Archive for January, 2019

By Bev Wells

Have you ever stopped to assess what led you to some of the major milestones in your life? Would you consider the times following those milestones to be peaceful and filled with a close relationship with God, or tumultuous and consumed by the stress of the situation? When I look back on marriage, the birth of my son, my divorce, the loss of my father, my deacon ordination, losing my job and other significant events in the last 20 years, I see a common pattern. Each event led me to a closer walk with God—a dependence on Him—a sense of peace—a feeling of gratitude.

Going through a divorce is painful but facing a divorce with children to provide for is downright scary. The fear of not being able to provide financially for your child; the desire to keep them in the same home and school; finding a way to logistically handle all of their activities while working; the concern of how the divorce will emotionally impact your child; handling home repairs, yard work and car maintenance on your own—these are all intimidating challenges. Added to these challenges are feelings of pain, anger, rejection and isolation. My married friends could not relate. My family was supportive but could not understand. My coworkers and church friends wanted to help but struggled for the right words.

There was nowhere to turn but to God, and he answered so many prayers. He lifted me up and brought me peace. He put the pieces of my life back together in a way I could not have imagined. I was able to let go of how I thought my life should be and embrace what my life had become. I felt God with me on a daily basis, as I often reached out to him at times of frustration or physical weakness, whether because of exhaustion or not having enough strength to start the lawnmower. Every night when I checked on my son, it brought tears to my eyes as I felt grateful for this beautiful boy given to me, and I was grateful for the events that led me to this place in my life. I was, and still am, happier than I have ever been. God has blessed me in so many ways and has protected my son and me and provided for us financially. He has helped me make difficult decisions. I reached a peaceful place in my life, where I felt completely confident and happy with being a single mom. I wanted to help others get to this place.

As I gradually met other single mothers, I realized that most were not doing quite so well. Many were struggling financially, did not have a stable job, were stressed beyond belief and were not confident in their abilities to make decisions and handle things around the house on their own. Some were emotionally full of anger and pain, and were terrified to be alone. Some were making reckless decisions that were negatively impacting their self-esteem and their children. I realized that single moms needed an opportunity to help each other, to bond with other women, to share their joys and struggles and to take some time to focus on their needs.

Single Moms in the Lord's Embrace

It was out of my desire to help other single moms that the Single Moms in the Lord’s Embrace (SMILE) program started at Richmond’s First Baptist Church in 2013. Every month for the last five years, FBC has provided a place for SMILE to meet, a meal for the moms and kids and safe childcare for the children. We provide not only a program but a network of friends. We partner with other churches, other Bible studies, the Divorce Recovery Workshop held each year at FBC, the Sophie House and other organizations geared toward meeting the needs of single moms. The Compassion Ministry at FBC also provides baby items, clothing, and supplies to women who participate in SMILE.

Each month we have a speaker present on a relevant topic specifically focused on single moms. The speakers range from co-parenting specialists, therapists, financial advisors, lawyers, physicians, fitness experts, spiritual leaders and many others. We close with a devotional and prayer and then there are hugs, smiles, tears of joy and tears of relief as they share their struggles. We all share the bond of wanting to do our best for our children amidst the struggle. SMILE gives the children an opportunity to socialize with other kids raised by single moms without judgement, but instead, acceptance and understanding. It allows the moms to feel the love, support and acceptance that God wants all of us to receive.

Thank you, FBC, for making this program possible! As one of our regular participants said, “Through SMILE, I feel wrapped in God’s love and hope during this time of transition in my life. Richmond’s First Baptist Church demonstrates the true meaning of compassion; Gods love in action. Thank you for positively impacting lives and giving hope to many families here in the Richmond region.”

Editor’s Note:
The monthly SMILE meetings moved to Wednesday evenings in January 2019, which allows the children to participate in additional opportunities provided by our church and simplifies meal planning as we join the rest of the church family for Wednesday night suppers.

For more information or to help provide a program for the children, speak on a topic, serve a meal or provide a devotional for our program, contact Bev Wells.

Follow SMILE on Facebook.

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Story and photos by Ann Carter

DNow work group

In Student Ministry at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, there are several annual events that anchor our year: Fall Retreat; Christmas Pageant; DiscipleNow Weekend, affectionately called DNow; and Mission Trips. I look forward to each of these events with great anticipation, but DNow has a special place in my heart because it is the one event that truly involves the whole congregation.

DNow large group
Home group

DNow is an intentional weekend for students in grades 6 through 12. The weekend is centered on a theme that incorporates all of the elements of faith formation: head, heart and hands. Youth take over the gym and Flamming Hall, and spend the weekend in worship, Bible study, service, play and community. It takes a whole host of amazing people to make this happen, and over the past 30 years that FBC has hosted DNow, the congregation has wholeheartedly supported the weekend activities.

First, there are the host homes. Each year about 15 FBC families open their homes to host small groups of our students, divided by grade and gender. Students pile into living rooms, family rooms, and bonus rooms, sleeping on air mattresses and in sleeping bags. Hosts prepare breakfast and dinner for students on Saturday—filling dining room and kitchen tables to capacity as students and families share a meal. It is beautiful to see the students embraced by adults who become like second parents, students doting on the children of the host home, and host home children blossoming under the students’ attention. The host parents model radical hospitality for the students who are staying with them, showing them what it looks like to open their homes and welcome others.

DNow leadersThen, there are the 30 small group leaders, college and graduate students, as well as young professionals who volunteer to be group leaders in a host home. Each host home has at least two young adult leaders who facilitate Bible Study times, coordinate the students’ activities and spend quality time with the students. One of my favorite things about our adult leaders is that most of them were FBC students not all that long ago. What a joy it is watching their faith practice evolve from student to leader. This is the point of DNow—and all student ministry for that matter—to provide opportunities to learn, to put faith into practice, and for lives to be formed in the image of Christ for the sake of others. During DNow weekend, these small group leaders are most definitely exhibiting the “for the sake of others” part of faith formation.

DNow groups in GymLast, but definitely not least, the DNow weekend wouldn’t happen without the creativity and hard work of the 15 members of the Student Ministry Team. This team is made up of parents and student ministry leaders who are the brains and the brawn behind the operation. They plan the activities, put up decorations, run the sound and lighting, coordinate and distribute food and recruit volunteers. Interestingly, four of our 15 members are former youth. I love that their youth experience was so consequential that they want to enable future generations of students to have the same meaningful experiences.

There are countless ways for all of our church family to be involved in DNow weekend. Last year 120 of you committed to pray for our students, their hosts and leaders during the weekend. Twelve drivers chauffeured students to mission sites, and from host homes to church and back again so host families could go about their regular Saturday family activities. Eleven Sunday school classes and 20 individuals donated money to provide scholarships for students who couldn’t afford to pay for the weekend, and to offset the cost of food and snacks for the host families. And, 800 of you worshiped with us on Sunday as our DNow weekend came to an end.

So, join us this year for our church-wide DNow weekend scheduled for February 15 through 17, 2019. You can host, lead, drive, pray, give or join us in worship as we go about the good work of faith formation. We can’t do it without you, and maybe your faith will be formed in new ways, too!


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