leader; Tom and Teri Osborne; Franklin Hamilton and his wife, Linda Ringwood.

 

 

 

 

 


Candi BrownCandi Brown has served as Children’s Minister since 2007, directing the Preschool and Children’s Ministry and shaping spiritual formation of our children. She has led and participated in mission trips to Arkansas, Slovakia, China, Costa Rica, South Africa and St. Lucia. Candi and her husband, Matthew, have five children, Madison, Adam, Jonathan, Hassan and Husein.

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Story by Ann Carter.

Reflecting God OnlineSocial media has a bad reputation these days as a place where political opinions and personal insults are hurled with a lack of respect and downright cruelty, where you are shouted at for posting what you think and where you can’t tell real news from fake news. Many people I know are taking a break from social media because they can’t stand the hate and the vitriol. And I can’t blame them. Some days I have a hard time reading my newsfeeds. But I won’t give it up. You see, I love social media. It is where I connect with friends I have made from every stage of my life and every place I have lived and traveled. It is where I find interesting newspaper articles and blogs and daily devotions. It is where I watch a giraffe waiting to give birth. It is absolutely the best on my birthday when I get literally hundreds of birthday wishes. What’s not to love? Oh yeah, the political posts. But you know what? I think social media has great value in our society today—even with the political posts. “Why?” you may ask. Because it is a place where community happens; a place where people of different views can show up in my news feed and get equal reading time; a place where we can be called to action as well as called to encourage or pray or comfort; a place where we can share our joys and our sorrows and be joined in our grief and celebrations.

Reflecting God Online

Ann Carter

In January 2016, I was asked to take over the social media accounts of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. I gladly said “yes” because I love being on social media. First of all, it gives me the perfect excuse to be on social media. You know, “I have to be on here for work!” But seriously, just about everyone else in the world has a voice in social media and the church needs one too.

What is the purpose of church social media platforms? I believe there are three main purposes. First of all, social media can inform our congregants about what is happening at church. Second, it can provide an avenue of invitation to our neighbors for events that may be of interest to them such as the Church Choir Concert, Upward Basketball or The Physician Within. Third, and I believe most importantly, it is a place where we are the presence of Christ.

I believe the church should be the voice of peace and justice and hope and love in our broken and polarized world. Many churches are just that for the people who come in their doors and sit in their pews. But what about people who don’t come into our buildings and sit in our pews? How are they going to hear words of hope in their times of despair? How are they going to feel the loving presence of God in a world filled with hateful, judgmental words? How are they going to experience peace in the midst of so much political and social conflict? How are they going to know a just God in an unjust world? And so as I administer our social media, I try to capture moments when our church reflects a God of hope and peace and love. I try to capture God at work in our world through the people of FBC. I try to invite people into the adventure of serving God with us. I try to highlight where God is at work in our world through people outside of Richmond’s First Baptist Church—good things are happening all around us if we only take the time to look!

But I don’t need to be the Social Media Associate for a church in order to do these things. I can do them through my own personal social media accounts.  I can be the voice of peace and justice and hope and love in my own world. I can give grace-filled answers to my friends who disagree with me. My social media accounts can reflect a God of peace and hope and love and a God at work in our world. And so can yours.

Meredith Gould, Ph.D., is a digital strategist for churches. In her book, The Social Media Gospel, she shows how our faith provides a framework for using social media. I want to highlight a few of her points:

“Believing in a gracious and merciful God calls us to be gracious and merciful during online interactions.”

She also says that “believing in Gospel teachings calls us to model what we believe while using social media by offering helpful information, providing comfort, sharing joy and engaging in conversations that build and unite, rather than tear down or divide the people of God.”

And in 2010, Gould created this contemporary take on Saint Teresa of Avila’s prayer, “Christ Has No Body”:

Christ has no online presence but yours,
No blog, no Facebook page but yours,
Yours are the tweets through which love touches this world,
Yours are the posts through which the Gospel is shared,
You are the updates through which hope is revealed.
Christ has no online presence but yours,
No blog, no Facebook page but yours.

This is what guides me as I post both on the church’s social media and on my own. And I hope it can guide you as you evaluate your own social media presence. May our social media pages be used to touch the world with God’s love. Amen.


Here are a few of our most popular Facebook posts:

Reflecting God OnlineJune 19, 2016 – the youth leaving on their mission trips: Ahhhh… I love this image; the doors of our church flung open and all of us spilling out to go be the hands and feet of Christ wherever we find ourselves in our world.

Reflecting God OnlineJuly 14, 2016 – This picture was snapped in the pool in Helena, Arkansas where a team from Richmond’s First Baptist Church has been serving this week. I was immediately struck by the beauty and the power of this image – especially in light of the recent racial tension our nation is facing. Let this image inspire to us open our hands and our hearts, reaching toward one another in love, as we venture into the waters of reconciliation.

Reflecting God OnlineNov. 9, 2016 – A prayer for whatever it is you are feeling this post-election morning. And now…Church, let’s go be the presence of Christ wherever we find ourselves today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And for all the days.

Reflecting God Online

April 16, 2017 – Christ is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

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