Archive for August, 2019

By Candi Brown and Steve Blanchard

The dictionary defines adoption as: “the action or fact of legally taking another’s child and bringing it up as one’s own, or the fact of being adopted.” But a dry legal definition doesn’t even begin to tell us what adoption is. Its definition is probably as broad as the number of reasons individuals or families have adopted children. For this feature, here’s a glimpse at how two of our staff members might define it as they have welcomed children into their homes. These stories may help define adoption, but it is so much more. In their cases, it’s a journey of love.

Candi’s Story

Adoption has been a central focus throughout my life. I was adopted as an infant and raised in a Christian home where I was loved and accepted. Later, during my college years, I became interested in learning more about foster care, specifically foster programs that would hopefully lead to adoption. I completed a year of social work training at an adoption agency and after working with so many precious children, I thought that I might be interested in adopting a child one day.

Life moved forward and after being married 17 years, and having three biological children, God moved through an amazing series of events to give our family the opportunity to adopt. In 2009 through our refugee ministry at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, I became friends with a Burmese man, Kasim, and his two young sons. They knew no English at the time and were struggling with their adjustment to life in Richmond. I worked with them for several years, helping them make appointments, shop and invited them to do things with my family. Then in 2015, the boys’ father became too ill to take care of them.

From an unlikely friendship with a Muslim refugee, God provided a place for Kasim’s boys. They were first placed in foster care in our home, and once their care plan goals turned to adoption, we knew that they were meant to be part of our family. The adoption of Thomas and Jason was finalized in December 2017.

I’ll admit that there have been adjustments for all of us, including our three biological children. We face challenges, as all parents do, but I hope that we are teaching our children the importance of love, family, sacrifice and acceptance of others. Recently, I asked Thomas what adoption meant to him. He told me “I don’t know. I guess it’s just like having another family who cares for you. It’s not losing your parents; it’s just gaining new ones who love you more.”

Journey of Love: Stories of Adoption

Steve’s Story

In 2001, my wife Susan and I began seriously considering the prospect of adoption. At the time, we had no children and the thought of adoption was something we both embraced. We did our homework and finally decided we would like to adopt a child from China. We began the process with mountains of paperwork and procedures, correspondence with home and foreign adoption agencies, and lots of travel to meet with various adoption services. Finally, after about 16 months, we received news of our placement along with a picture of our new child who was not yet a year old. We were absolutely thrilled and totally filled with joy.

In 2004, we traveled to China, along with nine other families from around the U.S., to meet our daughter, Molly. The friendships we formed during our trip have endured ever since. And in 2007, those friends led and supported us in adopting our second daughter, Menley, who was 13 months old at the time.

Just like many other parents, we endured sleepless nights, changed a ton of diapers and heard our share of tantrums while, at the same time, we have embraced their first steps, watched as they amazed us with their creativity, and stood broken hearted as they struggled when they first entered school. But trust me, the joys have far, far, outweighed the difficulties. We even considered adopting a third child, but overseas adoptions began to close.

Our extended families have totally embraced our children. Molly and Menley quickly became grandchildren, cousins, and nieces. They have asked questions about their biological parents, mostly out of curiosity, and we have always been as open as possible with them about their heritage and their culture. We were even able to return to China in 2018 to visit the cities where they were born.

The amazing thing is that they are truly sisters, even though we adopted them at different times and from different parts of China. They love each other and love us as their parents. I cannot imagine life without them. They are our true joy and I am so proud of them for the young women they are becoming. I realize our experience of adoption is not unique, as we have many friends who have traveled down the same path. I know that every process is not always easy but I sincerely believe that every kid deserves a chance to grow into the individual God wants them to be with a family who loves them. All that to say, I am a truly blessed man.

Journey of Love: Stories of Adoption

Read Full Post »

by Alice E. Brette

As part of 2020 Vision, a church-wide process begun in 2016 to seek God’s vision for Richmond’s First Baptist Church for the next five years, the Communication Team charged the Communication Ministry with creating a new website for First Baptist.

Our team began to create the information architecture for the new site in fall of 2017. Based on results of the 2020 Vision Communication Survey and data from Google Analytics, the Communication Team organized the website content into the two ways people search most often: the time an event happens and group affiliation. We began with a card sort, each menu item listed on a brightly colored index card. We sought to lay it out in the most user-friendly manner for both first time and returning visitors, and held meetings with several groups of staff members to learn about the needs of the specific groups they serve, moving their sections’ cards around as needed. We brought all the different forms of media scattered throughout the site into one place called “Church Anytime.” Most importantly, we placed links to the top ten most often visited pages directly on the home page. Finally, the team created a flow chart from the cards and presented it to the staff for their approval.

A Vision Becomes Reality

The team chose KeyWeb Concepts to create the visual design and host the site and signed a contract with them in June 2018. In February, we signed off on the final design and the web developers at KeyWeb began to write code for the WordPress templates.

We completed the website content migration during May and June, writing HTML5 and editing copy and photographs, and set a firm date for the site launch.

A Vision Becomes RealityWe created a list of 30 beta testers from our church membership to give the new site a test drive on the development server during June before it went live. The team gave them specific tasks to complete so we could compile their answers and find any negative trends to correct before launch.One tester praised us by saying, “VERY nice progress! Great improvement!” but also said he had a bit of a learning curve with the new menus. Another asked us to add a title of “Search” in the search bars to make them more obvious, which we did. One tester provided a very thorough proofreading and many corrections, which was a great gift to us and saved us some time. Thank you to all the beta testers. Your comments were very helpful in refining the site and in creating the marketing plan for the launch.

In coordination with the Finance Office, the team integrated a secure portal and a mobile app on our new site that allows church members and regular attendees access to an always up-to-date pictorial church directory, to maintain their own database records, and to have secure online giving and event registration. Within the website portal and mobile app, which we call MyFBC, you can track your giving for the last seven years, make a one-time gift and set up recurring giving and connect with your church family right from the palm of your hand. Go to fbcrichmond.org and click the MyFBC How To button on the home page to learn how to get set up.

The new site launched on July 15, 2019 at fbcrichmond.org. FBC now has a modern, mobile-first site design with improvements in accessibility and in the underlying technology. The new website is designed to make the information most of you look for often the easiest to find. We hope you will use it, enjoy it and that it serves the congregation of First Baptist well for many years to come.

Read Full Post »